RunwaysUK conference shows up the Gatwick/Heathrow battle and the hub+spoke/point-to-point future of air travel

A new alliance, called RunwaysUK, intends to hold a large conference once a year, to bring together everyone involved in trying to get more UK runways built. Their first conference took place in London on 16th January, and was attended by several hundred people, largely from business and the aviation industry.  Not surprisingly their focus was on how desirable building at least one new runway would be. More than one ideally. Over a long day, with a tight schedule of speakers and question sessions (ably held together by Kirsty Wark), a lot of arguments took place, and a lot of points were made. The first item was a speech by Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Airports Commission, and the launch of the appraisal framework consultation, which will determine the criteria on which runway proposals will be considered. During the day the battle between Heathrow and Gatwick was repeatedly demonstrated, as were the issues of whether UK aviation is more likely to be based more on low cost, point to point flights, or on the hub and spoke model. There was debate on the Thames estuary, and the Airports Commission confirmed that this option will be given further consideration, perhaps to be added by late summer. Below is some of the press coverage of the conference.



This is the programme for the conference on 16th January 2014 

RunwaysUK website is at

The list of delegates is at  (RunwaysUK kindly gave free tickets to many green NGOs and community groups etc to attend)


Some of the press coverage of points that came from the conference:


Boris adviser attacks ‘touch of Cowell’ in runway decision

Daniel Moylan says Airports Commission turned review into X-Factor style competition
Boris adviser attacks ‘touch of Cowell’ in runway decision. Claims Airports Commission has handed a “grossly unfair advantage” to Heathrow and will result in the “worst possible outcome” for London

By Nathalie Thomas, and Nick Collins

16 Jan 2014 (Telegraph)

Boris Johnson’s aviation adviser has attacked the commission that will decide where to build a new runway in London for turning the process into an X Factor-style competition with “a touch of Simon Cowell about it”.

Daniel Moylan hit out at the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, claiming it has handed a “grossly unfair advantage” to Heathrow and will result in the “worst possible outcome” for London.

Dr Ralf Speth, the chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, also accused the government-backed body of giving a “lack of priority” to regional airports, which are often closer to Britain’s manufacturing bases.

Mr Moylan, the Mayor’s chief aviation adviser, lambasted the Commission at a conference in London, saying Mr Johnson suspects the process is simply being used by the Government as a way to smooth the path for a third and “inevitably” a fourth runway at Heathrow.

Sir Howard, the former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, last month short-listed two potential options for expansion at Heathrow, plus proposals for a second runway at Gatwick to be taken forward for further investigation before he delivers his final verdict in 2015.
The Mayor’s proposals for a brand new hub airport on the Isle of Grain in north Kent will be investigated further by the commission before Sir Howard decides in the Autumn whether it should be added to the short-list.

Mr Moylan claimed the consultation that led up to the short-list deteriorated into a “sort of BAFTA Awards” in which schemes that were not backed by wealthy private companies were “clearly at a disadvantage”.

He said: “The decision-making to date…has had a touch of the Simon Cowell about it, with conclusions in some cases startlingly adrift from the numerical and other evidence in the report.”
He questioned why the commission added a “large percentage of risk and contingency” to all other submissions – pushing up the estimated cost of a Thames Estuary airport up to £80bn-£100bn – while it reduced Heathrow’s cost estimates.

Heathrow believes a third runway, to the north-west of its current site, could be delivered for £16.9bn while the commission has forecast a range of £13bn-£18bn.

“Whatever the reason, a grossly unfair advantage has been given to Heathrow,” Mr Moylan said at the conference organised by Runways UK.

Sir Howard said the commission has sought to ensure that all of its decisions so far are “soundly based”.

He fought off claims that he has kept the possibility of a Thames Estuary airport on the table as a “political fudge”.

Sir Howard said: “What we wanted to do was ensure that all of the decisions we make are defensible and soundly-based. That is why we are doing the additional work [on the Thames Estuary proposal] in order to ensure that when we eventually make a decision on this it is…not vulnerable to challenge.”

Dr Speth would not say whether he would prefer expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick or at a new site to the east of London but he said he currently spends “too much time” on the M40 commuting to the capital to take flights when Jaguar Land Rover is a West Midlands-based company.

