UK aviation plan puts Heathrow at core of post-Brexit era
London, UK - Britain’s strategy for boosting the aviation sector will seek to enhance international connectivity as the UK quits the European Union, tighten noise and pollution curbs, tap new anti-terrorist technologies and improve the travel experience with everything from personal baggage collection to smoother border controls.
The plan would also seek to safeguard Britain’s aerospace manufacturing base, advance the development of a homegrown space industry and encourage new developments such as drones and personal “flying taxis” while maintaining a rigorous regulatory regime, according to a call for evidence issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) Friday.
At the heart of the strategy, intended to guide policy making to 2050 and beyond, is a commitment to build a £16bn (US$21bn) third runway at London Heathrow airport. The study will also consider how best to utilize spare capacity at other hubs before the new strip opens in 2030, especially as Britain seeks to safeguard and extend air links before quitting the European Union.
“In the short term, post-referendum, the government is focused on the 44 countries including EU member states, the US and Canada, where our market access is via EU-negotiated agreements,” the DfT document says, adding that “new arrangements are a top priority for the government.”
Britain has the world’s biggest air transport and aerospace sector after the US, worth £22bn annually to the economy, while London has the busiest airport system, with flights to more than 370 cities in 100 countries.
Also under consideration is the impact of the UK’s air-passenger tax on competition, whether the system for allocating operating slots at busy airports might be improved, and if current rules on state aid are “correctly balanced.”
UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who launched the public discussion at Manchester Airport in northern England, said the consultation will seek to gauge opinion on how to approach further runway developments after the decision to expand Heathrow was delayed for decades by the lack of a political consensus.
The minister added that the government remains firmly behind the Heathrow third runway and that the lack of a Conservative majority and the return to Parliament of prominent lawmakers opposed to the plan won’t hold it up.