Probe into airport expansion

A plane takes off from Heathrow Airport.
A plane takes off from Heathrow Airport. Photo: PA

It's the burning political issue that the coalition government are happy to bury - for the time being at least - the location for airport expansion in the south east and the possibility of a third runway at Heathrow.

And today the man charged with interring this political hot potato, Sir Howard Davies, outlined his role.

The Davies Commission has been tasked with examining how the UK's status as a global aviation hub can be maintained.

This morning at a briefing for the press Sir Howard said "all options were on the table".

So from the third runway at Heathrow to an airport in the Thames Estuary, from expansion at Stansted to Boris Island, the commission maintains it will look at them all.

Even the more radical.

It's considering a dual hub airport dubbed Heathwick - with a high speed monorail linking Heathrow and Gatwick, the possibility that the high speed rail link will allow for expansion of Birmingham Airport and even a plan to fill in surrounding reservoirs, put a stretch of the M25 through a tunnel and move the whole of Heathrow westwards.

The terms of reference though remain remarkably similar to the last time the government looked at airport expansion, leading many to conclude that the Davies Commission is a political device which allows the government to avoid making a decision for the course of this election term.

There are those that believe having painted themselves into a corner by opposing the third runway at Heathrow - the government has decided, through the commission, to buy itself time.

The issue will be disinterred in summer 2015 when the Davies Commission publishes its findings.

By then with an election win safely in the bag, whoever is in power may just feel brave enough to make a decision.