Credit: Phillip Capper/Flickr

£600,000 per hour: The cost of Britain's runway dithering

The CBI warned that Britain will miss out on trade with emerging markets if a decision isn't made soon.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 21 Sep 2015

Sir Howard Davies’s long-awaited recommendation on expanding Britain’s airports was finally published last week, but the Government is yet to say whether it’s going with the Airport Commission’s recommendation to build a new runway at Heathrow. The more David Cameron dithers, the greater the negative impact on Britain’s economy - and new figures out today should add fresh impetus to the need to get spades in the ground.

Assuming the runway takes until 2030 to be built, the CBI reckons the cost in lost trade with Brazil, Russia, India and China will be £31bn. Each year beyond that would cost a further £5.3bn and rising – or £600,000 per hour.

‘Delaying the decision to build a new runway will have a very real economic cost for our country,’ said the business group’s deputy director-general Katja Hall. 'The commission has been clear in its recommendation to the Government, and so are we – get on with building it without delay.

‘The UK has been relegated to 4th or 5th position for new routes to China, Brazil and Russia from the EU in the last 20 years. Meanwhile, our competitors are using their spare capacity to dip their toes in the water of new markets. While we’re all here discussing where and how to build a new runway, they are deciding which high-growth destination to fly to next.’

Hall is undoubtedly right. The decision over a new runway has been dragging along for far too long thanks to the controversy it will bring; many of those living under Heathrow’s flight paths were hoping Davies would back Gatwick, and Cameron will also upset many in his own party if he goes with the commission’s plan. But Britain needs decisive action if it wants to continue competing on the world stage.

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