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Brexit, the ongoing saga of expansion at Heathrow and another general election are among the many issues affecting the UK’s airports and aviation strategy, writes Rob Gill

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ust when you thought that the decision over airport expansion was reaching some sort of conclusion, Prime Minister Theresa May called a General Election, throwing everything back up into the air again. Before calling the surprise election, the government had backed a third runway at Heathrow Airport in preference to a second runway at arch-rival Gatwick, but with the proviso that key critics of the decision, such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, would still be able to state their case against it. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling Gatwick Airport

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officially backed Heathrow expansion in October 2016, although the government put off the final decision and House of Commons vote on the issue until winter 2017/18. Whether this timetable still stands remains to be seen. Of course, the election result will play a key part in whether Heathrow finally gets the green light for expansion. The Liberal Democrats are still fiercely opposed to Heathrow expansion, while the Scottish National Party believe it will lead to more air links to Scotland and so are in favour. Labour, meanwhile, seem to be somewhat divided on the issue, although shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald cautiously welcomed the government’s policy when it was announced last year. Since February, the Department for Transport has been carrying a 16-week consultation on Heathrow expansion, as it looks to create a new Airports National Policy Statement backing the third runway. “A northwest runway at Heathrow will produce significant benefits, delivering tens of thousands of additional local jobs by 2030 and up to £61billion of benefits to all passengers and the wider economy, not including wider trade benefits,” said Grayling when the consultation began.

“It will provide new global connections and better routes for domestic customers, reduce passenger fares, and provide new capacity for freight imports and exports.” Assuming the General Election result does not scupper the third runway, Heathrow plans to begin its first phase of consultation this summer with the aim of eventually submitting its final proposals for the new runway to the Planning Inspectorate in summer 2019. The airport has suggested the runway could be operational by 2025, providing extra capacity to launch up to 40 more long-haul destinations, as well as additional domestic services. Even if the third runway does get parliamentary approval later this year, there will remain considerable planning and legal hurdles to clear before the project can even begin construction.

The Business Travel Magazine June-July 2017  

The multi-award-winning publication written and produced for bookers, buyers, arrangers and managers of business travel and meetings . This...