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UK freight and air cargo companies have expressed their dismay and disappointment that the UK government has, as widely expected, decided to delay its decision on airport capacity for a further six months  – to a date after the London Mayoral election.

Labelling it “gutless”, businesses pointed out that the government’s failure to act due to political fear would impinge on its own target to increase UK exports to £1 trillion a year by 2020.

The government used the excuse of the environment to relieve itself of the immediate political difficulties posed by its own candidate for London Mayor, who is firmly opposed to Heathrow expansion and had threatened to resign if the government agreed to support the £20m Airports Commission recommendation.

Robert Keen, director general of UK freight forwarding association BIFA, said: “BIFA has little doubt that this decision is about political expediency, not environmental matters, which must have been addressed in the work done by the Airports Commission during the three years it took to investigate the issues.

“The UK’s freight forwarding community, which is the engine of Britain’s international trade, needs the government to stop playing political football with the issue of aviation capacity and make a decision. Every week that passes has a direct cost to the UK economy, its international connectivity and reputation”.

“The 1,500 companies within BIFA are dismayed that the uncertainty and indecision over expanding aviation capacity is set to continue into next summer.

The FTA noted that a further delay would harm the UK. Chris Welsh, director of global and European Policy, said: “Approximately 40% of Britain’s imports and exports are dependent on air freight. The UK’s ability to access existing and new markets is in danger of being seriously impaired by a failure to invest in Britain’s core infrastructure capacity.

“Worse still, as the government dithers, is the damage done to our international reputation and the signal it sends overseas investors who are likely to question the UK’s capability to invest in vital infrastructure required to maintain and enhance the UK’s connectivity.

“Organisations such as OECD and the World Bank have highlighted that government interventions on infrastructure investment are essential in attaining good connectivity and efficient logistics and are vital components in a nation’s ability to compete in the global economy.”

The FTA commissioned its own report in 2014, focusing on the importance of air freight to the UK economy and airport capacity in the south-east, which confirmed Heathrow as a vital hub for air cargo.

The board of airline representatives said it was  “inconceivable that the government has had insufficient time, or a lack of information, to make the decision it long promised”.

However, The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) welcomed the delay, saying that it thought the government should “undertake further work on the environmental impacts before deciding on the location for that capacity”.

Jack Lowe, chief of Heathrow Hub, a group which proposes extending the runway at Heathrow instead of building a new one, also welcomed the decision.

“Given the importance of this major national infrastructure decision, a short delay to do additional work on the noise and air quality impacts of airport expansion seems sensible to us.”

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  • Gary S Kendall

    December 11, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Once again we have been let down by our elected representative, the reason being is companies don’t vote! Those who support the urgent need for a third runway need to mobilise our resources. Employee’s, colleagues, business partners. etc etc. i.e. people, those same people need to put pressure on their elected representative, by it national, local or the Democratic republic of Harlington. If politicians see their vote going believe me they change attitude and position,.

  • John Roberts

    December 11, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    I think we have a slightly blinkered view on this, the airport isn’t expanding so that we can ship more freight, the main reason is passenger numbers.
    Don’t forget that exporters can still export as much as they want in the meantime and that export rates would be cheaper if didn’t have to fork out membership fees to various freight bodies.