Monday, September 29, 2008

Conference Diary: Monday 3

Later on last night I was invited to dinner by BAA along with eight or nine others. As regular readers know, I have had some critical things to say about BAA and its airports in the past. I sat next to Tom Kelly, who is now their Director of Communications, having previously spent sic years working in Number Ten as Tony Blair's Official Spokesman. We had some interesting discussions about so-called BORIS ISLAND, the airport which might (or might not!) be built in the Thames Estuary.

I made the point that at the very least it merits a full feasibility study - and I believe Boris will announce this later this week. The general view within the airports sector is that it would be impractical and too expensive and that if politicians think protests at Heathrow are loud, they are nothing compared to what would happen here. They may be right.

However, if the Conservatives are to cancel a third runway at Heathrow - as the Guardian alleges this morning - then either further capapcity needs to be found elsewhere to we accept that the business will go to our European competitor airports. Personally, I think this would be madness, but it's a debate which needs to be had. It's a bit like the Trident issue. The government made a decision before there was a full public debate on whether the replacement of Trident really fitted into our future defence needs. We're getting this arse about face. Surely the debate should come before the decision.

There are many advantages to building a new airport and there are clearly some disadvantages too. But if Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted cannot meet capacity demands, then we need to have an informed discussion anout the alternatives.

Aviation is an incredibly important part of our economy, and whatever the envionmental movement might say, it would be a tragedy if we saw it enter a period of gradual decline. But that's where we're heading now.


Anonymous said...

We would not see "gradual decline".
We would simply see an end to (unsustainable) growth in London's airport traffic.

Anonymous said...

We need more capacity, but I can't understand why everyone is wedded to Heathrow, other than certain people with vested interests. Yes a feasibility study does have to be done on a new hub airport such as Boris Island. Heathrow is a lousy place for an airport - too close to a major population centre, too cramped to be easily expandable. Both Gatwick and Stansted are more pleasant to use. Heathrow also has poor public transport connections from anywhere other than London, which is no good for the major "national" airport, and the road connections are via the over capacity M3 and M25. Yes of course we need to start thinking out of the box. And think how much housing could be built on Heathrow if and when it can be closed.

Anonymous said...

And nuke power stations - I can't remember being consulted on that one but being a humble citizen whose vote is just a paper exercise, then I guess it doesn't matter if it's a dispicably costly alternative of lethal proportions (ok - bit tabloid) but surely there are less dodgy possibilities (even though they can't capture carbon from coal stations). It just seems like it's a done deal without debate.

Ilja Nieuwland said...

Another problem is that currently it's very unclear which way the airline industry as a whole is going. It oil prices remain as volatile as they are now (with a gradual trend of going upwards due to shortages) the need for increased capacity might disappear altogether.

Politicians have to decide whether they give in to the airports' mantra of growth, while also keeping the population's interests at heart. Airports are a nuisance that manifest themselves over an incredibly wide area; I live in a small country (the Netherlands) with one big airport - but there's hardly a corner of the country which doesn't in some way feel the effects of Schiphol's presence, and that certainly goes for the 7+ million conurbation of the Randstad (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague etc.). Building more airports means multiplying these problems.

simon said...

The assumptions that saw we need more capacity ar ebased on the experience of the last few years - an era of growth and high consumer spending which allowed low-cost airlines to flourish.

We are now entering very different times and low-cost airlines are going to the wall. Who's to say this additional capacity will be needed at all?

Anonymous said...

A feasibility study on Boris Island, what a waste of time and effort. There has to be a third runway at Heathrow and a second at Gatwick. To pretend otherwise is nonsense, or pandering to idiots.

If the Tories wan't to lose every seat in Kent, (local and national) build, 'Boris Johnson International Airport' dare u, in fact I double dare u.

Anonymous said...

"" We had some interesting discussions about so-called BORIS ISLAND, the airport which might (or might not!) be built in the Thames Estuary. ""

Nonsense Nonsense Nonsense.

