Heathrow gets the nod for expansion

The Airports Commission says a third runway at Heathrow is the best option for Britain.


Air traffic over southwest London could be about to get busier

After three years of deliberation, the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, has said that a third runway at Heathrow is the best way to expand southeast England's airport capacity, offering "the greatest strategic and economic benefits". The project, expected to cost £18bn, could be completed by 2026, adding £147bn to the economy over 60 years.

However, a second runway at Gatwick remains "a credible" option. It urged the government to reach a decision quickly. Last year, Heathrow lost its position as top international passenger hub to Dubai.

What the commentators said

Bolstering this key national infrastructure won't suit those who live under the flight path, but they have been unhappy with it since the 1940s. As long as strict noise and time restrictions are observed, as the report recommends, this is the right result.

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The ball is now in the government's court, said John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce. "If ministers duck this decision, and delay airport expansion for another generation, British business and our overall competitiveness will pay the price." But duck it they probably will.

Witness "the mystifying spectacle of ministers keeping at arm's length" a £20m, three-year report that they asked for, said Sam Coates in The Times. The problem is that the Tories expected to be able to come to an agreement with the Lib Dems, who were anti-Heathrow, while Nick Clegg was pro-Gatwick. Heathrow could have been ditched in favour of Gatwick, "and both sides would have been happy to let the Lib Dems take both the credit and the blame".

Now, with the Tories governing alone, all the "factions and divisions" within the party have surfaced, said Robert Lea in The Times. Get set for a long wait, said the Daily Mail's Laura Chesters. British Airways boss Willie Walsh says he doesn't think the Heathrow expansion will happen in his lifetime because "politicians have not been brave enough to make a decision".

Andrew Van Sickle

Andrew is the editor of MoneyWeek magazine. He grew up in Vienna and studied at the University of St Andrews, where he gained a first-class MA in geography & international relations.

After graduating he began to contribute to the foreign page of The Week and soon afterwards joined MoneyWeek at its inception in October 2000. He helped Merryn Somerset Webb establish it as Britain’s best-selling financial magazine, contributing to every section of the publication and specialising in macroeconomics and stockmarkets, before going part-time.

His freelance projects have included a 2009 relaunch of The Pharma Letter, where he covered corporate news and political developments in the German pharmaceuticals market for two years, and a multiyear stint as deputy editor of the Barclays account at Redwood, a marketing agency.

Andrew has been editing MoneyWeek since 2018, and continues to specialise in investment and news in German-speaking countries owing to his fluent command of the language.