Heathrow's third runway and airport improvements 'crucial for London after Brexit', report suggests

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London’s business chiefs today called for urgent action from the Government to secure the UK’s position as a global trading hub after Brexit – in addition to delivering Heathrow’s third runway.

In a hard-hitting report, they demand that ministers should instigate a “pro-growth” aviation policy to maintain the capital’s world position. 

The London First consortium of business leaders also says rail link access to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and London City airports must be improved.

It wants the UK border to be  “welcoming as well as secure”, and  condemned recent passenger chaos and long queues at airports as sending  “a terrible signal to people wanting to come to the UK to visit or do business — for whom the airport security queue is London’s front door.” 

The report, called “No time to waste: Keeping  London’s airports connected in a post-Brexit world”, says the capital’s airports will be near capacity by 2025.

There is “clear demand” for further runway capacity in the South-East with a “strong case for expansion” at  Gatwick and/or Stansted, it adds. 

London First says its priority is “getting our capital Brexit-ready by 2019 for the benefit of the whole country”.

Richard Dilks, the group’s transport director, said: “Government backing for expansion at Heathrow was hugely welcome and a significant boost for British business but it took 50 years to get to this stage.”

He called on ministers to “step up and help get the UK into the best possible shape ahead of Brexit by supporting investment and recognising that the UK’s global standing requires action beyond building a vital new runway at Heathrow”.

The report’s recommendations include: 

  • Prioritising new aviation agreements to ensure the legal framework for air services with the EU, the US and other countries continues once the UK leaves the EU. The report states: “It won’t matter how many runways we have if we fail to negotiate the legal rights to keep planes in the sky.”
  • Enhancing access for existing airports, including confirmation of plans for western rail access to Heathrow along with detailed feasibility work on routes from the south.
  • Lifting planning restrictions on passenger numbers which “artificially hold back” London airports from making the most of existing infrastructure. It cites Stansted as currently serving 25 million passengers a year, with 35 million by the early 2020s. Easing restrictions “would allow Stansted to make full use of its single runway, improving capacity for around an additional 10 million passengers a year.”

The report also says there must be “significant” Network Rail investment to improve the Brighton main line to Gatwick, while Crossrail 2 would enable a “step-change” in services to Stansted.

It renewed calls for a new station for Crossrail — now called the Elizabeth line — at London City Airport. 

This was rejected by Transport for London last year, but London First says that a station “could be paid for privately”. 

It says that without changes there would be 3,100 days’ worth of delays and 8,000 cancellations a week.

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