MPs demand end to ‘dithering’ over new London runway

The government should abandon "years of political dithering" and come to a speedy decision on where a new runway should be built to expand London's airport capacity, an all-party group of MPs has said in a report.

Heathrow airport
The House of Commons' transport committee called on ministers to speedily set out a definitive timetable for airport expansion, saying the arguments for increasing runway capacity in SE England had changed little in a quarter of a century.Last summer, after a three-year investigation of the issue, the government-appointed Airports Commission recommended that a third runway be built at Heathrow, rather than a second runway at Gatwick. The government promised a decision by the end of 2015, but then delayed an announcement, ordering instead a fresh environmental impact study, which is not expected to report until this summer.Although ministers said the delay was necessary, despite demands from British industry that a speedy decision be made to ward off growing competition from hub airports elsewhere in Europe and elsewhere in the world, political pundits suggested the real reason was this month's mayoral election in London where the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, has threatened to quit as an MP if the Heathrow decision was upheld.After publication of the transport committee's report on Wednesday, a Department of Transport spokesman reiterated that the delay was necessary because "it's vital we get the decision right".But Louise Ellman, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said, "The government must make up its mind. The decision on location is not the end of the process, it is the start of one. Real progress cannot begin until the location is declared. Work on environmental issues can run in parallel with other pre-construction work."Ms Ellman pointed out that more than 50 new runways were being planned around the world and that expansion of airports in the Middle East, Far East and North America was threatening the UK's standing in commercial aviation. "The months ticking by constitute time wasted for the UK's economic prosperity," she said.Reacting to the report, Dr Adam Marshall, acting director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said, "Business doesn't want a timetable. It wants a decision and it wants it fast."A spokesman for Heathrow said, "The real, independent evidence continues to point towards Heathrow." Gatwick, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that only it could offer an end to "decades of delay and false starts" on airport expansion.The Department for Transport spokesman said, "The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it's vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come."As well as progressing the package of further work announced in December, the government will continue to consider the commission's evidence before reaching a view on its preferred scheme."We are undertaking more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon so we can develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people. We anticipate that this work will conclude by the summer."

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