The Davies Commission (3)

MQT on 2015-07-15
Session date: 
July 15, 2015
Question By: 
Richard Tracey
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Should a third runway be built at Heathrow, how soon would the Mayor expect to see Heathrow's campaign to be allowed to build a fourth runway begin?


Answer for The Davies Commission (3)

Answer for The Davies Commission (3)

Answered By: 
The Mayor

This is a real risk highlighted by the Airports Commission's own findings. Its final report states that "even with a third runway at Heathrow, there would be likely to be sufficient demand to justify a second additional runway by 2050 or, in some scenarios, earlier." The Airports Commission's interim report was clearer on the timescales: "The Commission's forecasts indicate that a new runway at Heathrow would be very well-used, with the expanded airport operating at around 80 per cent to 90 per cent of capacity by 2030 and at maximum capacity by 2050."

An airport operating at 80 per cent to 90 per cent capacity will suffer from frequent delays and offer limited resilience; slots are likely to be scarce, particularly at peak times, hampering the ability to start much needed new routes. In short, Heathrow would effectively be full shortly after a third runway had opened, suffering from all the same problems that plague it today.

Given the time lag entailed in planning and constructing new airport infrastructure, there would be a clamour for a fourth runway at Heathrow before a third runway was even complete.

This also highlights an inherent contradiction at the heart of the Airports Commission's findings. The Commission has recognised the connectivity benefits of a hub airport - and that a further runway is likely required in the very near future. But it has then sought a Parliamentary commitment to rule out a further such runway at the hub. This is simply not credible.

Nor can Parliament bind its successors, making the legal guarantee a mirage. This is one of several conditions proposed by the Airports Commission with little or no benefit to local communities. Nor has Heathrow Airport Limited indicated its willingness to accept this or any of the other conditions.