Sir Howard Davies has urged the government to get beyond the hype of opposition to the expansion of Heathrow – particularly from London mayor Boris Johnson.
The head of the Airports Commission said there was much more public support from west Londoners for an expansion of the aiport than was suggested by some of the people who represented the local population.
Davies was speaking after his commission this morning published the long awaited report into the best way to deal with the air capacity crisis in the South East. The proposal for a new north west runway at Heathrow was selected ahead of shortlisted options to lengthen an existing runway at the airport, or to build a second landing strip at Gatwick.
Johnson - a long-term advocate of a new airport in the Thames Estuary - this morning criticised the Davies report (see box below)
“I would advise the government to look below the headlines from one or two people and to look at the shading of views of people around Heathrow and the extent to which the package of measures we have proposed will cause some of those people to change their mind about expansion,” said Davies.
“We have talked to real people as well as to the mayor,” he added. “If you talk to people around the airport you get a very shaded set of views.”
Heathrow’s third runway could be open by 2026 if the government moves swiftly, Davies said.
The report said the recommended expansion would cost £22.6bn, including £5bn for surface access works.
“If the government makes a decision in the next few months, then the thing could be open by 2026,” said Davies, who advocated a swift rubber stamping of the report.
“You should not wait until airports have been full for 10 years before planning an expansion,” he said. “We are in a suboptimal position and we are losing ground on connectivity with new routes.”
Davies on Johnson
“We found almost no support for an airport in the Thames Estuary except from the mayor of London”
“The mayor says Parliament ruling out a fourth runway at Heathrow won’t work - but the mayor says a lot of things.”
“We have talked to real people as well as to the mayor.”
Johnson on Davies
“This highly predictable report offers a short-termist recommendation that would be judicially reviewed from here to Kingdom come and is completely politically undeliverable. Heathrow already contributes more to noise pollution than any other airport in Europe and the Airports Commission’s pledge that noise can be reduced there is quite frankly hokum.
“The question the government will now inevitably return to is whether we should go for an ambitious and visionary long term approach by building a new airport to the east of London, rather than a short term and environmentally catastrophic expansion of Heathrow. There are much better solutions and that is where we will end up.”