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UK government delays decision on increasing airport capacity

A decision on whether to build new runway capacity in the southeast of England will not be taken before 2015, allowing time for a new government commission to investigate the issue.

In a statement dated 7 September, Patrick McLoughlin, the newly appointed transport secretary, announced that the former head of the Financial Services Authority, Sir Howard Davies, will chair the commission - which is due to deliver its final report in 2015.

Any decision based on its recommendations will therefore not be made until after the next general election in the UK.

The inquiry is tasked with "identifying and recommending to government options for maintaining this country's status as an international hub for aviation", says the statement.

The commission will examine the scale and timing of any requirement for additional capacity in the UK, and how that requirement should be met in the short, medium and long-term.

Alongside potentially identifying where new runway capacity should be constructed, it will, by 2013, recommend methods of improving the use of existing capacity over the next five years.

McLoughlin believes the UK has failed to keep pace with international competitors when addressing its aviation capacity and connectivity needs. "Germany, France and the Netherlands have all grown their capacity more extensively than the UK over the years, and so are better equipped, now and in the future, to connect with the fast growing markets of emerging economies," he says.

"The consequences are clear. Our largest airport and our only hub airport - Heathrow - is already operating at capacity. Gatwick, the world's busiest single runway airport, will be full early in the next decade, while spare capacity at Stansted airport is forecast to run out in the early 2030s."

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