Reject the Davies Commission findings and build an airport fit for the future

Thursday, July 16, 2015
Peter Smith

The Bow Group today calls on the Government to reject the Davies Commission’s proposals for a third runway at Heathrow airport, in favour of revisiting proposals for an airport in the Thames Estuary.

The new paper, authored by Adam Afriyie, the Conservative MP for Windsor, argues that the prospect of adding a new runway to Heathrow or Gatwick is merely a “sticking plaster” when foresight and economic sense demand a new airport that will keep Britain at the top of the world trade and interconnectivity tables for good.

Adam Afriyie MP said:

“The best solution to our aviation challenges is an airport designed for 21st Century travel with all the necessary amenities, space for expansion and good quality transport connections. I strongly believe that this solution is a large offshore airport, probably in the Thames Estuary.

That’s why I was surprised and disappointed that The Airport Commission took the short-sighted decision to rule out this option so early.

“But we will not give up the fight.

“An offshore airport with four or more runways is the only long-term solution to keep Britain at the forefront of global trade whilst protecting the public from unnecessary noise and pollution. If we want to be a major trading nation, able to compete with the tiger economies and other, bolder Western nations, we need to build an airport with capacity for the next 100 years. I want the best, not just for my Windsor constituents, but for the country as a whole.

Bow Group Research Secretary, Peter Smith, said:

“In their Election manifesto, the Conservatives promised to “respond” to the Airports Commission’s final report.

“Adam Afriyie has comprehensively explained why the Government should reject the Heathrow option in favour of developing detailed proposals for a new airport that is fit for the future, not the piecemeal expansion of one hamstrung by past.”

Bow Group Chairman, Ben Harris-Quinney, said:

"The last major new airport for London, Stanstead, was completed in 1991. Twenty five years ago it was state-of-the-art, but the way people travel by air has changed completely.

“New technology has enabled the automation of check in, and many processes that once took up time and space in terminals now take place on our phones. We need a smart phone-era airport that will make London the air hub of the world once again, and set a new standard in modern air travel. The only way to achieve that is a new airport, unrestrained by out-of-date designs."

Quotes from the paper:


“Heathrow was never intended to be the country’s largest airport. It was initially built as an airfield during the Second World War. By the time construction was completed in 1946, the war had already ended. What to do with a spare airfield? Turn it into a commercial airport – and so Heathrow was born. Today, its noise affects almost four times more people than any other airport in Europe, over the established 55 decibel threshold. It’s no wonder that so many local and national groups from residents associations, from environmentalists, to a spate of local councils opposing the plans for a third runway. No sensible planner with a smidgen of foresight would choose to locate a nation’s largest airport so that low altitude flights overfly its most densely populated areas.”

“If we allow Heathrow to increase their monopoly, then we risk customers paying higher prices for poorer services modelled on an outdated view of the aviation industry. Monopolies are never healthy, no matter how they are justified.”


“If we are destined to take a short-sighted view, then an extra runway at Gatwick would certainly be a better option. It would drive competition in the aviation market, reducing the price of flights for holidaymakers and business travellers. It would be able to reach more European and domestic destinations than Heathrow without exposing as many residents to intrusive noise levels. But, after that one additional runway, the space runs out. Additionally, Gatwick, like Heathrow, has developed over time in a hodgepodge fashion: its South terminal opened in 1958 and its North terminal in 1988. This means that, again like Heathrow, travellers face time-consuming, inefficient transfers between flights.”

Thames Estuary

First — the potential of a new airport means that we are not tied to Heathrow’s limited infrastructure. The new airport could reach 300 international and domestic destinations, almost doubling Heathrow’s current total of 171. This would open up routes to important new markets such as Belo Horizonte in Brazil, Calcutta in India and Chongqing in China. This means that businesses will be able to flourish, boosting our exports and helping to create jobs for British citizens.”

“Second — there is enviable room for growth in and around the Thames Estuary area. It has room for at least four extra runways. In addition, we could link it to a container port to compete with Rotterdam and integrate it with our existing domestic road and rail network. Imagine having a global trade hub with unrivalled links to Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. Our ability to trade relatively easy with many parts of the globe make us the ideal location for just that.

“Third — as the offshore airport would be built anew, from the ground up, the various different runways and terminals could be designed and built together with transfer and efficiency in mind, thus providing an attractive travel experience. The various terminals could be connected by a single, unified atrium, so that travellers could simply walk from one flight to the next.

“Above all, an offshore or nearshore airport would be the least intrusive for residents. Political opposition has shut down airport expansion time and time again at Heathrow. We’ve got to accept that airports need to be built away from large population centres. Compared to the million people who will have to live with daily flights going overhead at regular intervals, it is estimated that a multi-runway Thames Estuary airport would affect just 30,000 people. This staggering noise exposure gap between the two airports is something we should use to inform our decisions.”

PDF icon Bow Group - Adam Afriyie MP.pdf511.21 KB