“One disappointment from the interim report is the lack of priority given to the non-London locations,” the automotive chief said.



‘Boris island’ decision ‘in autumn’

The Airports Commission will make a definite runway recommendation in summer 2015
16 JANUARY 2014 (Belfast Telegraph)

A decision on whether or not the so-called “Boris island” option of a new Thames Estuary airport is to be added to an official airport expansion shortlist will be made in autumn 2014, the head of the Whitehall-appointed Airports Commission said today.

Chaired by former Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies, the commission has already shortlisted Heathrow and Gatwick Airports as possible sites for a new runway by 2030.

The estuary airport plan, favoured by London Mayor Boris Johnson, failed to make the shortlist in last month’s interim report but the commission promised to look further at the scheme.

Today, announcing the future work of the commission in an “appraisal framework” timetable, Sir Howard said a decision on whether to add the estuary airport option to the shortlist would be taken in “early autumn”.

Addressing an aviation conference in London, Sir Howard said the estuary scheme, costing as much as £112 billion, presented “many challenges and risks”, adding that the cost looked “rather daunting”.

He also said that, in studying the estuary option, the commission would have to “look at the implication of closing Heathrow and London City Airports”.

Mr Johnson is bitterly opposed to a new, third runway at Heathrow and favours, instead, a brand-new airport in the Thames Estuary .

Earlier this week it was revealed that Mr Johnson had written to Sir Howard asking him not to sideline the estuary plan.

Launching the commission’s interim report last month, Sir Howard said the estuary airport plan could cost as much as £112 billion – much more than either the Heathrow or Gatwick options.

He also said the construction challenge in building a new estuary airport would be “massive”.

An extra, third runway at Heathrow was given the go-ahead by the Labour government in 2009, but scrapped by the coalition Government when it took power in May 2010.

In a letter to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, the 2M group comprising a number of local councils said that Sir Howard had shortlisted potential sites for new runways before assessing their environmental impacts or delivery costs.


Airport expansion debate ‘like Bafta awards’

By Richard WestcottBBC transport correspondent

16 January 2014 (BBC)

A380 superjumbo taking off
An Airbus A380 takes off from Heathrow Airport – the front runner in the expansion debate

The process for picking where Britain’s next runway should go has been ridiculed as being like a “sort of Bafta awards”, in a speech approved by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

The mayor’s aviation adviser, Daniel Moylan, also said it had “a touch of the Simon Cowell about it”.

Mr Moylan told the BBC he was frustrated that the Airports Commission had refused to meet them since its interim report came out in December.

The report appears to favour Heathrow.

Two of the three shortlisted options involve a third runway in west London, but the mayor’s preferred option – a brand new mega-airport in the Thames Estuary on the other side of the city – failed to make the shortlist.

The Commission’s head, Sir Howard Davies, has promised to look at the scheme in more detail before making a final decision later this year on its viability.

‘Mildly bizarre’

I asked Daniel Moylan whether, by comparing the Commission’s decision-making process to Simon Cowell, he was risking a clash with the man who is going to decide the future of their scheme.

He had this message for Sir Howard: “Well, come and talk. He’s refused to have any meetings with us since his report was published.

“His staff have refused, which is mildly bizarre,” he added. “Maybe one said it in a way that encouraged him to do so, and maybe one said it in a way that put him off. We’ll find out.”

He also told me that he didn’t know, but he “strongly suspects”, that the estuary scheme was added to the interim report at the last minute, probably to make the process look more open.

A few days before the report came out, Boris Johnson was threatening all-out war if rumours were true that the estuary scheme was to be dropped.

A month or so ago, Sir Howard Davies told me that any plan to build in the Thames had higher hurdles to jump over than the other schemes, mainly because of concerns over the cost and the impact that closing Heathrow would have on London.

In theory, the airports debate was pushed into the long grass when they set up this Commission. They were told not to report back until after the next general election in 2015.

But make no mistake, this debate will get punchy long before then.

If Sir Howard decides later this year that the estuary is a goner, Boris Johnson won’t just say, “Thanks very much,” and go away quietly.

