The UK government has backed plans for the development of a new runway at Heathrow Airport.
The UK Cabinet’s economic sub-committee approved plans for a third runway at the London airport before the proposals were backed by the full cabinet.
The UK secretary of state for transport Chris Grayling said: “A successful, thriving aviation sector is critical to our ability as a nation to succeed, which is why we are developing a strategy to help it grow in a sustainable way.”
MPs of all parties will be asked to vote on the plans in the coming weeks.
The news was cautiously welcomed by freight forwarders.
Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), said: “Hopefully, this news is the beginning of the end of years of procrastination over the expansion of UK aviation capacity.
“If that is the case, it is long overdue good news for our 1,500 member companies who have been dismayed over the ongoing delay on such a huge issue.
“However, we understand that MPs will now be asked to vote on the issue in the coming weeks and, given the track record of parliament on this issue over the last 20 years, uncertainties remain.
“Whilst the UK Transport Secretary has previously hinted at an expedited planning procedure, with no reopening of high level arguments, the inevitable legal challenges and the convoluted planning processes that are also likely, lead me to wonder whether any expansion will be completed by the time that UK aviation capacity is predicted to run out in 2025.
“I hope I am proved wrong, but I won’t be booking a ticket for the opening ceremony just yet.”
Heathrow chief executive John Holland Kaye said: “Together with our supporters across the country, we urge all MPs to vote for expansion.
“Their votes will connect all of Britain to global trade, increase competition and choice for passengers and create tens of thousands of new skilled jobs for future generations. The world is waiting for Britain. It’s time to vote for Heathrow expansion.”
However, it is not entirely certain that MPs could be relied on to vote in favour of the plan.
Boris Johnson, foreign secretary and member of parliament for Uxbridge, one of the regions that could be affected by an expanded Heathrow, said on one occasion that he would “lie down in front of the bulldozers” to prevent the new runway going ahead.
Many other prominent members of the Conservative Party are also against the plan, arguing that capacity at regional airports should be expanded instead of Heathrow.
Some Labour MPs are also opposed – despite the fact that a Labour Government had voted through an earlier version of the third runway scheme in 2009 – on environmental grounds, saying that it would breach air pollution and noise limits.
One possible solution for Prime Minister Theresa May is to allow Conservative MPs who oppose the plan to abstain, in the hope that there would be sufficient votes from other parties’ MPs to carry the plan through.
Bringing the long-running third runway saga to an end could be seen as a political coup for the minority Conservative government that has been grappling with the extremely thorny ‘Brexit’ issue over the last two years. It would also send a message that despite the UK’s exit from the European Union, the country is still open for business with the wider world.
There are also likely to be objections from local residents and environmental campaigners, who will argue that the plans will breach air pollution limits.
Grayling said it was a “historic moment”.
Announcing £2.6 billion in compensation for residents and noise abatement measures he said it would only proceed if air quality obligations were met.
“The time for action is now,” he told MPs, insisting the decision was being taken in the national interest and would benefit the whole of the UK – with 15% of new landing slots “facilitating” regional connectivity.
The scheme, he insisted, would be funded entirely privately and while the expansion was a “number of years away”, he believed it could be concluded by 2026.
The debate on expanding Heathrow has been going on for nearly 20 years.
The last Labour government backed the idea, and won a vote on it in 2009, but that plan was scrapped – and the idea of expansion put on hold for five years – by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition formed after the 2010 election.
But the idea of expansion was resurrected and has been subsequently backed by the Conservatives. Ministers approved a draft national airports policy statement in October setting out the conditions for a new runway, Parliament has yet to give its approval for detailed planning to begin.
Heathrow is the largest UK port by value and has ambition is to become one of Europe’s best airports for cargo.
The UK economy benefits greatly from cargo, and Heathrow is the UK’s largest port by value for non-EU exports, transporting more than Felixstowe, Southampton and Liverpool.
They are also uniquely placed as a transatlantic and European gateway with 95% of the global economy potentially within reach of a direct flight from Heathrow. Nowhere is better placed to connect UK exporters to the world and help the UK achieve its target of doubling UK exports to £1 trillion by 2020.
Their strategy will lift freight volumes capacity to 3 million tonnes a year by 2040 through improved service and increased capacity from expansion. For cargo customers our aim is to become a trusted partner – timely, reliable and easy to do business with.
Source: Air Cargo News / BBC / Sky