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Airports Commission Launched

The Aviation Environment Federation attended the launch on 2nd November of the Airports Commission, headed by Howard Davies.

See Airport Watch article for background to the Commission.

There has been intense media interest in the issue. This is because it has been billed – incorrectly – as a Heathrow third runway v Thames estuary airport debate.

The members of the Commission are:
* Sir Howard Davies, former chairman of the Financial Services Authority
* Sir John Armitt, former Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority and former Chief Executive of Network Rail
* Prof Ricky Burdett, former member of the BP Executive Management Team
* Prof Dame Julia King, member of the Committee on Climate Change
* Geoff Muirhead CBE, former CEO of the Manchester Airport Group

One the first pieces of work of the Commission will “focus on aviation demand forecasting and will be published in January 2013”. AEF welcomes the Commission’s recognition of this and its intent to examine forecasts at the start of its programme.

The government’s forecasts of demand, published in August 2011, shows there will be no significant shortage of capacity in southeast England or the UK as whole, even if no new runways are built up to 2030. See AEF briefing. The government forecasts must surely be a central piece of evidence in the Commission’s deliberations.

However, the terms of reference say “[The] overarching objective is to identify and recommend the options for maintaining the UK’s status as an international hub for aviation.”

There is potentially major inconsistency here. The commission could well find that no extra capacity is needed to meet the demand for people travelling to and from the UK and therefore that there would be no adverse economic impact if no new runways were built. But the requirement to maintain the UK’s hub status could conclude that new runways do need to be built.

The key point about a hub is that it enables people who are not travelling to or from Britain to change plane here. They cause noise and pollution for local communities but generate no wider benefit to the UK economy.” See AEF briefing.