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Business leaders call for new airports commission to pick two more runways

Immediately after the election, the next government must launch a follow-up Airports Commission to recommend locations for two new runways, the Institute of Directors urged today. With Heathrow’s third runway not scheduled to be completed until 2028, and with Gatwick also filling up fast, the business group, which represents 30,000 UK company directors, said that the Commission should only be given a year to report its findings.

The call for extra airport capacity comes in the latest instalment in a series of manifesto papers, collectively titled Let’s Push Things Forward, in which the IoD lays out businesses’ priorities for making the UK more economically competitive. The decision to build a third runway at Heathrow took much longer than companies wanted, but was finally achieved after the choice on location was handed to an independent commission led by Sir Howard Davies. The IoD is calling for a similar process, on an accelerated timescale.

Also in the paper, the IoD calls on the next Government to:

  • Drive forward ultrafast broadband and 4G coverage, replacing the Universal Service Obligation with a much more ambitious target The Government must set a target to ‘switch-off’ the copper network by 2025 and reduce access costs to existing physical infrastructure to everyone has access to the greater speeds of fibre optic cable
  • Engage and consult on longer-term projects Regional growth means investing in infrastructure, often by bringing out-of-date existing networks into the 21st century. Larger projects, like the proposed ‘HS3’, should be consulted upon to ensure that their design delivers most efficiently and cost-effectively
  • Outline a roadmap towards the building of Crossrail 2 Recognising that there are resource limitations to the building of new infrastructure, the Government should put together a plan for progressing with Crossrail 2
  • Establish an infrastructure Best Value Index It is essential to start scoring pipeline projects against each other to identify the best return on investment when resources are scarce
  • Build a database on UK roads covering traffic, accidents, costs and air pollution Roads are the hardest-working muscles in the UK’s transport infrastructure but we know too little about them. The more information we have about them, the more efficient our investment can be
  • Bring in speed targets for buses and repurpose roads to better suit space-friendly buses Buses might not be the most glamorous form of transport, but they are a crucial part of our transport network and we need to ensure they are moving as efficiently as possible

Dan Lewis, Senior Infrastructure Adviser at the Institute of Directors said:

“Whoever wins the next election, they will face a serious challenge in upgrading the UK’s transport and communications network. The years of dawdling on new airport capacity have left us lagging well behind European competitors. Expanding Heathrow is not enough, we need two further runways at South East airports and better connections to the ones where there is spare capacity, particularly Stansted.

“Broadband must also be a priority for the general election winner, as better, faster connections would not only make businesses more productive, it would also help them to offer staff more flexible working. At the moment the UK is being held back by its out-of-date network of copper wires. The next government has to commit to a step-change in internet speeds by completing the switch to fibre by 2025.”

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