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."
Are beards attractive? Ryan Gosling says yes, but science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge and find out who's right
South Korea ferry: Four dead and almost 300 missing as mass rescue gets underway
Oscar Pistorius trial: Reeva Steenkamp told athlete she 'loved him' for first time in Valentine's Day card
Oscar Pistorius trial: Reeva Steenkamp standing with 'hand on the door handle' when she was shot dead
Lunar eclipse 2014: Images of the spectacular 'blood moon'
David Cameron: 'Jesus invented the Big Society – I'm just continuing God's work'
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for auction...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 3 Naked yoga: the bare truth - it's already big in the US, and has now landed here
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Scientists warn we've hit 'peak beard': The more people grow facial hair, the less attractive it is
£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...
£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...