When does he ever?



Heathrow Rethinks New Runway Site to Avoid M25, Medieval Barn

By Kari Lundgren and Chris Jasper  (Bloomberg)
Jan 16, 2014

Heathrow Ltd. said it’s exploring plans to shift the site of a proposed third runway in an effort to minimize the impact of construction work as Europe’s busiest hub ramps up efforts to win support for its expansion.

The new runway could be built slightly to the south of the location currently proposed, reducing the overlap with a major junction of the M25 orbital motorway and avoiding destruction of historic buildings, Heathrow Chief Executive Officer Colin Matthews said today at the RunwaysUK conference in London.

Heathrow was last month identified as a preferred focus of additional runway capacity serving southeast England in an preliminary report from the state-appointed Airports Commission. The modifications revealed by Matthews would concern a proposed 3.5 kilometer (2.2 mile) strip to the north-west, which Heathrow prefers to the extension of the existing northern runway [as proposed by “Heathrow Hub”] to at least 6 km, which the interim report also short-listed.

Heathrow said in July on submitting proposals to the commission that it might be possible to further develop the northwest runway plan to allow the preservation in their current location of the Tithe Barn and St Mary’s Church in Harmondsworth, “both sites of significant heritage value.”

The barn, built in 1426, bears a grade-one preservation order and ranks with Westminister Abbey and the Houses of Parliament for its exceptional architectural and historic interest, according toEnglish Heritage.

Demand Profile

In total around 950 residential properties would need to be demolished, with construction of the runway completed in six years with a total cost of 17 billion pounds ($28 billion). The strip, just south of the junction between the M25 and the M4 motorway to Wales and western England, would also require the orbital road to be reconfigured, Heathrow said in July.

Responding to questions at the Runways UK conference in London, Matthews ruled out an increase in fees of as much as 100% in order to help fund the new runway.

Howard Davies, the Airports Commission chairman, said earlier that he’d seek to decide between recommending the expansion of Heathrow and construction of a second runway at London Gatwick airport, the other site shortlisted, based on the anticipated nature of future markets.

Heathrow, already Europe’s busiest hub with connections around the world, might be favored were demand deemed to be focused on transfer traffic, while Gatwick could be suitable if the chief goal was to serve point-to-point travel originating or terminating in London.

The commission is too narrowly focused on aviation issues rather than the welfare of Londoners, Daniel Moylan, an adviser to London Mayor Boris Johnson, said at the conference. Johnson favors a new airport in the Thames estuary or expansion of the Stansted low-cost hub to reduce noise over urban areas.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at; Christopher Jasper in London at



Boris Johnson: commission’s stance on airport expansion contradictory

London mayor accuses body of favouring Heathrow despite its own evidence and turning decision into contest akin to X Factor

Boris Johnson airport expansion

A plane prepares to take off at Gatwick. An industry observer questions whether a speech given on behalf of Boris Johnson is a prelude to to a legal challenge by him. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

The mayor of LondonBoris Johnson, has accused the airports commission of favouring Heathrow expansion against its own evidence while turning the process of choosing a site for a new runway into an X Factor-style contest.

In a speech delivered on the mayor’s behalf to an industry conference, Daniel Moylan, an aviation adviser and close ally, accused the commission of making decisions with “a touch of Simon Cowell”.

He said the conclusions of the commission’s interim report were “startlingly adrift from the numerical and other evidence” contained in the document, and said Sir Howard Davies, who chairs the commission, was failing to “seriously engage with the mayor”.

He said it was “absurd” that Johnson’s office was treated “on a par with a private company motivated by commercial interests” when planning for expansion of London’s infrastructure was a key part of the mayor’s powers and responsibilities.

The decision had to involve the mayor, who was the only politician “articulating the public interest” among the private firms, he said, adding that while the commission was supposed to be independent, it was in danger of becoming “independent of the real world”.

Moylan said Johnson was “profoundly unsettled” by the interim report in December, which drew up a shortlist of possible airport expansion plans. This contained two different runway options at Heathrow and another at Gatwick, while rejecting the mayor’s proposals for a four-runway Stansted – “for flimsy reasons”, said Moylan – and promising only to continue reviewing evidence for a Thames estuary option – a concession widely seen as a last-minute political fudge.

