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Airports decision: Allow Gatwick and Heathrow to expand, says key figure

Gatwick and Heathrow should both be allowed to expand, an industry figure has insisted.

Philippa Oldham, head of transport and manufacturing at professional body the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said the Airports Commission report published this morning did not go far enough.

Sir Howard Davies’ commission recommended that Heathrow be allowed to build a third runway to deal with the air capacity crisis in the South East.

It said Gatwick had made a “plausible” case for expansion, but that this would not offer the same economic benefits as a new runway at Heathrow, nor offer long-haul routes in the same way.

The commission said allowing both airports to expand would require major technological and regulatory advances to keep the UK within carbon emission limits.

But Oldham said: “Expanding Heathrow will only meet airport capacity demand in the short to medium-term. In order to future-proof the country’s transport infrastructure and further boost the economy, the government should consider the possibility of adding an extra runway at Gatwick in addition to the expansion of Heathrow.”

She added that a range of measures would be needed to make the most of the third runway at Heathrow.

“The report does not offer a rounded view of what the Heathrow expansion will do to the transport network,” said Oldham.

“In order to reap the full benefits we need to significantly boost rail access to help meet the demands of greater passenger numbers and to accommodate an increase need for freight distribution access via the airport.

“The report looks at the impact of air quality and highlights the risks to the surrounding environment. Overcrowding and congestion will be unbearable during peak hours. Now is the time for Government to act. We need a holistic approach to the management of our transport infrastructure. Never before has there been such a need to make sure that we develop an integrated transport strategy. Plans on how the expansion could benefit the everyday running of the airport need to be clarified, for example by adopting the use of new technologies such as electric or autonomous vehicles on-site.”

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