A British government-appointed commission into the country’s airport capacity said yesterday that a third runway should be built at Heathrow.
Politicians broadly agree the region needs a new runway to remain economically competitive, but its location has been disputed for more than 25 years. Proposals to expand Heathrow in densely populated west London are politically divisive and likely to fuel tensions for the government.
However, Ryanair has suggested building new runways at all the main London airports to boost competition and ease capacity concerns.
“Ryanair believes that the proposed Heathrow runway — which won’t be delivered for 10 or 15 years — won’t solve the runway capacity crisis in the south-east,” said Ryanair’s chief marketing manager Kenny Jacobs.
“Ryanair strongly advocates taking politicians out of runway decision-making and allowing each of the three London airports — Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted — to build three competing runways which will solve the capacity crisis in the south-east for the next 100 years, while at the same time allowing competition between the airports to deliver this capacity efficiently.
“It remains a fact that additional runways in Stansted and Gatwick can and will be delivered much earlier than any Heathrow third runway.”
After a three-year study, the Airports Commission as expected has selected a new runway at Heathrow over two other short-listed options, arguing that it offered Britain the best way to add “urgently required” long-haul routes to new markets.
“Heathrow provides the greatest benefits for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy,” the commission’s chairman, Howard Davies, said yesterday.
It is now up to the British government to decide whether to accept the Heathrow option that prime minister David Cameron, when in opposition in 2009, said would not happen under his watch, “no ifs, no buts”.
The Heathrow recommendation was accompanied by a package of measures to limit the noise and environmental impact of a new runway.
A previous expansion plan was scrapped in 2010. The new proposal was described by the Airports Commission as “fundamentally different”, citing its more westerly location and accompanying conditions to ban night flights and introduce a noise levy, and a government pledge not to add more runways later.
Businesses and airlines had largely favoured the expansion of Heathrow, which is operating at 98% capacity, over Gatwick,south of London. Britain is falling behind European rivals, argue businesses. Heathrow has two runways and Gatwick one, compared with four at Charles de Gaulle in Paris and six at Amsterdam’s Schiphol.
* Additional reporting by Reuters