UK airports commission to scrutinise capacity requirements

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Members of a specially-convened group, the Airports Commission, have launched an effort to determine the extent, if any, of required additional airport capacity in the UK.

Former Confederation of British Industry and the Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies formally inaugurated the group in London on 2 November.

Davies made it clear that "all options are on the table", giving the London Heathrow third runway - accepted by the previous UK government but rejected by the present coalition - a new lease of life.

The commission's task, he says, is to produce, by summer 2015, a study that strives for consensus, and makes a speedy decision by politicians as easy as possible. His job is not political, he says, remarking that no-one knows what government will be in power by then.

Davies insists the commission is not a way of delaying airport policy decisions until after the next election, saying that the 2008 financial crisis and advances in environmental policy have altered the considerations for the UK's airline and aviation connectivity needs.

He says the commissioners will make use of the extensive study into national aviation policy started by the previous Labour government in 2000, which produced a policy white paper in 2005. But he points out that changes since then require a new look.

The terms of reference the commission has been given, however, are almost identical to those for the previous study in the sense that all options, including doing nothing, are on the table.

Among the Airports Commission's members are former Manchester Airports Group chief Geoff Muirhead, but the group includes representatives with experience in several fields such as the rail and energy industries.