11th August, 2014
On the 15th July, the Government gave its long awaited response to the interim report of the Airports Commission, which was published last December.
The response, made by the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin, focused almost entirely on Airports Commission’s recommendations for what could be done in the short to medium term to make best use of existing airport capacity, though it also noted the Airports Commission’s argument that relying solely on existing airport infrastructure will have an increasingly detrimental impact on the national economy.
The Airports Commission’s short to medium term recommendations on setting up an Independent Noise Authority and on undertaking a trial for early morning schedule smoothing at Heathrow would both – McLoughlin announced – be considered only alongside the Commission’s final report. Both sides of the expansion debate have criticised the Government’s unwillingness to act more quickly on any of these issues..
The Government’s expectations in terms of compensation schemes have been made clear to airport scheme promoters, the Secretary of State announced, but he was unwilling to expand with any details in his public statement.
The Government’s response used the work of the Airports Commission as a major reason for extending the current night noise regime until 2017. The regime, through which the Government imposes controls on night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, remains unchanged since 2006 despite earlier the Government commitment in 2012 to increase the stringency of the regime as an incentive to airlines to improve their environmental performance.
Earlier this year, the Government asked the CAA to set up the Senior Delivery Group, which consists of several industry stakeholders and has the aim of driving the implementation of the industry focused short-term Airports Commission recommendations. The group reported back on the same day as the Government response to the Airports Commission.
The SDG’s report examines three recommended improvements in the short term: operating to schedule, tactical responses to traffic overloads, and investments in the route infrastructure.