Thursday, January 15, 2009

Government Gets it Right on Heathrow

So, finally the Government will today give the green light to a third runway at Heathrow after many months of delay and dithering. It is clearly a controversial proposal but, as I've previously said here, it's the right decision.

Heathrow's two runways (the last was built in 1946!) are full and the airport is creaking. I've been a critic on many occasions of the airport's owner, BAA, for its standards of customer service, but processing 68 million passengers a year in facilities built for 45 million would clearly cause problems for any company. For good or ill, Heathrow is our gateway to the rest of the world. If this was any other country we might now be looking at building a world beating replacement to Heathrow, but no one apart from the Mayor of London seems to possess that degree of ambition or imagination.

The expansion of Heathrow is unlikely to lead to more flights until around 2020 due to our tortuous planning system, but no doubt more protests will take place in the coming months and years. I note with a wry smile that the latest celebrity to join the anti-Heathrow bandwagon, the actress Emma Thompson, took part in a photo call urging people to stop flying just hours before, ahem, flying off to L.A. for the Golden Globes.

Anyway, I'm sure the third runway will become a hot political issue all the way to the next election. But it really shouldn't be. It's easy to chase votes in a small number of marginal seats near to the airport, but in reality the good people of Brentford or Richmond Park will more likely choose their MP on the basis of their views on the overall performance of Gordon Brown, tax, the health service or the quality of education in their constituencies. Very few MPs get elected on single-issue NIMBY protests such as this. And in any case, more than 100,000 people around Heathrow rely on the airport for their jobs.

Regardless of your views on Heathrow specifically, I still wonder how Theresa Villiers has persuaded the party leader to support a policy which says no to all airport expansion, anywhere in the UK, under any circumstances. It's easy to criticise the aviation industry as being self-interested in pushing for more runways, but harder to explain away the support of the CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, London First, the Institute of Directors, as well as every major player in the City.

The party has made the wrong decision in siding with Greenpeace, and one that may I suspect may well come back to haunt them in government.


Sixxstring90 said...

Personally, I prefer Boris Johnson's scheme about building a new airport in the Thames Estuary, because Heathrow seems hopelessly out of date. I don't understand the Tory policy of no expansion, because progress is needed at some point. I am a man made climate change sceptic, so I am not opposed to airport expansion

Hannibal said...

Hearing Villiers on the Today Programme made me, a dyed-in-the-wool Tory loyalist, consider abstaining for the first time in my life. That said, your comments about the other reasons for chucking the current Government out hold true and I think the victims of Gordon Brown's recession will vote on that, not a runway.

Man in a Shed said...

Iain - I agree. There's lots of international business around Heathrow and a critical mass of people with skills in IT, Engineering, Finance and so on who live on the West of London and the counties for that reason.

If you kill ( which is what no expansion means ) or drop the airport into the middle of the Thames these businesses and all their skilled people will move to another country.

There is clearly a lack of anyone with one of these backgrounds in shouting distance of David Cameron.

This is bad for the country and bad for the party.

Andrew said...

Building a third runway at Heathrow is mad!

The only people who will win from this are the corporate interests of BAA and BA - both awful companies that put Britain to shame - particularly BA with its horrendous attitude to customers, running from the ignorant fat cats at the top down to the harridans who 'serve' their 'customers'.

The correct answer is a new world-class purpose built airport to the east of London (opposed by BA because they wouldn't have incumbent dominance), not yet more topsy-turvy expansion of the inefficient difficult to use hodge-podge that comprises Heathrow.

For info, I live a few miles to the north of Heathrow, so have the benefit of a local economy supported by the airport, none of the noise and all of the convenience of having it close by, but I still think the answer is to build a new airport from scratch that doesn't blight millions with so much noise and pollution.

You are wrong on this Iain, and I look forward to the idea being nixed by an incoming Conservative government.

Man in a Shed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Man in a Shed said...

PS I had the same cornflake choking experience as Hannibal this morning.

PS What about a poll on this ?

Raedwald said...

The additional capacity isn't needed to accommodate visitors to the UK but for interconnections. The insanity of routing flight paths over the centre of a world city to allow people to change planes in the UK rather than anywhere else doesn't make sense.

Capturing this market is important economically to BA and BAA but for little else.

Borisport would allow them to change flights in the UK but without all the inconvenience to the rest of us.

strapworld said...

Loved Millibands press release (to ensure he can stay in the cabinet)


Events dear boy, events said...

I am not an expect on aviation policy and like a lot of people will not rush to judgement. Just one thing, it is near impossible to move this airport.

