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BBT March/April 2019 cover
March/April 2019

Politics ‘got in the way’ of runway decision

A new north-west runway (left) would be a full 3,200m long. Enough for any aircraft type to use

A member of the Airports Commission has admitted that politics “got in the way” of the government making a decision this year on airport expansion in the south-east.

The commission has recommended building a third runway at Heathrow. But the government, which had initially promised a decision by the end of 2015, has now put it off until summer 2016 so it can carry out “more work on environmental impacts”.

Sir John Armitt, who was a member of the commission and is also president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, told the BBC that the government’s move was “disappointing” although it was “perhaps not surprising”. He added that he thought making a decision this year could have been possible.

“We think there should be a third runway but we relayed very clear conditions around that with regard to night flights, with regard to emissions - not allowing the third runway to be opened until they could demonstrate that the emission issues were under proper control,” said Armitt.

“It could have been done but sometimes politics gets in the way. You cannot take politics out of infrastructure.

“The public hold politicians responsible for what they regard as the critical services in their lives. The politicians have to make these very tough decisions at the end of the day.”

Armitt is also a member of the new National Infrastructure Commission, which was set up in October to provide “expert independent analysis of the long-term infrastructure needs of the country”.


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