Parliament has today taken the momentous decision to back Heathrow expansion. This is not journey’s end for a third runway at our national hub airport, but it is a vital step forwards and we should take a moment to celebrate it.
Business support for expansion in the south east has been unwavering over the years, and particularly for expansion at Heathrow. London First set up the Let Britain Fly campaign in 2013 to help build cross-party and cross-sector backing on the need for runway expansion. Collectively, support has come from five million workers, 500,000 companies, together with most of the tens of thousands who responded to public consultations.
Fittingly, 2018 marks 50 years since the first official investigation into the future of London’s aviation capacity. More recently, an independent commission sat for three years, and with unwavering clarity recommended another runway at Heathrow. Government has analysed the case for another three years. It also firmly backs Heathrow expansion.
Now Parliament has voted in favour. We now have proposals before us from government that offer much-needed expansion, alongside world-leading compensation for affected communities, guaranteed periods of respite, a night-time flight ban of six and a half hours, and tough environmental and noise limits. Both the government and the airport are clear that expansion will only take place if legal air quality commitments can be met.
A runway for the UK
Crucially, this is a runway for the whole country. Up to 15% of slots on the new runway will be for UK domestic connections. The government has announced it will use its public service obligation subsidy to enable flights specifically to Heathrow, a break with tradition as previously this has been given to a city or region rather than a specific airport.
We support expansion because Heathrow is full and our other runways in London and the south east are filling up fast. We support it because Heathrow generates well over 100,000 jobs already, and expansion could create up to 180,000 more. And with Brexit less than a year away, we support it because one third of our non-EU exports by value already go through Heathrow. Expansion will double the airport’s cargo capacity.
Heathrow covers costs
Tax payers will not be footing the bill for the new runway. Heathrow will cover the £14bn cost for expansion, and its supporting infrastructure. The airport has spent £12bn over the past decade to deliver Terminals 2 and 5, which shows the new runway is eminently doable.
Today closes the chapter on deciding whether to build a third runway. Now, at last, we can open the chapter on building it.
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