Aviation Strategy - Transport Committee Contents

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.

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