This is a very clever Tory spin idea. Sounds a good idea, gives the impression of vision and ideas, but in reality a total none starter that will NEVER be implemented. Will waste 100's of thousands on a feasibility study that will state the unfeasibly of the plan. Then of course you can blame the planners and the environmental crews for scuppering a plan you actually had no intention of running with.

Don’t believe me,

Tories won Birmingham council in 2004. On the manifesto a plan to create a rail underground system in Birmingham. Popular idea, helped the Tories win. Feasibility study 6 months later, wasted £100K, and the plan was dumped. The Tory council were bricking themselves that the study would recommend the idea.

Dog Whistle Politics. Island is a fantasy

James Dowden said...

Iain, I notice that you left out what the Tories are allegedly going to spend the money on instead of that ghastly third runway project: a High Speed Rail line to Birmingham and points north. This would achieve an extra runway a direct 40-minute train ride from London without having to upset the beard-and-sandals brigade building a new one: it's called Birmingham International Airport.

In fact, this is a very clever idea, as it will allow consolidation of routes currently duplicated between Heathrow and an airport in northern England, that is, a genuine, multi-modal hub.

Anonymous said...

Last time I looked Birmingham was a LibDem/Tory coalition.

I flew from Heathrow to Glasgow a few weeks ago - at 5am Terminal 3 was a desert.

Likewise I went from Luton to Edinburgh a few weeks later. At 5am it was like Piccadilly Circus in the rush hour.

I cannot see that Heathrow is being utilised well at the moment.

If this credit crunch is to be believed its surely going to have an effect on travel.

Anonymous said...

Just build two more runways at Heathrow and stop messing about with time wasting debates. The local neighbourhood needs pulling down anyway.

Of course what they really should have done is build an island out in the Thames estuary to stage the olympic games on, that would then become an airport when the games were over. A real and lasting Olympic legacy.

Anonymous said...

You forget to mention that Tom Kelly also used to work for the BBC.

Anonymous said...

Going to build the rail link on the Nationalised rail network - that you opposed.

Tories create a new £12 Bn rail net link ..... I'm still wetting myself. Will never happen. Dog whistle politics.

3rd runway will inconvenience 50,000 people, probably. 120 mile rail link inconvenience 5 million plus people on it route, as will take 20 years to complete. In business and economics you are always quoting the CBI as evidence to back your plans. Well it seems that now you have stopped listening to CBI.

Ps haven't you noticed how the number of rail accidents has plummeted since Darling nationaled the rail lines.

Man in a Shed said...

Part of the problem in not supporting Heathrow is that its much more than an airport to service central London.

The South lost its Waterloo Eurostar connection and now it appears no one cares about Heathrow.

Well there is a vast, and generally unknown to the public and it appears politicians - industry west of London that relies on Heathrow. The Engineering Service Concentrators and consultancies. These people add vast sums of money onto UK plc's bottom line most through exports of services. Unfortunately they could just as easily move near Schiphol (always my personal favourite airport) or maybe CDG Paris.

I'm afraid this decision has been arrived at by a party that just doesn't have links to these industries, and lives in ignorance of them.

They don't want Boris Island in the East or a new rail service from St Pancras for MPs to get back to their constituencies on. They want their clients to have a good experience travelling into and out of the UK with their vast sums of cash they want to spend on English consultancy and service contracts.

An example of how such things matter is clearly seen by the work the UK has won (which is massive) of the US over the last few years since US Customs started treating people with millions of dollars to spend like terrorists at the airport.

This has the signs of being poorly thought through. ( And it gives me no pleasure to say that. )

Anonymous said...

Theresa Villers has also confirmed in today's Standard that the 3rd runway should be scrapped.

Being the cynic I am, I wonder whether this announcement stands until just after the next GE when the Tory Party hopes to win a number of seats in London?

Anonymous said...

BTW --

Ever wondered just why BAA wanted to soften you up with a bit of Chablis?

