Response to airport report slammed
Business leaders have described the Government response to an interim report on making the best use of existing UK airport expansion as "deeply disappointing".
A range of measures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of airports in the short to medium term were outlined in a report in December 2013 by the Whitehall-commissioned Airports Commission.
In a response today, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said measures were already being taken by the Department for Transport and others to ensure better access to airports by road and rail.
He also said that a senior delivery group set up by the department was driving forward a future airspace strategy which was expected to deliver annual benefits of more than £150 million to the aviation industry and environment by 2020 and more than £2 billion worth of cumulative benefits by 2030.
Mr McLoughlin said: "We are taking steps now to make the best use of what we already have, and looking at what more can be done in the short to medium term while the Airports Commission prepares its recommendations on the best options in the long run."
Baroness Valentine, chief executive of business leaders' group London First, said that "after seven months of waiting, the Government had failed to rise to the challenge set by the commission in its interim report".
She went on: "It will be over a decade before we have a new runway serving London, if we're lucky, and this was a great chance to hear how the Government will make best use of the airports we have to boost our global reach.
"Instead we have no short-term plans to make the rail link to Stansted (airport in Essex) world-class, and no plans to attract airlines and passengers to grow our global air links."
Lady Valentine continued: "There is no detail about an independent aviation noise authority, to bring new levels of trust around airports that more flights will mean less noise, and no certainty over proposals to cut flight delays at Heathrow."
The commission has shortlisted two Heathrow options and one Gatwick option for runway expansion. The so-called "Boris Island" Thames Estuary option favoured by London Mayor Boris Johnson is also being looked at.
The commission will make a final decision in its full report due out in summer 2015 after the general election.
Mr McLoughlin said today the commission expected to decide on whether or not to shortlist the estuary option this autumn.
He said: "As we have said before, it will be for the government of the day to respond to the commission's recommendations once it publishes its final report in summer 2015."
Responding to this, Lady Valentine said: "Th ere is no recognition whatsoever from the Government that London and the UK need new runways to compete internationally."
Gavin Hayes, director of the Let Britain Fly organisation, said: "Instead of bold political leadership, the Government has decided to kick the can down the road for another year.
"We so desperately need a clear direction of travel and an in-principle commitment to build additional runways to boost our international connectivity and secure future jobs, growth and prosperity. Instead, we have yet more political procrastination.
"It is also regrettable that the Government have decided to release a statement on an issue of strategic national importance on the day of the reshuffle."