7 Concluding remarks |
108. It is immensely disappointing
that a decade after the publication of the 2003 White Paper and
the then Government's decision to support a third runway at Heathrow,
the UK is still faced with the unresolved problem of aviation
capacity. Following decades of policy papers, inquiries, taskforces,
and commissions, it is the lack of a long-term cross-party political
strategy for aviation that is principally to blame for the very
real danger that the UK could lose its status as an international
hub for aviation.
109. We have heard evidence
from the main players in aviation and many other interested parties.
We have found that there is a clear need for greater capacity
at the UK's hub airport. Our view is that a new hub airport should
not be built at this time. A split hub is not a viable option.
Although high speed rail
connections within the UK and to the near continent, if properly
connected to our main airports, present opportunities to achieve
a modal shift from domestic and short-haul international flights,
thereby releasing additional capacity for long-haul routes. A
third runway at Heathrow is necessary to meet existing and future
demand that can be reasonably predicted. Longer term, further
work is required to assess whether further expansion at Heathrow,
potentially via a new airport to the west of the current site,
is required. We recommend that the Airports Commission obtains
this information so that an evidence-based decision can be made.
The main challenges going forward
110. It is less than ideal that
the Airports Commission is working to a protracted timetable,
with a final report not to be produced until after the 2015 General
Election. We could complain that this is yet another example of
important decisions on aviation being kicked into the long grass,
but instead we challenge the Commission to use this opportunity
to, once and for all, provide a robust and independent evidence
base for future decisions. It is our hope that the Commission
will produce an evidence base that is widely accepted across the
political spectrum, and clear recommendations for action. The
challenge for the post-2015 Government will be to quickly get
to grips with the recommendations of the Airports Commission and
not seek excuses for further delay.