UK Aviation Strategy - Time to choose

To maintain its long term global economic competitiveness the UK is likely to require a hub airport on a single site with more than three runways and rapid connections to Central London.  This presents a binary choice, expand Heathrow or close the hub at Heathrow and develop a new facility elsewhere in South East England.


ICE, in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation (CIHT), has published a report examining aviation policy in the UK.

The report, UK Aviation Strategy - Time to choose, describes how the aviation debate has become too heavily politicised and centred on a third runway at Heathrow, when in the long term, the UK is likely to need significantly more national hub capacity, which we must plan for now.

Aviation is a critical part of the UK’s transport system.  The UK’s aviation sector currently carries over 235 million passengers and circa 40% (by value) of the UK’s annual exports.  The aviation sector itself accounts for 3.6% of GDP and underpins many other parts of the economy.

While some airports do currently have significant spare capacity, taken as a whole, the network is suffering from severe capacity constraints, with the immediate pressure point being London and South East England.  This situation is very likely to get worse. The Department for Transport’s current, national central forecast predicts that by 2050, without new runways, the UK will have 50 million fewer passengers per annum than would otherwise have travelled.

Whilst ICE does not believe in a blanket “predict and provide” approach, if left unaddressed this situation will put the UK at a significant competitive disadvantage to competitors in France, the Netherlands, Germany and further afield that are making significant investments in their hub airports.

The report titled 'UK Aviation Strategy - Time to choose', and the ICE/CIHT response to the Department for Transport's draft National Aviation Policy Framework consultation are available to download:

UK Aviation Strategy - Time to choose

ICE submission to Draft National Aviation Policy Framework consultation


ICE approach to establishing its aviation statement.

What action did ICE take to establish its position on the aviation needs for the UK?

To formulate our submission, the ICE drew upon the expertise of its membership and aviation specialists.  ICE also collaborated with the Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation, to provide a true engineers view of how the UK can deliver the Infrastructure it needs to compete in the 21st century.

An Aviation Lifed Expert Panel (LEP) was established to oversee ICE's response to the Draft Aviation Policy Framework (NAPF) consultation, and establish ICE's position on the debate over runway capacity.  The Aviation LEP consisted of members of ICE's Transport Panel, and leading aviation experts.

How did ICE engage with its membership?

To obtain the views of ICE members throughout the UK, ICE collaborated with its regional and national offices to engage with engineers, professionals and stakeholder groups in their area. 

ICE Members were asked to submit their comments on a draft policy statement to the Aviation LEP, where their comments and statements would be considered, analysed and incorporated into the aviation statement where appropriate.  Regional briefing meetings and Committee meetings were held in many ICE area constituencies. 

This engagement exercise provided the opportunity to consult with members at a local level, and discover the importance of aviation infrastructure to economic growth, as well as the requirements and aspirations within that given locality. 

How did ICE evaluate the views of its membership?

As with the continued and sometimes polarised debate on the UK’s aviation capacity and needs, the responses received were varied.  This was a strong indication of how difficult it would be to reach an agreeable and decisive conclusion to this debate? 

It was the task of the Aviation LEP to fully consider the key points and agree the recommendations included in the Aviation vision statement, as well as ICE's response to the NAPF consultation.

As such a number of changes were made to the original draft, which was a positive indication of the value of engaging with the wider ICE membership.

What happens next?

ICE has published its aviation statement and submitted its response to the NAPF consultation.  In doing so, we have offered our support to the Davies Commission in evaluating the timescales for either:

  • Expanding existing facilities, or
  • Delivering new hub airport facilities and associated surface access infrastructure. 

ICE stands prepared to contribute expertise gained on recent large scale projects – not least the Olympics – and ensure the Davies Commission receives robust advice on the challenges and deliverability of all the solutions on the table.

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