The Chamber of Commerce is hopeful that reports going to the States in the next few months will allow "a debate about the facts - rather than having an emotive debate" on the case for extending the airport runway.
Deputy Neil Inder, the President of the Committee for Economic Development, has said that his Committee intends to submit a policy letter on the runway for debate by the States around May or June 2022.
In 2020, a report produced for the previous States by independent consultants Frontier Economics found that “the economic benefits of extending the runway are likely to outweigh the costs over a 40-year period".
The President of the Committee for Economic Development at that time, Deputy Charles Parkinson, said the extensive report showed there would be a net economic benefit of extending the runway.
Since then, the covid-19 pandemic has significantly affected air travel. This led to the current Committee for Economic Development - which was elected in October 2020 - commissioning an updated version of the report from Frontier Economics. This work is ongoing. The Committee is also investigating the technical feasibility of extending the runway in case it wishes to propose an extension to the States next year.
Pictured: At a public hearing of the Scrutiny Management Committee, Deputy Neil Inder said: "We are an island - fact. We need to fly to it and sail to it. We need to extend the harbour and we need to look at extending the runway."
“The position of the business community is that we support a cost-benefit analysis,” said James Ede-Golightly, Chamber of Commerce Director and Industry Lead on Transport and Connectivity.
“It’s always been about getting the facts and then having a debate about the facts, rather than having an emotive debate.”
Once updated, the Frontier Economics report will be appended to a policy letter from the Committee and submitted to the States for debate. In the past 20 years, the States have debated whether to extend the runway on multiple occasions and each time members wishing to extend it have been in a minority.
Some political opponents of extension argue that it could cost up to £100million and generate more problems than benefits. Some supporters of extension say such figures are inflated and that a longer runway is essential to support the economic and social life of the island in the decades ahead.
The latter.— Deputy Heidi Soulsby MBE (@HeidiSoulsby) November 22, 2021
Pictured: Deputy Heidi Soulsby is sceptical about the States devoting further time to revisiting a runway extension.
Several senior politicians have already declared their policy position on a runway extension.
In the general election campaign last year, the President of the Policy & Resources Committee, Deputy Peter Ferbrache, said: "I absolutely and have consistently supported a runway extension. The island will be in a very difficult place if there is not a runway extension in early course."
The Vice-President of the Policy & Resources Committee, Deputy Heidi Soulsby, said this week that she saw no reason for a runway extension to be revisited again for the rest of the current States' term, which ends in June 2025.
Deputy Peter Roffey, the President of the States' Trading Supervisory Board, which is responsible for the States' trading operations, including the Airport and Aurigny, said this week that an extension could be self-defeating for the island and result in "worse connectivity".
Other States' members who have also previously declared unequivocal support for extending the runway include Deputies Sam Haskins, Marc Leadbeater, Chris Blin, Nicholas Moakes, John Dyke, Simon Fairclough and Simon Vermeulen.
Other deputies who have previously declared strong opposition to extending the runway include Andrea Dudley-Owen, Yvonne Burford, Al Brouard and David De Lisle.
Mr Ede-Golightly said it was important to assess a large infrastructure project such as extending the runway against the objective of long-term economic prosperity post-covid.
“The Frontier report is very much focused on the visitor economy, so we have to remember that if we buy into the idea of recovering visitor numbers this would be one of the ways to support the economic case,” said Mr Ede-Golightly
“The six-figure cost of getting this fact-based analysis is not a big budget item, but it arms us with better information to make better decisions about strategy.”
Pictured: The runway at Guernsey Airport is currently 1,463 metres long. The runway at Jersey Airport is 1,690 metres.
The Committee for Economic Development is also investigating the potential use of an Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS). This is a bed of engineered materials built at the end of a runway to limit the severity of the consequences of aircraft leaving the runway. It is considered possible that installing EMAS could allow the operational length of the runway to be materially increased without necessarily having to reach 1,700 metres.
“EMAS is a special surface that is designed to stop aircraft when they over-run. EMAS has the potential to require a significantly smaller extension to the boundary, potentially also at lower cost," said Mr Ede-Golightly.
“Without EMAS, an extension to the airport perimeter for a 1,700 metre runway is likely to be right up against Les Blicqs Road. Obviously that’s a big issue and I don’t think anyone is going to be comfortable with that.
“Getting the costings and the technical feasibility of that EMAS solution is something that everyone is paying close attention to.”
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