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UK begins work on over-arching aviation strategy

The government has begun a wide-ranging consultation exercise which it will use to inform a future aviation strategy for the UK.

The first consultation on the new strategy, which should be finalised by the end of next year, comes four years after the government published its 'Aviation Policy Framework'. This "separated the issue of south east airport capacity from the rest of aviation policy", setting the context for the Davies Commission on airport capacity, according to the document.

"It is the right time to create a new aviation strategy," the government said. "This will set out the long-term direction for aviation policy making for 2050 and beyond. In doing so, it will build on our aviation success."

The government is seeking views from passengers, business customers, airports and airlines, industry organisations, environmental groups and communities, on a range of technological, security, environmental and customer service issues. It is also keen to have input on how the government can best support future growth. The consultation runs until 13 October 2017.

"Aviation is central to our future prosperity as we leave the European Union," said transport secretary Chris Grayling. "As a global, trading nation, we want to build on the great industry we have today and create opportunities for people up and down the country."

"Our new aviation strategy will look beyond the new runway at Heathrow and sets out a comprehensive long-term plan for UK aviation. It will support jobs and economic growth across the whole of the UK," he said.

Grayling announced the strategy at Manchester Airport, at the launch of a £1 billion programme to double the size of the airport's Terminal 2. The project will create 1,500 jobs, allow for more international destinations and allow passenger numbers at the airport to grow from 27 million to 45 million a year.

One of the topics that the government intends to consider as it develops the new strategy is how to make the best use of existing capacity ahead of the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, which is its preferred option for expanding capacity in the south east of England. The government "is minded to be supportive of all airports who wish to make best use of their existing capacity", provided that environmental issues such as noise and air quality are taken into account, according to the consultation document.

The initial consultation sets out six objectives for the review exercise, which will take place over three consultation phases over the next 18 months. These are customer service; safety and security; global connectivity; competitive markets; supporting growth while tackling environmental impacts; and innovation, technology and skills.

Ideas put forward under the customer service heading include airport bag check-in points in town centres and 'luggage portering' services to collect bags from passengers before they reach the airport; better accessibility to reflect the UK's ageing population and support passengers with restricted mobility; new forms of compensation for noise or noise reduction targets; and consumer protection arrangements for when things go wrong.

The government also wants to look at what technology could be introduced at UK airports to counter the threat from terrorism and raise security standards; how to boost competition and encourage better connectivity between the UK nations and regions; and how to achieve the right balance between improving air capacity and tackling carbon emissions, noise and air quality.

Negotiating new aviation arrangements is a "top priority" for the government as part of the Brexit negotiations, according to the consultation. The UK aviation arrangements with 44 countries, including EU member states, the US and Canada, are currently controlled via EU-negotiated agreements.

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