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UK airport capacity 'insufficient'

Vapour trails left by a plane04/03/13

By Simon O'Hare

A shortage of airport capacity is putting the UK at a competitive disadvantage in world business, it is claimed.

The UK is especially falling behind other major European countries in its failure to win new direct air connections to emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia and China, according to the CBI.

The introduction of just one extra flight a day to the eight fastest-growing economies would boost UK growth by £1 billion a year, the organisation said in a new report.

In the short term it calls for improved access to UK airports and for capacity at Heathrow to be maximised.

New runway capacity then needs to be introduced in southern England in the medium term, according to the CBI.

Finally it argues the long term plan for 2030 onwards should include consideration of a new airport in London.

CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said boosting exports was "critical" to the UK's long-term economic growth.

Highlighting the need to introduce new direct routes to emerging economies, she said: "Firms in high-growth economies are not waiting for us to make a decision before taking their business to countries with much better flight links."

The Davies Commission on Aviation, appointed by the Government, is due to provide an interim report at the end of this year outlining plans for the next few years.

CBI business environment policy director Rhian Kelly has called for the Davies Report to be "bold" in its findings.

"It needs to provide all of our airports with a sustainable licence to grow, with the ability to link exporters with new opportunities. This means tackling the growth pinch-points in the air and on the ground," Kelly said.

Aviation Minister Simon Burns has said the Government is "determined to find a lasting solution to maintain the UK's global aviation hub status".

He said previous attempts to address the problem have been unsuccessful sometimes due to a lack of consensus on the evidence.

"Our approach is to build a strong political consensus so we can plan for the future. A rushed decision is not an option," he added.

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