One industry observer questioned whether the speech was a possible prelude to a legal challenge by Johnson.

Moylan said the commission had “added a large percentage of risk and contingency to all submissions, which is why they come up with a huge figure for a new airport, but, before doing so, they actually cut Heathrow’s own cost estimates, uniquely amongst winning submissions. Why did they do this? Whatever the reason, a grossly unfair advantage has been given to Heathrow.”

Speaking earlier at the Runways UK conference in London, Davies had announced the terms of reference for the commission’s continued studies into a Thames estuary airport option. The body will rule on whether the option should be considered alongside Heathrow and Gatwick on the shortlist by autumn.

Asked if it was a “political fudge”, Davies replied: “You may say that; I couldn’t possibly comment.”

He added that they had concluded “we could neither sensibly rule it in or rule it out”. But, he said: “We want to make sure a decision is soundly based and not vulnerable to challenge. The legal advice suggests what we are doing is defensible.” However, the stay of execution granted to Johnson’s estuary proposal was challenged by a rival group which did not make the shortlist.

In an open letter to Davies, the backers of a second Thames estuary proposal, Britannia Airport, demanded to know why its scheme to build on the water was dismissed as “not credible” while the Isle of Grain was kept in consideration – although it was not on the shortlist Davies said there would be a further study on whether the Isle should be an option. The letter on behalf of the Testrad consortium from economist Bridget Rosewell – a Network Rail director heavily involved in HS2 – said it was a “considerable surprise”. It added: “We are also concerned that we were not given the opportunity to meet with the commission – although we understand that the commission did meet other scheme promoters.”

Meanwhile, Heathrow announced the launch of a six-week consultation with local residents about its own third runway plans, with letters sent out to 120,000 households and nine public meetings.

Chief executive Colin Matthews said it would make sure the airport correctly understood what local people value. He said: “We know that opinion is divided locally about whether a third runway should go ahead or not, but everyone has an interest in making sure that if a third runway does happen it is developed in the best way possible.”

Captain Jock Lowe, the pilot fronting the alternative Heathrow Hub proposal to double an existing runway at the airport, said he would back the commission should it choose Heathrow’s own runway plan. But if Gatwick was chosen instead, he said: “I might emigrate, because it shows the country can’t make big sensible decisions.”

The commission is requesting detailed plans for all the options on its shortlist by the autumn, before a period of public consultation. It will deliver its final recommendation after the general election.



Former Labour transport secretary Lord Adonis warns of more London airport dithering


Thursday 16 January 2014

Labour’s last transport secretary has urged the Davies Commission on airport expansion to make a strong economic case for additional runway capacity. Lord Adonis, who favoured a third runway at Heathrow while in office, said that the next government could otherwise duck a decision until 2020.

Sir Howard Davies’ Airport Commission has shortlisted proposals for an extra runway at Heathrow or Gatwick, and is looking further at a new hub airport on the Isle of Grain in north Kent.

At the Runways UK conference in London, Lord Adonis told The Independent that he wanted the final recommendation to be made before next year’s election, but admitted “that’s not going to happen, because the Prime Minister has made it clear that it’s not going to come before the summer of 2015”.

He warned that opponents to the chosen scheme would make a “powerful argument” that no decision should be taken in advance before another election, because the voters had not been consulted.

The London Mayor’s office, meanwhile, has launched a stinging attack on the Davies Commission. Boris Johnson’s aviation adviser Daniel Moylan told the conference that the Mayor is “profoundly unsettled” by the commission’s interim report. He said that the report had “a touch of Simon Cowell about it”, with conclusions “startlingly adrift” from the evidence.

In a speech that is understood to have been approved by Mr Johnson, Mr Moylan said that the Commission was intent on “securing the worst possible outcome for the capital, that is an additional runway at Heathrow, which will inevitably be followed by a fourth”. The Mayor’s alternative preference, for expansion at Stansted, had been dismissed for “flimsy reasons”.

The Commission’s interim report stressed it had reduced more than 50 proposals to “the most credible options for new runway capacity, which will be further developed and appraised before the final report”.