Firms slam government’s slow progress on aviation

Marion Dakers
BUSINESSES yesterday lashed out at the coalition’s attempts to kick the future of Britain’s aviation policy into the long grass.

Transport secretary Justine Greening yesterday formally unveiled a watered-down consultation with focus on noise reduction and green issues instead of options for adding capacity to UK airspace as expected.

Some suggestions in the consultation were welcomed, such as asking rail firms to integrate ticketing with airlines.

A new train service connecting towns on the proposed High Speed 2 route directly to Heathrow is also being considered, though the government admitted it does not plan to consult on this option until 2013 at the earliest.

But many business groups, including the Institute of Directors, warned the government against ignoring “the elephant in the room” of increasing capacity in the south east of England.

“These are fundamentally short term measures, which still don’t address the overriding need for more runways,” said the IoD’s senior economic adviser Corin Taylor.

Ministers have shied away from making a decision on expanding Heathrow or pressing ahead with a new hub in the Thames Estuary, both of which are ruled out by the May 2010 coalition agreement.

A call for evidence on the matter, which had been pencilled in for this month, will now take place “later in the year”, the department for transport said in yesterday’s consultation papers.

The Labour party, keen to play up the divisions among the coalition members on this issue, said in a statement: “It makes no sense for the political parties to work separately on this and come up with different solutions.”

The British Chambers of Commerce added: “Unfortunately, aviation strategy has become a political plaything.

“That simple fact will not escape the attention of British business. The government has been consulting on this issue for years, and there has been too much talk and too little action.”