Airport bosses claim politicians' dithering is damaging economy
CEOs of Manchester, Dubai and Bristol add to criticism of paralysis in London
Simon Calder is Travel Editor at Large for The Independent, writing a weekly column, various articles and features as well as filming a weekly video diary. Every Sunday afternoon, Simon presents the UK's only radio travel phone-in programme called The LBC Travel Show with Simon Calder (97.3 FM). He is a regular guest on national TV, often seen on BBC Breakfast, Daybreak, ITV News and Sky News. He is often interviewed on BBC Radio, particularly for BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours programme and BBC Five Live.
Sunday 28 October 2012
The bosses of three airports outside South-east England have added their weight to the debate over aviation capacity.
The trio have lambasted the failure by politicians to reach a consensus on airport development in London and across Britain.
The chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, Charlie Cornish, warned: "Lack of certainty increases risks and drives businesses to focus investment opportunities in other countries. Airports are integral to the economic success of the UK and the need for a long-term framework is absolutely critical."
Mr Cornish said the absence of a long-term infrastructure policy was "a key failure of successive governments". Manchester built a second runway 15 years ago, and has recently taken over from Stansted as Britain's third-busiest airport.
Heathrow handles more passengers than any other airport in Europe – around 70 million per year – while Gatwick is the busiest single-runway airport in the world.
The Coalition has ruled out any expansion before the next election, which is expected in May 2015. Sir Howard Davies will investigate a range of options, including extra runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted, and building an entirely new airport in the Thames Estuary, which is backed by London's Mayor, Boris Johnson.
The Davies report is unlikely to be published until after the election. But Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, told The Independent that both speed and scale are essential: "Boris Johnson is on the right lines, but we cannot have a situation where it's estuary airport or Heathrow. In my view, it's got to be both – and quickly."
The existing Dubai airport currently handles 60 million passengers a year, 10 million fewer than Heathrow, but is on target to reach 90 million in six years. "We may stretch that to over 100 million," said Mr Griffiths.
Next year, a dedicated A380 terminal opens in Dubai for the home airline, Emirates. Ground is about to be broken on a fourth concourse for foreign carriers.
An entirely new airport is currently handling freight and will be opening soon for passengers.
"By the end of the next decade we believe it will be the main airport in Dubai, with Emirates and the other airlines transferring their operations there," said Mr Griffiths.
Taken as a whole, the UK has far more airport capacity than it needs. Coventry and Plymouth airports have recently closed because of competition from nearby facilities.
Mr Cornish said the Davies Commission must consider greater use of regional airports: "Manchester is well placed to operate as the northern gateway thanks to the existing infrastructure and established, long-haul carriers."
Bristol airport currently handles six million passengers a year, with planning permission to expand to 10 million.
Bristol's chief executive, Robert Sinclair, said government policy should encourage people "to fly from the regions in which they live".
He said politicians are "frustrating our efforts" by failing to invest in regional aviation – and because of the high level of air passenger duty, currently between £13 and £92 per passenger.
"The voice of regional airports is not being sufficiently heard in this debate," he said. "We need better surface access and we certainly need a better taxation regime. The airlines operating from Bristol airport operate on much thinner margins than those from major airports such as Heathrow. Further increases in the level of taxation impact disproportionally on the airlines operating from the region."
Threat of 'catastrophic cascade of collisions' must be averted, warn scientists
Oxford is the least affordable city in the UK, where houses cost 11 times local salaries
Wellcome Image Awards: The most striking images from the world of science, including breast cancer cells under chemical attack and a photographer’s own kidney stone
Space debris orbiting Earth to be destroyed with giant lasers fired from Australia
Swarm of killer bees sting woman 1,000 times
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete repeatedly vomits as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp's autopsy
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Australian man Rod Sommerville reacts to bite from deadly snake by reaching for cold beer
- 2 North Korea elections: Kim Jong-un wins 100% of the vote
- 3 David Cameron resorts to paying for Facebook fans because not enough people like him
- 4 Steve Irwin’s final words: Cameraman present at death opens up about deadly stingray attack for the first time
- 5 Sharknado 2: Former WWE wrestler Kurt Angle to fight second wave of flying sharks
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client is a leading digital agency bu...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Charter Selection: Global leader in its respective ...
£130 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Do you have a qualificatio...
£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: The school is much la...