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Business leaders urge action on airports

Business leaders urge action on airports
14 Feb 2014

A group of 52 business leaders has called for the government to end 'navel gazing' over airport capacity in the UK. 

In a letter to the Telegraph, the heads of leading financial, retail and transport firms warned that Britain risks falling behind other countries because the government has ruled out making a decision on how to increase capacity until after the next general election in 2015. 

In the letter addressed to the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, they urge ministers to act now on interim recommendations made by the Airports Commission and appoint an independent ombudsman to oversee changes to flight restrictions at Heathrow aimed at limiting noise pollution. 

Other recommendations made in the letter include the development of new track on the West Anglia main line to increase Stansted's viability as an alternative destination for passengers, with Heathrow and Gatwick already at full stretch. 

'The world is not waiting while we navel gaze about whether we are going to put an airport in the Thames Estuary or expand Heathrow,' said Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First and lead author of the letter. 

'There are many factors that make London a very successful city ... This is just one factor, [but] clearly it is not helpful from a business perspective to have your air facilities withering, which is what we are looking at for the next ten years.'

In December, the Airports Commission, which is being led by Sir Howard Davies, shortlisted three options for expansion: a third runway at Heathrow; the extension and division of the two existing runways to create four; and a second runway at Gatwick. 

A fourth option, the so-called 'Boris Island' proposal for the Isle of Grain, was put up for further consideration. 

Commenting at the time, Sir Howard said: 'The commission will now focus on the challenge of appraising the three options, further assessing the case for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and delivering a robust final recommendation to government.'ADNFCR-408-ID-801693761-ADNFCR

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