Engineers and transport experts have joined together to criticise the handling of the aviation debate after they say it became too heavily politicised and focussed on the third runway plans at Heathrow.
The Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) said in response the the Government’s drafted Aviation Policy, that a wider vision was required to ensure the longevity of the UK’s airport capacity.
They said debates over a third Heathrow runway are unimportant if the airport is unable to expand past this.An alternative hub airport in the South East of the country was the recommendation from the two organisations, who said this must be rapidly developed to establish the UK as a leader in aviation.
Aviation expert, Alex Lake from ICE’s panel, said: “Looking to the longer term, to maintain its global economic competitiveness, the UK needs a hub with more than three runways and rapid access to Central London.
“If we decide Heathrow can’t or shouldn’t be expanded to this size we will need to develop a new hub facility elsewhere in South East England.”
The Davies Commission, which will evaluate the options for the UK’s airport capacity, has been urged to investigate long term solutions, but also to thoroughly review short term plans.
ICE and CIHT warned the Government that while plans for the expansion of Heathrow may go ahead, investors would not be attracted unless a long term plan is put in place.
Recommendations from the organisation were to take a “twin track” approach to UK aviation capacity, and to introduce a delivery body similar to that for the Olympic Games to implement the Davies Commission’s plans.
Sue Percy, CIHT chief executive, said: “The creation of an Independent Commission to examine future capacity needs and how they could be met is welcome, but its final report will not be published until after the 2015 General Election, potentially causing yet more delay and indecision and damaging the UK’s credibility as a location for private investment in aviation infrastructure.
“The Commission’s interim report in 2013 must indicate a clear direction of travel and come 2015, Government should make an unambiguous decision that has cross party consensus and can be driven forward.”
Mr Lake from ICE concluded: “When it comes to the UK’s airport infrastructure needs, there are some tough political and public choices, but the UK’s reputation is on the line.
“The transport and engineering profession stands ready to contribute expertise gained on recent large scale projects – not least the Olympics – and ensure the Commission receives robust advice on the challenges and deliverability of all the solutions on the table.”