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Travel boss blasts government over airport expansion inertia

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The government’s decision to delay its decision on where to expand London airport capacity prioritises “short term political interests” over the health of the UK’s economy, a senior travel industry figure has claimed.

Paul Wait, CEO of travel industry body GTMC, has warned that pushing the decision back to assess the environmental impact of various solutions will seriously harm UK businesses and the wider economy.

“An additional six month wait for a firm decision, let alone action, on the issue of airport expansion is detrimental to the health of UK plc and this further procrastination is incredibly frustrating, to put it mildly,” said Wait.

“Additional capacity for flights from the UK to long-haul destinations and the emerging markets are both integral to supporting British business and the economic growth of the nation – we are already far behind our European counterparts on approving additional airport capacity.

"Quite frankly it seems that short term political interests in London are being prioritised above the long-term national interest and it is vital that this does not happen."

From a tourism perspective, expansion of airport capacity in south east England has been described by the Tourism Alliance as essential if the UK is to continue to grow the number of inbound visitors it attracts.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced that a decision on where to add aviation capacity will be delayed until at least mid-2016. The move comes amid strong lobbying by businesses for a third runway at Heathrow Airport and fierce opposition from environmental groups and other high profile public figures.

Among those against the building of a third runway at Heathrow is London mayor Boris Johnson. Having previously campaigned for the construction of a new Norman-Foster designed airport in the Thames Estuary, Johnson said he believes the expansion of Heathrow is “is basically undeliverable."

He said: "The wheels are falling off the Heathrow fuselage and I think that, now the government has hit the pause button, they will begin to understand with ever greater clarity that, due to the environmental impacts, the legal obstacles and the cost to the public purse, this bird will never fly."

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The government’s move to delay its decision on where to expand London airport capacity prioritises “short term political interests” over the health of the UK’s economy, a senior travel industry figure has claimed.
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