A further delay in providing a third runway at London Heathrow Airport has been discovered, because of a quirk of UK parliamentary procedure.

The government’s draft Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), which includes plans for the third runway, was subject to scrutiny by the UK parliament’s Transport Select Committee in the spring of 2017. The committee’s report has to be submitted to the Secretary of State for Transport and parliament as part of the legislative process. That was expected to happen later this year.

However, the unexpected calling of a general election earlier this year meant the dissolution of parliament and the select committee, which was forced to close its inquiry into the ANPS.

Addressing the Aviation Club Lunch in London July 12, the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling told members that the select committee would have to be re-constituted and its inquiry into the ANPS restarted. This meant that it would be some time in “the first half of 2018” before the final version of the ANPS would be laid before parliament.

It is understood, however, that the evidence taken before the dissolution of the last parliament can be admitted as evidence again without it having to be formally resubmitted in hearings before the committee.

Grayling’s announcement is the latest in a seemingly unending list of delays to the construction of desperately needed new capacity at Heathrow, whose two existing runways operate at 99% of their capacity. This makes it almost impossible for new destinations or frequencies to be added by airlines operating there, without reducing services to existing destinations.

Before work on the runway can get underway, the project is likely to face several legal challenges from environmental campaigners. Early next decade is reckoned to be the earliest time for work on the ground to actually begin.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) expressed its frustration at the news of the latest hold-up.

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

“Aviation brings £52 billion ($68 billion) a year to the UK economy and we can’t afford these incessant delays to see the extra capacity become a reality.”

Alan Dron alandron@adepteditorial.com