Just give me a chance to sit next to an ex Blair spin doctor (aka as 'lying bastards') now prostituting himself as an apologist for that scummy bunch of airport operators and believe you me I would know what to do with the wine cork.

Anonymous said...

Too little too late! After years of discussion about 5th terminals, 2nd and 3rd runways fog Stansted/Gatwick and Heathrow respectively, and nothing really built yet, nor are there any concrete steps towards building these runways.

Amsterdam and Frankfurt have massive hub airports which are far better in quality. Perhaps we should look to providing feeder flights to these airports instead. Heathrow has outgrown its available space, gatwick/Stansted are too far from London to be viable.

Victor, NW Kent said...

I would prefer it if a few thousand flights went to Amsterdam or Frankfurt rather than the UK getting involved in yet another air transport debacle. Getting to Heathrow is a nightmare at the best of times without adding 50% more traffic.

The present state of the world economy indicates a reduction in air flights, not an increase.

neil craig said...

"Surely the debate should come before the decision."

And when did any government last initiate a public debate on anything before they had decided what answer they were aiming at?

You are right on this Iain. Air travel is growing worldwide at about 10% annually & is clearly going to continue at something approxiamating this rate. Oil prices are probably falling & engine efficiency (& quietness) is certainly improving. If flying to London becomes much more difficult than flying to somewhere else its future as a business centre is doomed. Because of the net it is possible to run financial institutions from virtually anywhere. The only advantage existing centres have is that where face to face meetings are required working in a big city with adequate international communications makes that easier.

Old BE said...

Stansted is in the middle of nowhere. Build a fast rail link and it could be very feasible.

What about somewhere along the line of the new high speed rail link?

This shouldn't be an either/or debate.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could believe a plan to build high speed rail links to the North.. and ban those short flights to release capacity at Heathrow.
And did I see that the passenger growth figures from BAA are mainly in transit passengers expected to shop in another giant shopping mall. Thats where BAA profits will come from.

Anonymous said...

Blue Eyes said...

"Stansted is in the middle of nowhere. Build a fast rail link and it could be very feasible"

What rubbish! Intolerably noisy flights over the 80 THOUSAND people of Harlow in one hour alone:

10.00 PM
10.03 PM
10.05 PM
10.09 PM
10.12 PM
10.18 PM
10.21 PM
10.25 PM
10.33 PM
10.38 PM
10.45 PM
10.48 PM
10.55 PM

And that says nothing about the countless thousands of people, from Stansted to Thaxted and beyond, whose lives are made hell and whose health is damaged by planes with wheels that practically land on their bl**dy roof tops.

And for what?


The Sloper said...

Forgive me for being cynical, but given I've heard Kent County Council (KCC) leader Paul Carter held a number of talks with Boris prior to the Mayoral election, is there not a chance some sort of PR stunt is underway?

I ask that because KCC would love to develop Kent International, the former RAF Manston in Thanet, and coming up with the wacky island idea could be a good initial bluff before that actually happens.

London to Manston is practically 100 per cent dual carriageway (M2 then A299) and some extra worth on the North Kent main railway line could make this feasible.

Anonymous said...

Anon said:

"passenger growth figures from BAA are mainly in transit passengers expected to shop in another giant shopping mall. Thats where BAA profits will come from."

Excellent point, anon, all it needs is for that line of reasoning to be followed through to its logical conclusion, the real source of aviation'S profits:


The vastly rich aviation industry and its multi-millionaire subsidy monkey entrepreneurs is UK's biggest welfare scrounger.

Vastly rich aviation gets:

Billions of TAX FREE fuel
Billions of VAT FREE sales
Even buys VAT FREE aircraft

Aviation's tax and VAT exemptions, subsidised by billions from the taxpayer, are the sole reason that the aviation price cutters make a profit - thanks to a commission on taxpayer funded duty free sales.

Bill Quango MP said...

