9 FEBRUARY 2015
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Some would say 40
Back in 1971 the Roskill Commission recommended Cublington – not a million miles from the current HS2 track in Buckinghamshire, as the site for a new London airport. Politics intervened and Edward Heath’s Conservative government went for an alternative option Maplin, east of Southend. In July 1974 Howard Wilson’s Labour administration cancelled the project on a cost basis.
Roll on nearly 40 years and the incoming coalition led by David Cameron stopped the then current BAA Heathrow third runway scheme to alleviate London’s chronic runway shortage just at the point when it was very likely to happen. The Labour party had supported the project.
“Yes Minister” then took over and a classic parliamentary solution was found.
Another commission, this time headed by Sir Howard Davies, a man with impeccable qualifications and a reputation for getting things done.
He will report sometime after May’s General Election.
Some say five years have been wasted, others 40, but in truth the new runway (and assuming it is one runway) cannot be ready until 2025 or even 2030. Had not Cameron intervened it is likely that a third runway at Heathrow would now be in the construction mode ready for operation in say 2017. Half a decade lost.
Last week the Commission closed for comment and observations as to where the new runway/s should be built. The five-member panel of academics and industrialists will now go behind closed doors to weigh the thousands of pages of evidence amassed, before making a recommendation to the next government.
With the Smith Commission (Scottish devolution) the current government has said it would follow its recommendations. This is not the case with Davies where both major parties, when pressed for comment regarding Sir Howard’s final proposal, have stated that they would “consider” whatever that means.
The air travel industry is a vital part of the UK’s economic health. It is about time Westminster stopped playing politics and actually did something for British aviation. Or otherwise it is a sharp decline for the United Kingdom as a major global centre. No more shilly shallying government please! A June runway decision is required.
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