Airports Commission Chair Would 'Redo Numbers' on Third Runway

Sir Howard Davies casts doubt on viability of Heathrow expansion

Sir Howard Davies
Sir Howard Davies . Picture:

Sir Howard Davies, the chair of the Airports Commission, has cast doubt on the economic viability of the third runway.

He was the author of the report which was the basis for the government deciding to go ahead with the expansion because it was concluded that it would provide more local employment and boost the economy.

In an interview on LBC Radio with Nic Ferrari this Tuesday (15 June) he was asked about whether the third runway was needed and answered, “Not at the moment, quite clearly. Heathrow would be delighted to fill the two runways it has got just at the moment and it’s nowhere near it.”

When pressed if he still would be in favour of the project he said, “I would have to redo the numbers to see if the economics made sense.”

He did go on to say that if extra airport capacity was needed in the south east, it should be at Heathrow.

Heathrow managed to get a Court of Appeal ruling that the government should not have backed the project due to climate change commitments overturned earlier this year and still is publicly saying it intends to push the project forward when business conditions return to some sort of normality.

The Department for Transport’s own analysis has already revised down the economic benefits assessed by the Airports Commission and suggested that any delay to the project may eliminate any such benefits all together.

Campaigners are now calling on the government to review the Airports National Policy Statement.

Paul McGuinness, Chair No 3rd Runway Coalition said, “It is remarkable that the leading advocate of Heathrow’s expansion now doubts that an economic case can even be made for the project. This is before one considers the noise, air pollution and carbon impact the project would have. For the sake of the many communities who have long feared it, the time has surely now come for the government to rule out Heathrow Expansion, once and for all.”

A Heathrow spokesperson said, “While responding to the impacts of COVID-19 is our priority right now, we do believe that once the benefits of air travel and connectivity have been restored in years to come, demand for aviation will recover from COVID and sufficient hub airport capacity to support Global Britain will be required. Last week, the leaders of the G7 met in-person for this year’s summit in Cornwall, with some of these journeys taking place via our airport. This is just one example of the importance of face-to-face meetings and there is still huge pent up travel demand for travel from families that have been kept apart from their loved ones abroad as well as business travellers and holiday makers.”

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June 18, 2021