Why do the Times and Sunday Times leap about with joy at the Boris Island plan?

Its front page news at least twice a month, even when there is no news, just a rehash of the story.

Do the Times own a bit of land in Kent?

Anonymous said...

Man in a shed said:

"Engineering Service Concentrators and consultancies. These people add vast sums of money onto UK plc's bottom line most through exports of services."

Facts and figures, please.
How does the income from these exports compare with the c £42 Billion annual cost of aviation's taxpayer subsidies and damage to our environment and health?

Anonymous said...

It makes no sense to base so much of our economy on shifting people from one place to another via Heathrow, which is in the wrong place for a hub airport; if it has any problems, such as a security alert or adverse weather, rerouting flights becomes a nightmare for passengers and staff alike. A modern, fully-integrated road and rail network would do far more for business than another runway. I have never met anyone who flies regularly who would not prefer to begin and end intercontinental journeys at Frankfurt or Schiphol. If we must have a hub airport then the only sane place to have it is east of London.

Anonymous said...

The island nation of Japan has built a susccessful offshore airline, so can the UK.

Boris Island, brilliant idea, do it, Boris and millions will love you for it!

Anonymous said...

Inspector, Graham Eyre QC (later Sir Graham Eyre):

" airport at Stansted, with a capacity in excess of 25mppa and requiring the construction and operation of a second runway and all the structural and operational paraphernalia of a modern international airport as we know the animal in 1984, would constitute nothing less than a catastrophe in environmental terms."

[Chapter 25.12.12]

Anonymous said...

UK Aviation's huge DEFICIT

Air tourism's balance of payment's deficit:

£18 billion in 2005!

x 2 by 2020

Cost of CO2 emissions (Stern Report) 2005 levels

£3.2 to £6.3 billion

x 2 by 2020

Aviation's fuel tax subsidy from taxpayers 2005

£5.7 billion per year.

++ x 2 by 2020

Aviation's VAT subsidy from taxpayers Pa:

£4 billion

x 2 by 2020

Plus £billions in environmental and health costs.

And all solely to subsidise the super rich, because only the top 4% fly frequently enough to recoup the cost of their tax and VAT subsidy to aviation from their flight savings.

Old BE said...

Good point about the "subsidies" Flo, I hadn't thought of that at the moment I pressed Go. I stick with my population density bit though, there are more than 80,000 people in Hounslow alone who are affected by Heathrow. This is a crowded island...

Anonymous said...

there is no such thing as a free lunch (or in this case ,dinner).

Anonymous said...

Island Runway is a none starter, mark my words. Heathrow already has the infrastucture largely in place. To put a one runway airport in Kent is point less, and costly duplication - I guarantee you will never happen.

Bonkers Boris will be proposing compulsory Latin is school next..oh sorry has already done that hasn’t he.

Anonymous said...

Boris thinks that Heathrow is London's airport, in reality it is the UK's airport. From Penzance to Inverness if you want a long haul flight then usually the only option is Heathrow. Sticking the bloody thing out into the Thames estuary is only going to make it harder to get to and back from.

Just bite the bullet, build two more runways at the present Heathrow location and construct high speed mag levs going North South East and West.

Anonymous said...

Anon said:

"Island runway is a non starter, mark my words"

Rubbish, Mr/Ms BAA.

It's not only the only solution to the unacceptable levels of noise, air pollution and road congestion caused by Heathrow and Stansted Airports, it's already been done at Centrair, Japan.

Anonymous said...

And to the anon who claims that proposals for Boris Island would result in worse protests than at Heathrow and Stansted, think again:

"Despite much protest over the project's necessity by local environmentalists and fishermen, construction started in August 2000. The airport was opened on schedule in March 2005; this was timed to handle the passenger traffic for the 2005 World Exposition, which was held in the nearby city of Aichi (the Expo provided the first test for the airport and allowed it to prove its usefulness to its critics)." (report on Centrair, Japan, link posted on previous post)

Anonymous said...

