Posted by

Tom Nolan, Policy Adviser

24 Jan 2013

The debate surrounding the future of aviation in this country has been a prolonged one, with no end in sight.  Time and time again research is produced that shows that our main hub airport (Heathrow) is at full capacity with our second largest airport (Gatwick) nearing that same circumstance.  Consensus has been reached on the need to do something, but the question looms as to what?  The London Mayor has vehemently supported the Thames Estuary Airport idea, whilst others suggest increasing capacity at our existing air ports is needed.  In the media the options available to the government seem to revolve around these two choices but the Progressive Aviation Group (PAG) last week suggested two additional sites; one located near Didcot, the other further north near Banbury.  These may sound like obscure sites, however they were chosen according to specific criteria: 

  1. Meet mandated local noise and environmental standards;
  2. Have a flat 3 mile by 3 mile land take capable of taking four runways, terminals and airport infrastructure;
  3. Have good access to UK’s national rail and road links, and;
  4. Have an ultimate 30 minute target journey time to London by rail.

The BCC welcomes the attention paid to connectivity and capacity in the PAG’s assessment.  Whether it be a redevelopment of existing resources or the building of a new airport the issue of connectivity is one that also must be addressed in tandem.  As international trade continues to grow reliable and efficient transport systems are needed to ensure that businesses get the most from the infrastructure available. 

The length of time this question is taking to answer also poses an issue.  As we stated in our recent Transport Select Committee appearance, there is a cost to business by dithering over this subject.  The BCC wants to see urgency, scale and delivery built into the government’s policies and aviation strategy is no different.

Ultimately the question as to what needs to be done has a simple answer; we need more capacity, with a high level of connectivity, and we need it soon to reduce the costs imposed on businesses through a loss of competitiveness.