MPs' rejection of Boris Island is 'victory for aviation lobby'

Today's rejection by MPs of Boris Johnson's proposed new airport in the Thames Estuary in favour of expansion at Heathrow is a 'victory for the aviation lobby', according to public affairs transport specialist Jim Dickson.

Tipped for expansion: Heathrow (credit: BAA)
Tipped for expansion: Heathrow (credit: BAA)

The report issued by the Transport Select Committee today urged the Government to permit the expansion of Heathrow, where it said a third runway was ‘long overdue’.

Dickson, director of Four Public Affairs, said opinion within the aviation industry backed expansion at Heathrow over the Thames Estuary airport proposal, dubbed ‘Boris Island’. He claimed the aviation lobby had done a successful job of convincing the committee that a third runway at Heathrow was ‘the most cost-effective route to go’.

He said: ‘The committee is very sceptical of a Thames gateway or estuary option on the grounds of cost and time to deliver, which is very much the view of the airlines.’

Airlines have welcomed the committee’s comments. Jill Brady, director of external affairs at Virgin Atlantic, claimed there had been a ‘crippling lack of political consensus around the future of aviation’ and said today’s report was ‘a breath of fresh air’.

She added: ‘The report is detailed, persuasive and right to rule out once and for all half-baked suggestions around split hubs [having more than one hub airport].'

Rival airline operator IAG, which owns carriers British Airways and Iberia, backed the view that a Thames Estuary airport was not a ‘credible option’, and called the committee’s recommendation of a thorough review of the ‘oppressive tax’ Air Passenger Duty ‘encouraging’.

The victory, however, is ‘only one battle in a much longer debate currently under way,’ according to Dickson, referring to the independent commission on aviation the Government has requested Sir Howard Davies to chair.

The commission will be expected to advise the Government on how to develop additional capacity in order to sustain the UK as a competitive aviation hub. The commission’s final report will be published in the summer of 2015, after the next general election that year.

Dickson added that the ‘uncertainty’ around the third runway at Heathrow debate was largely the ‘product of politicians realising economically that we need more capacity, but that the decision around funding and where to find capacity is extremely difficult, in both environmental and, more importantly, electoral terms’.

He added: ‘However, the aviation industry can do a lot more to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and being a good neighbour to the communities that they operate within.’

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