While everyone in the aviation or business community was disappointed by yesterday’s announcement that the Government will not make a decision on an additional runway until “at least” October, no one was surprised.
The current political turmoil saw to that.
Now more than ever though, as the UK works out how to forge its own future outside the EU, we need to ensure we can maintain and grow strong connectivity with global trading markets. Of course airports are key to that, but airports are only as good as the airspace that supports them. Our airspace structures – a key pillar of national transport infrastructure – were put in place more than half a century ago, designed for aircraft that you now see only in museums. We urgently need a stable airspace policy to support work to deliver more capacity.
The Government has been planning a consultation on airspace modernisation and noise, the results of which will be crucial to informing future airspace design. This consultation has already been delayed twice since its original planned date of December 2015, and it is really important it doesn’t get delayed again by this latest announcement on the runway. It’s now even more important that we can provide additional capacity in our airspace to support growth at our airports all over the UK. Without improvement, and based on the Government’s own forecasts, delays are likely to soar to 50 times what they are today and nearly a quarter of all flights will be delayed by more than 30 minutes. There would be a significant impact on the UK’s economy.
People are naturally concerned that airspace change will mean more aircraft flying overhead, more noise and pollution. We are working hard to build an understanding that new technologies can help us grow airspace capacity and actually improve the experience of people on the ground. New, more precise routes which could be alternated by rotation to provide respite…. Quicker climbs… less holding for arriving aircraft…. These kinds of things are all now possible and are in use across the globe today!
But airspace change doesn’t happen quickly. It takes years and we are already behind schedule. Now it is more important than ever.
The UK is geographically very well placed, with only 11% of European airspace but 25% of its traffic, and with some 80% of transatlantic traffic using our airspace to access Europe. We are Europe’s transatlantic gateway and we need to build on that to consolidate our position as one of the leading global economic hubs.
So our plea to the Government today is for no further delay on their consultation. The UK needs the strong economic benefits that the aviation industry can deliver for the UK. Airspace – the invisible infrastructure – is too important to the UK’s future success for any further delay to the change it needs.
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