The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is warning the Government that further delay in a decision on a third runway at Heathrow will damage the UK’s international reputation and discourage investment from overseas.

In July the long-awaited Davies Commission report concluded that Heathrow was the best option for airport expansion in the south east because of the economic benefit to the whole country. FTA urged the Government to make a quick decision, but today a six-month delay was announced while more consultation takes place.

Chris Welsh, FTA’s Director of Global and European Policy, said: “Yet another delay in a decision on future investment in airport capacity is damaging the UK’s international competitiveness. Approximately 40% of Britain’s imports and exports are dependent on air freight. The UK’s ability to access existing and new markets is in danger of being seriously impaired by a failure to invest in Britain’s core infrastructure capacity.

“Worse still, as the Government dithers, is the damage done to our international reputation and the signal it sends overseas investors who are likely to question the UK’s capability to invest in vital infrastructure required to maintain and enhance the UK’s connectivity. Organisations such as OECD and the World Bank have highlighted that Government interventions on infrastructure investment are essential in attaining good connectivity and efficient logistics and are vital components in a nation’s ability to compete in the global economy”.

FTA commissioned its own report in 2014 focusing on the importance of air freight to the UK economy and airport capacity in the south east. The report by York Aviation confirmed Heathrow as a vital hub for air cargo, offering 191 destinations and moving 1.5 million tonnes of freight annually. The airport is currently operating at 98% capacity and needs to expand to meet demand.

Last month Heathrow announced plans to invest £180 million in its cargo facilities, enabling it to halve processing times and double the volume of air freight cargo it handles. FTA says a third runway is crucial to enable the airport to remain competitive.