Airports

West Sussex County Times Article

Michael Heseltine published the findings of his growth review this week.  I'm pleased that he sets out the same case as I made in the County Times recently for decentralisation of power from Whitehall.

He also criticises delaying a decision on South East airport capacity.  Although the Coalition Agreement rules out expansion at Heathrow before 2015, Lord Heseltine argues that a plan could be put in place now so that building can begin right after the election.

Heathrow is running at 98 per cent capacity, with six out of every ten planes arriving at the airport kept in holding patterns above London - as many of us have experienced.

There are environmental issues about increased flying.  Increased fuel efficiency of planes and greater use of high speed rail to reduce the need for short haul flights will provide part of the answer.   I recently had a relaxing journey by train from London to Cologne in about four hours, with an easy change at Brussels.

But even with more use of rail, new airport capacity is needed.  So the Government has commissioned an independent review by Sir Howard Davies.  This will look at all the options: expanding Heathrow, the so-called ‘Boris Island' in the Thames estuary, and the expansion of Gatwick and/or Stansted.

The owners of Gatwick recently published their plans for the future.  They believe a second runway should be looked at, though they are prohibited from building one for seven years.  They also believe that they could take 6 million more passengers using the existing runway.

Of course, these options are highly controversial locally - as would be a second runway at Stansted.  And expanding the second and third London airports won't address the key problem, which is with the hub airport.

Many are drawn to an estuary airport.  But this, too, would have significant drawbacks, not least that it could take decades to build and cost £20 billion.  Many important international businesses located around Heathrow would be badly affected.

So expanding Heathrow may still be the best option.  Understandably there's strong opposition from local residents.  But any country that wants to compete globally needs to ensure that it has modern infrastructure.

China plans to build 15 new airports by 2015.  Germany and France already each have twice as many flights to China as we do.  We need to bite the bullet on airport capacity - or face lower living standards in future.


Document type

Articles

Published

1 November 2012

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