By Max Clarke

The UK economy will suffer and London will lose jobs to its European competitors unless a brand new hub airport is created in the south east according to a report released by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today (18 January).

The Mayor met key business leaders from the services sector and aviation industry for a seminar at City Hall where they welcomed the Government’s review of aviation policy but called for greater urgency in recognising the economic needs of the capital and the central role aviation played in this. They also discussed a new report overseen by the Deputy Chairman of TfL, Daniel Moylan, which sets out the importance of aviation to the economy and the need to build a new hub airport in order to handle London’s increasing demand for flights and destinations.

The Mayor called for a national strategy that fully recognises the economic contribution of aviation to the UK and that addresses the long term needs of London’s economy. More capacity is needed to support new air links to the growing economies of China, India and South America. However, the Mayor reiterated this cannot be at any cost and reaffirmed his opposition to expansion of Heathrow. He said the Government review should allow consideration of the best possible locations for accommodating this growth while taking into account environmental constraints and wider economic benefits.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “For London to retain its position as the heartbeat of global business we need aviation links that will allow us to compete with our rivals. The capital’s airports are full, our runways are rammed and we risk losing jobs to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Madrid or other European cities should we fail to act. No other city even approaches the volume of passengers handled at London’s airports but we need to start planning for a brand new airport that can help meet the ever increasing demand for aviation and act as a hub, particularly to the rest of the UK.”

Daniel Moylan’s report confirms that in terms of destinations served by worldwide international airports, Heathrow has fallen from second in 1990 to seventh in 2010. The number of destinations that can be directly accessed from Heathrow is now 157 compared to 224 from Paris Charles de Gaulle and 235 from Frankfurt. This forms part of a body of clear evidence that London’s only hub airport is losing out to other European airports, which if sustained could have long term damaging effects for the economies of London and the UK.

The Government is forecasting considerable growth in aviation demand within environmental limits. To ensure that this growth is accommodated to the benefit of the economy of London and the UK without harmful environmental consequences, the report calls on the Government to adopt a fresh approach and develop a comprehensive strategy for aviation growth for London and the UK.

Daniel Moylan, Deputy Chairman of Transport for London, said: “We have produced this report to understand the importance of aviation to London and the results are compelling. London and the rest of the UK have prospered greatly because of our air-links with the rest of the world. If we are to continue to prosper in the future our airports and aviation links have to be able to grow in a way that meets future needs.

“This report makes the case for new airport capacity to serve London and for this to be provided at a new hub airport, although not necessarily on a new site. Extra capacity at a hub airport is crucial if we are to support the rebalancing of the UK economy, which this government seeks, while remaining consistent with the Mayor’s goals of improving the quality of life of all Londoners and reducing transport’s contribution to climate change."

A further report will be published later this year which will present options for meeting the needs identified here. This will consider a range of locations for new airport capacity, including options for a new airport which could be in the Thames Estuary, as well as consideration of existing sites with the exception of Heathrow.

Stuart Popham, Former Senior Partner of Clifford Chance and Chairman of CityUK, said: “Clifford Chance is one of a small group of elite international law firms. Of this group, the majority are based in London. This is partly a result of London's long history as a global financial and commercial centre. The City's unrivalled global position and connections have been an essential part of that success. Looking to the future, our clients will be continue to be more widely dispersed and looking for support across a wider range of international jurisdictions. That means a greater need for access to emerging and fast growing markets where air connections do not currently exist. It is essential that we have a clear long-term strategy for aviation that provides for these new connections and enables London to continue to compete with the best in the world.”

Richard Reid, London Chairman of KPMG, said: “London is a global business and financial services centre with many firms like KPMG choosing London as a base from which do to business with the rest of the world. One of the reasons behind London's success is strong transport links across Europe and the world, not least emerging markets in Asia. Public policy needs to ensure that Britain remains a vibrant, competitive and world-class place to do business from and our airports are critical to make this happen.”

Sir Peter Hall of the Bartlett School, University College London said: “Heathrow was built to meet the wartime needs of the RAF seventy years ago and it has developed in a piecemeal fashion ever since, producing an airport that is no longer fit for purpose. Now it is running badly out of space there are very good logistical and environmental reasons not to expand it further. Rather, a basic decision is needed to build a real 21st-century airport to meet the future needs of a world city. City after city, across the world, has faced a similar dilemma and resolved it by building afresh and it is about time London joined them.”