Aviation policy key to London’s growth

Stuart Fraser
WHEN it comes to international trade and inward investment London is indisputably the principal gateway for the UK economy.

The fact that the capital made an estimated net contribution of £1.4bn in 2009-10 highlights London’s vital role in driving economic recovery forward.

But, as the Mayor pointed out earlier this month, there is a danger that our competitive position could be undermined if transport infrastructure is not rapidly upgraded.

In this light, I hope the government’s aviation policy review will be a major step towards resolving capacity issues that could act as a bottleneck to future growth.

That is why we are publishing a new report today highlighting the need for urgent action in this area.

Access to aviation services is a critical requirement for firms across the City and London as a whole. We must rise to the challenge of increasing demand, with passenger numbers across London’s airports forecast to rise from 140m a year in 2010 to 400m in 2050.

Long-term solutions such as the proposed hub airport are welcome, but London and the UK should not stand still for decades until such a project becomes operational.

Although technological advances mean that more business can be done remotely, air services remain a major factor for international firms when they decide where to locate.

Extra capacity is needed, though it may require unpopular decisions.

We understand both the political and environmental issues that surround aviation policy. Wherever new airport capacity is planned there will be objections from those likely to be affected or concerned about the environmental impact.

These are important issues but have to be balanced against the economic benefits. We need to plan now and have a Government policy that deals not just with the longer-term future but also with the next few years. Frankly, if left too long the business will have migrated elsewhere to continental Europe.

To safeguard our future, we need firms to choose London and the UK in the first place. A sustainable and competitive aviation policy is essential to achieving this.

Stuart Fraser is policy chairman at the City of London Corporation