Total dog whistle politics, Island will never be built, same as bendy buses will not go, and Routemaster buses will not be re-introduced to London.

You have all been duped by dog whistle Bozzer.

Is already back tracking on bendy buses and routemasters.

Simon Lamb said...

The Government's demand forecasts assume oil would be close to $30 - it is at least 3 times that level and there seems little prospect of a long term decline any time soon.
The airline business is a financial disaster - Willie Walsh forecast another 30 airlines could go bankrupt within a year. Higher costs will have to lead to higher fares which should suppress demand.
Heathrow can easily handle in excess of 1000 flights as it is currently structured. It needs to be better managed. For the sake of locals, the current runway alternation system should continue (so that people have a break from arriving aircraft for half the day) and really early routine arrivals (before 5am) should be banned.

DocRichard said...

Air industry in decline?

Any competent pilot will confirm that what goes up, must come down.

Un-sustainable means not able to be sustained for an indefinite period without damaging the environment, or without depleting a resource.

David Anthony said...

Let's play Jeopardy:

Answer:Propose a Hi-Speed rail link to the North... the North that ends in Leeds.

Question:What's the best way to further run down the economy of the North-East, bring back the image of a party for the South and destroy any hope of winning any swing seats in the North-East?

What is being propsed is effectively moving the North East region even further away from and disconnected from London than it is now. No company at all will want to set up business there now.

And this phased roll-out doesn't hold water either... the chance of a hi-speed rail link to the North East and Scotland by 2050... well that's a real vote winner!

Anonymous said...

Why are there objections to any more runways at Heathrow? The area is a shit tip and can only benefit from such clearways.

The only people to have moved there in the last fifty years must either work at the airport or couldn't give a sh1t where they live.

tory boys never grow up said...

Boris Island doesn't need a feasibility study - it is and anyway a study was done decades ago. What is needed would be a cost - benefit analysis - the last one was done back in the 70s and it wasn't cost effective then when all the external costs were considered. I have my doubts whether the overall conclusion will have changed given that the external costs are probably even higher.

Many economic texts were written on the cost benefit analysis for the 3rd London Airport - and they may warrant some re-reading before paying vast amounts to consultants.
Wasn't Dave saying something about paying for the council tax freeze by reducing the costs of consultants - oh well so much for joined up thinking!

Anonymous said...

Gatwick needs two more runways, instead of the two proposed at Heathrow and Stansted. And a motorway link to central London. Then it could replace Heathrow.

There's plenty of space around it, and the flightpaths would be over the countryside.

I agree, too, that high-speed rail is an idea whose time has come. It would take 20 years to build, and at £20 billion could be funded by cancelling ID cards and the London Olympics. Which will we get more pleasure out of as a country, a high speed rail link that will last a century, or three weeks of running and jumping?

Anonymous said...

London should be left as a museum
it doesnt work

oh sorry thats the North

my mistake

Anonymous said...

Great news

we will get the third run way and Boris Island

just watch

Its called the power of big business and the City

its our world

get used to it

capitalism we love it

Anonymous said...

tbngu --
is Boris Island exactly the same as the Maplin Sands idea from the time of Heath? Surely they are off Southend; is that what is now proposed?

Roger Thornhill said...

"impractical and too expensive"?

In a word - 'lerks! (as in Boll)

If they think it is too expensive, just hire the company who build Chep Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong on an artificial island. A beauty...a British Architect to boot.

Phil C covers all the rest.

Anonymous said...

I don't live near HR, but one feels for the quality of life of thousands of residents around it. Its strangling itself with congestion, air slots etc. A Boris Island study is needed.

Actually Boris Island at Cliffe is the better option, reducing capacity at Heathrow to somthing tolerable for West Londoners. One day a plane will come down on a London suburb, Madrid style, an that will be it.

Boris Island will mean less stacking over London, less fuel costs, less pollution less hassle to/from Europe/East.