Preferred options for expanding UK aviation capacity have been identified at Heathrow and Gatwick.

They have made the shortlist in the Airports Commission interim report published today which confirmed the need for one more new runway for the South East to be operational by 2030.

Analysis by the commission also indicates that there “is likely” to be a demand case for a second additional runway to be operational by 2050.

The commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, will take forward for further detailed study options for new runways at both airports.

They include a second runway at Gatwick, a third runway at Heathrow or extending one of Heathrow’s existing runways.

Neither expansion at Stansted or a new hub in the Thames estuary favoured by London mayor Boris Johnson have made the shortist.

The interim report said: “The commission has not shortlisted any of the Thames Estuary options because there are too many uncertainties and challenges surrounding them at this stage.

“It will undertake further study of the Isle of Grain option in the first half of 2014 and will reach a view later next year on whether that option offers a credible proposal for consideration alongside the other short-listed options.

“The commission has not shortlisted proposals for expansion at Stansted or Birmingham, however, there is likely to be a case for considering them as potential options for any second new runway by 2050.

“In its final report the commission will set out its recommendations on the process for decision making on additional capacity beyond 2030.”

Sir Howard said: “Decisions on airport capacity are important national strategic choices and must be based upon the best evidence available. The commission has undertaken a fresh, comprehensive and transparent study of the issues. This report is the product of extensive consultation, independent analysis and careful consideration by the commissioners.

“The UK enjoys excellent connectivity today. The capacity challenge is not yet critical but it will become so if no action is taken soon and our analysis clearly supports the provision of one net additional runway by 2030. In the meantime we encourage the government to act on our recommendations to make the best of our existing capacity.

“The commission will now focus on the challenge of appraising the three options, further assessing the case for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and delivering a robust final recommendation to government in summer 2015.”

The report notes the “historic failure” to deliver new airport capacity in the UK.

It confirms that a fresh look at the UK’s aviation needs was “timely and necessary,” setting out how much the global economy, the aviation industry and the domestic and international policy environment has evolved since the government last considered these issues in the 2003 Air transport white paper.

The next phase of its work will see the commission undertaking a detailed appraisal of the three options identified before a public consultation in autumn next year.

Building a new runway at Heathrow is likely to face strong political and environmental opposition. Johnson has said that putting a new runway at Heathrow would be a “catastrophe”.

The commission’s report also recommends immediate action to improve the use of existing runway capacity.

This includes an ‘optimisation strategy’ to improve the operational efficiency of UK airports and airspace, including:
•       airport collaborative decision making
•       airspace changes supporting performance based navigation
•       enhanced en-route traffic management to drive tighter adherence to schedules
•       time based separation
•       a package of surface transport improvements to make airports with spare capacity more attractive to airlines and passengers, including
•       the enhancement of Gatwick airport station
•       further work to develop a strategy for enhancing Gatwick’s road and rail access
•       work on developing proposals to improve the rail link between London and Stansted
•       work to provide rail access into Heathrow from the south
•       the provision of smart ticketing facilities at airport stations
•       trials at Heathrow of measures to smooth the early morning arrival schedule to minimise stacking and delays and to provide more predictable respite for local people
•       the establishment of an Independent Noise Authority to provide expert and impartial advice about the noise impacts of aviation and to facilitate the delivery of future improvements to airspace operations