This matters for a trading nation like Britain, Heathrow is the UK’s busiest port by value, a strength built on the range of destinations and frequency of international flights served, matched by a strategic location on the road network. 40% of the UK’s trade by value is sent via air.
For export-intensive manufacturers in particular, airports are crucial to their business operations. The Airports Commission, set up by the government to investigate the best way to maintain this global hub status, has shortlisted three options for future airport expansion – two options at Heathrow and one at Gatwick. A fourth option, a new airport in the Thames Estuary backed by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, was ruled out following further study.
The Commission will report in the summer after the General Election and depending on the composition of the next government, a decision is likely to be made within 12 months. However, it is unlikely that the decision would then clear all the necessary hurdles to see diggers on the ground before the next election expected in 2020.
Even that estimation is based on a smooth process, which is not guaranteed. Several potential hurdles stand in the way including the prospect of judicial reviews.
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