CBI warns Heathrow runway wait could cost UK £31bn

BRITAIN could lose up to £31 billion in trade by 2030 because of the failure to increase flights to Brazil, Russia, India and China alone, research by the CBI today suggests.

CBI said the study showed the stark need to build a new runway at Heathrow

The business organisation said the study showed the “stark” need to build a new runway at Heathrow, as recommended last week by the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies.

If there are delays to new runway capacity beyond 2030, the annual cost to the UK economy in lost trade with the so-called “Bric” countries could be up to an additional £5.3bn, which will rise each subsequent year, the CBI warned.

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Welcoming the Prime Minister’s pledge to make a decision on the Airports Commission’s recommendations before the end of the year, the lobby group said it wants to see diggers on the ground by 2020.

Katja Hall, the CBI’s deputy director general, will tell a Runways UK conference in London: “Delaying the decision to build a new runway will have a very real economic cost for our country.

“The commission has been clear in its recommendation to the government, and so are we – get on with building it without delay.

“A new runway will help rebalance our economy, prevent us handing opportunity to our rivals and avoid a future bill for our inaction.

“When it comes to airport capacity, time is money. We’re not just missing out on global opportunities, but paying an economic price right here in the UK.

“Our failure to increase flights to Bric countries alone will cost the UK as much as £31bn in lost trade in the period it takes to build a new runway. That’s just from a lack of flights to the Bric countries – just the tip of the iceberg.”

She added: “We welcome the Prime Minister’s guarantee that he will deliver a decision this side of Christmas. He is right to – delaying into 2016 is too late.

“We need to get the legal process under way before the end of the year, and Parliament needs to get behind it. If it does that, we could see spades in the ground by 2020, with a new runway online between 2025 and 2030, and the whole country reaping the benefits by 2040.”

In his report last week following a £20 million three-year inquiry, Davies recommended that while a new runway at Gatwick was deliverable, the government should build one at Heathrow.

The recommendation for a third runway at Britain’s busiest airport sparked wildly different views. Business leaders and unions welcomed the prospect of a new runway but local campaigners vowed to continue protests against expanding Heathrow.

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher promised that Labour would support the government in a quick decision to expand Heathrow which he described as “the biggest decision for UK plc in decades”.

But the Prime Minister is faced with furious opposition from his own Tory benches with London mayor Boris Johnson, who had wanted a new airport built on the Thames estuary east of London, saying the expansion will “never happen”.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said of the decision: “The expansion of capacity at Heathrow has many potential benefits for Scotland, but only if our air links to Heathrow improve. We want to see more slots at Heathrow reserved for domestic air services.”