The Transport Select Committee has urged the Government to decide to expand Heathrow.
The committee says the government must stop putting off the decision, as the arguments over increasing aviation capacity in South East England have “changed little in a quarter of a century”.
The Select Committee, in its third report on the subject, said that expansion at Heathrow offers the greatest economic benefit and would do more to improve connectivity internationally and within the UK.
The report says: “We recognise that local residents and environmental campaigners have raised legitimate concerns; these deserve serious consideration. We do not under-estimate the scale of the challenge but we believe that the noise and environmental effects can be managed as part of the pre-construction phase after a decision has been made on location, as can the challenge of improving surface access and devising suitable schemes for compensation for residents in affected communities.
“It is vital that a decision is taken. We recommend that the Government take a decision on location at the earliest possible opportunity. We would prefer that decision to be for the construction of a third runway at Heathrow, together with the package of accompanying measures recommended by the Airports Commission.”
The Government has repeatedly put off the decision, probably fearing a voter backlash in constituencies around the airport or the London Mayoral election, despite research showing that a majority of people in constituencies around Heathrow supporting its expansion.
So far the Government has acknowledged the Airports Commision report recommending expansion at Heathrow as the best option to solve the increasingly severe aviation capacity crisis, promising a response by Chritmas 2015, which it then put off until after the London Mayoral Election. They are not expected to announce any decision until after the EU Referendum.
The longer they wait, the more the risk of the uncertainty continuing and potentially deepening through a possible contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party.
All the time, Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt and other European cities with airport capacity are adding routes to long haul destinations, and building new trading relationships, while the UK falls behind.
The Transport Committee urged ministers to stop “dithering”, and to set out a clear timetable.
Commenting on the report, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “The real, independent evidence continues to point towards Heathrow. The Transport Committee and the Prime Minister’s Airports Commission have confirmed that an expanded Heathrow will be an economic powerhouse driving jobs creation across the UK and fuelling a boom in British exports.
“Families and businesses across the nation are counting on the Prime Minister to secure Britain’s long term future. Only an expanded Heathrow delivers and now is the time to make it happen.”