Revealed: Take-off for controversial Heathrow expansion as David Cameron faces anger of Lib Dems, London Mayor, and his own party
Two of the shortlisted options in Davies report on airports out this week favours third (and fourth?) runway
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Sunday 15 December 2013
A controversial decision to expand Heathrow airport by one, or possibly, two runways, will this week spark a major political row.
The Davies report, examining solutions to the UK’s growing airport capacity crunch, will identify runway expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick airports as the best route out of the mounting crisis. But the decision, to be announced by Sir Howard Davies on Tuesday, is certain to ignite rows within the coalition government and the Tory party itself. The decision is also likely to provoke a fierce multimillion-pound legal contest with far-reaching consequences for Britain’s transport policy.
An interim report by the Davies Airport Commission is expected to select three, possibly four, choices from the 58 options he has been presented with. According to sources close to the Commission, a third runway at Heathrow will be included – in two forms, with one option to the north and another to the south of the busy airport’s current runways. Either of these could be expanded, to make Heathrow a four-runway airport. Gatwick and Stansted’s proposals for a second runway are also expected to be adopted Sources say every other idea is likely to be rejected – including London Mayor Boris Johnson’s proposals for a new airport hub in the Thames estuary.
This week’s announcement will enrage Tory backbenchers and Mr Johnson, who is vehemently opposed to Heathrow expansion, as well destabilising already shaky coalition relations.
Whitehall has moved quickly to try to defuse the situation with government advisers yesterday stressing that Sir Howard is expected to play down fears of a capacity problem, rejecting claims that British aviation is “not in a crisis” and saying that there is enough time to make a considered decision about where expansion should be.
A Whitehall source said: “He will be urging a calm and measured response and will say we need to make sure we need to get this right. This does not need to be up and running until the end of the next decade.” Yet this will be seen as a calculated move, supported by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, to put off any decisions about airports until after the next election.
The interim report’s publication will end some of the uncertainty, but Mr Johnson and some Conservative MPs are furious that they will be forced to go into the 2015 election campaign unable to say whether expansion will happen at Heathrow, Gatwick or at both.
The report directly affects London and the South-east, but will have a wider impact on the UK’s infrastructure, because plans for High Speed 2 are interlinked with aviation expansion.
The Independent on Sunday first revealed in March 2012 that George Osborne had persuaded David Cameron to get Heathrow as an option for expansion “back on the table” – despite a 2010 manifesto promise to build no new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted. The move infuriated the Liberal Democrats and green Conservative MPs such as Zac Goldsmith, seeing the U-turn as a betrayal.
The interim report is expected to face several legal challenges, including one from supporters of Mr Johnson’s mega-hub plan in the Thames Estuary as well advocates who believe that Birmingham International airport is the best answer.
Sir Howard has publicly suggested it might be enough to add one more runway at Heathrow to enable it to support new long-haul routes but he has also said there is a case for a second runway at Gatwick to support further growth by low-cost carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair.
The Davies Commission will grapple with the complexities of economic need and environmental damage, evaluating social costs and benefits, for another 18 months. The coalition that commissioned the report is anxious to avoid a firm recommendation before the next election, and Labour’s position is against, but has softened recently.
Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'
Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance
Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online
- 1 As an ex prostitute, I urge all the political parties to commit to the Sex Buyer Law
- 2 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 3 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Couple die within 28 hours of each other after being married for 73 years
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
Diwali: What is the festival of lights and how is it celebrated around the world?
Nelson Bunker Hunt dead: Former world’s richest man dies in 'modest circumstances' in US after losing his fortune
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...
£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...
£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...