The “Let Britain Fly” campaign has warned the UK “risks being left behind” as other nations press ahead with runway development plans.
Let Britain Fly—an independent campaign initiated by London First—has published an analysis produced by KPMG that reveals the world’s major cities plan to build more than 50 new runways by 2036.
The analysis shows that emerging market economies in Asia are spearheading the drive to add capacity for handling an extra one billion passenger journeys per year. China will have built 17 new runways to serve its major cities by 2036; Dubai’s new Al Maktoum International Airport will boast more passenger capacity than all of London’s airports combined when it is completed; and Istanbul is building a new six-runway airport with almost twice the passenger capacity of Heathrow. In additions, new runways are planned for Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, Mexico City and Mumbai.
Let Britain Fly director Gavin Hayes said this contrasted with the UK, “which has not built a new full-length runway in the South East since the Second World War, and currently has no plans to build any new runways, despite all of London’s main airports predicted to be full by 2030. If the UK stands still, we risk being left behind.”
In the run-up to May’s general election, Let Britain Fly is campaigning for political leaders to commit to “a quick decision on airports expansion guided by the Airports Commission’s final recommendations.”
Hayes said it was “more important than ever to show policy makers the urgent need to increase the country’s runway capacity.”
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), meanwhile, is calling on the government-appointed Airports Commission to give the go-ahead for additional runways at both Gatwick and Heathrow.
In a statement, it said: “Both Heathrow and Gatwick have made compelling cases for a new runway, and both cases for expansion are logical: Heathrow is full and Gatwick is operating at full capacity at peak times. Additional capacity is essential at both airports to cope with growing passenger demand, and to ensure a seamless passenger experience.”
The Commission is set to recommend just one additional runway in the South East—at either Heathrow or Gatwick—but believes a second runway will be needed by 2050.
ABTA, however, believes both Gatwick and Heathrow should be given the go-ahead for planning in the next Parliament, with market forces and passenger demand dictating which runway is built first.
Both airports have gone to considerable lengths to mitigate the negative impacts of expansion, and ABTA says there is growing recognition in Parliament of the need for urgent action on airport capacity. ABTA research suggests that seven out of 10 MPs “agree that the UK risks being left competitively behind if a plan to increase airport capacity is not adopted in the next year.”
ABTA CEO Mark Tanzer said: “Increasing airport capacity is essential to the UK’s growth and global competitiveness; urgent action is needed.”