BAA blasts commission report as 'ridiculous'

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Sir Nigel Rudd, chairman of BAA, launched an angry attack this weekend on the Competition Commission, which he accused of drawing blood and punishing the airport operator for the UK's congestion problems.

Sir Nigel told The Independent on Sunday that the commission's review, which last week recommended that the operator sell two of its three London airports and one in Scotland, was "ill-thought out, inconsistent and could put back investment and expansion of Britain's airports and infrastructure by years".

He added that claims by Christopher Clarke, the review's chairman, that BAA is to blame for the lack of capacity in UK airports were "ridiculous". "Building runways in the UK is controlled by the Government. What the commission has done is drive a coach and horses through government aviation policy. We need new runways to ease congestion, not different airport operators," he said. "The commission has drawn blood and punished us. Now people may well start asking whether new owners of the UK's airports will make the system work any better."

The commission is now taking views on which of London's airports, and which of Edinburgh or Glasgow, should be sold.

Sir Nigel said BAA is looking at all options, including a sale of Gatwick. It has yet to decide whether it will appeal against the report's final decisions, which are due next March. Sir Nigel said that the report would delay investment for many years because the sales could take months, if not several years, to go through.