Business leaders rally government for airport expansion

July 18th, 2012

Business leaders are among those to have urged the government to come up with a secure aviation policy after “almost 50 years without effective action”.

British Chambers of Commerce director-general John Longworth has joined major figures in the aviation industry and from trade unions in calling on the government to include a long-term plan within the aviation policy announcement, which is due in a few weeks.

The need for further runway capacity in the South East has been acknowledged by the government, but it remains opposed to a third runway at Heathrow in West London.

The Aviation Foundation, consisting of business, aviation and union leaders, has expressed fears over the UK’s future economic well-being and claimed a new airport in the Thames Estuary would take years to come to fruition.

Longworth said: “The government must stop tiptoeing around on aviation because of short-term political considerations.

“Unless politicians grasp the nettle and make some tough decisions, both our export and inward investment potential will suffer.”

But Cait Hewitt, from campaign group the Aviation Environment Federation, raised questions about whether airport capacity actually contributed to growth, or whether it had simply expanded in response to growth.

“We are doubtful about whether aviation growth in itself is either essential for economic growth or whether it will be enough, or whether there will be a better way of developing businesses.

“A WWF report gave examples of leading UK businesses that have decided they can do business in more efficient ways by replacing flights with video conference calls and how they operate internally

“So we think forward-looking businesses need to think about how they operate and how they grow.”

Discussions over the future of the South East’s airport capacity come as Gatwick Airport revealed it had increased turnover and offered more connections to fast-growing economies.

London’s second-largest airport also increased traffic by 6.9% to 33.8 million passengers during the year to March 31, as it invested in airport facilities and won new routes.

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “We have been competing with Heathrow, Stansted and Luton and other European airports, and this has seen us achieve passenger growth every single month over the course of the year.”

He continued: “We have been winning new connections to high growth economies including South Korea, Turkey, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China.”

Business leaders rally government for airport expansion

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