Pilots have warned that Heathrow expansion could become “bogged down in political wrangling and red tape” after the next stage in the process was delayed.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association voiced disappointment at the news the next stage in delivering a new runway in the southeast has once again been put back.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling released a statement yesterday saying the recent election meant the government now needed to re-start a select committee inquiry into the draft Airports National Policy Statement.

That in turn means the final statement will not be presented in parliament until the first half of 2018 for a vote in the House of Commons.

Balpa general secretary, Brian Strutton said: “Pilots and the travelling public are frustrated that this vital step towards expansion has once again been delayed.

“Aviation brings £52 billion a year to the UK economy and we can’t afford these incessant delays to see the extra capacity become a reality.

“Pilots are concerned we could lose business to our European competitors if we don’t make the runway at Heathrow a matter of priority.

“We continue to hope for swift and decisive action so that expansion does not become bogged down in political wrangling and red tape.”

Consultation over providing new airport capacity in the south-east closed on May 25 after the government backed a third runway at Heathrow as its preferred option.

Work to analyse more than 70,000 responses is “progressing well,” Grayling said.

The Department for Transport announced in October that steps towards a final decision would be made in late 2017 or early 2018.

“This government is fully committed to realising the benefits that a new north-west runway at Heathrow would bring, in terms of economic growth, boosting jobs and skills, strengthening domestic links and – critically – increasing and developing our international connectivity as we prepare to leave the European Union,” Grayling said.

“I will provide a further update to the House [of Commons] after the summer recess on our next steps following analysis of the consultation responses.”