But you are pain wrong on one thing. As a former resident of Richmond, this will be a huge issue that could well affect elections.

Anonymous said...

No they do not. Its a total short sighted failure. Heathrow is the wrong airport in the wrong place and the 3rd runway is at the wrong time.

Once again new labour cow down before big corporate self interests and lobbyists. A soft touch to a big spend PR scam.

Runway 3 cements a planning disaster. But then - since when did the bastard planners ever get anything right?

"Capturing this market is important economically to BA and BAA but for little else. " all too true.
The 'green' conditions are laughable and undermine their entire economic argument - if they were ever adhered to.

And just to make sure everybody does not miss the point - I too am a 'dyed in the wool Tory loyalist' (and anti green mafia to boot). Sane community loving forward looking Tories everywhere will say NO to this.

Anonymous said...

No problem with siding with Greenpeace (hopeless people) if the cause is right.

Sinn Fein/IRA supported the Irish NO vote to Lisbon after all!!

Hacked Off said...

Boris Island is the 21st century answer. Technically it is most certainly possible, look at Hong Kong. It would cut the madness of flight paths over London. To say all those jobs and skilled workers around Heathrow would leave the country rather than move to Essex, Kent, or SE or E London is facile and nonsensical.

Such a huge project would generate a lot of jobs and benefit our construction and civil engineering industries to a greater extent than a third runway at Heathrow.

It would save a lot of homes.

And you'd get the benefit of a huge development opportunity to the West of london with good transport links already in situ.

The Penguin

Anonymous said...

Ian Martin in The telegraph (shame me for quoting the Telegraph) starts his article thus

"You may believe that Britain needs a giant hub airport to compete with other world cities, but geographical constraints mean that Heathrow is the wrong place for it. Rivals have four, five and soon six runways; the creation of even a third at Heathrow will mean destruction disproportionate to any imagined gain. It can never be big enough where it is. "

Just wake up Iain - have you SEEN the state of the south of England lately? Do labour give a shit? No doubt they are already planning to say that being so close to an airport is an amenity and will raise council tax accordingly.

Read my lips - 'Brown is clueless' 'everything he does is dumb-assed', 'its all for self serving political advantage'

Roger Thornhill said...

I have long preferred the Thames Estuary plan and am glad Boris has adopted it.

Not only is it easier to defend, it means flights do not have to approach over one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world. The fumes can blow away from the city, too.

Anyone who has used Hong Kong will see how sensible such a plan is.

It is not airport expansion I am against and the siting will make it a longer journey and make public transport a must for me, so it is not selfish convenience that drives me to the Thames option.

The stone-agers are muddle headed and irrational. They just want to go and live hand-to-mouth, fine, but don't force me to.

One day the whole CO2 lie will come out and these people will look so silly they will HAVE to retreat from society and live in a mud hut along the edge of the savannah.

force12 said...

The government have got it wrong. You can't put lipstick on a pig.

Dual Citizen said...

"For good or ill, Heathrow is our gateway to the rest of the world. If this was any other country we might now be looking at building a world beating replacement to Heathrow, but no one apart from the Mayor of London seems to possess that degree of ambition or imagination."

So why are you siding with piss poor Gordon Brown, piss poor BAA and piss poor BA instead of siding with the ambition of the Mayor of London?

I mostly use Frankfurt for flight transfer for my European trips(Lufthansa direct flight from Portland). But when I'm going to Munich, I get off at Frankfurt and take the high speed rail. It gets me there just as quick and is way more pleasant.

Now there's forethought for you!

Bird said...

I'm dead against expanding Heathrow, for all the reasons set out by the antis.
Iain Martin rehearses some of these in the Telegraph this morning.
He also points out that most Labour MPs opposed will cave in to Brown after being given face-saving, vague assurances on the green issues involvolved

Boo said...

Oddly Anatole Kaletsky predicted today that the decision would be kicked into the long grass, this must be an all time record

Sue said...

I´m sure all those people who will lose their homes don´t agree with you.

We preach at other countries not to chop down the rain forests so we all have enough oxygen to breathe and we concrete everything over!

On the one hand global warming is continually shoved down our throats. We are terrorised into recycling and taxed to the hilt for keep things green and in the next breath, they´re building another runway!


People just don´t matter anymore do they?

Anonymous said...

The government have made the wrong decision and it'll never happen.

Heathrow is a disaster in waiting.

I can;t believe I'm saying this - but - Boris knows best.

Boris for PM? Hang on - I'm not quite ready for that.

Dual Citizen said...

I wonder what the Labour grassroots have to say about this on

Oh dear, it must be Dolly's day off!

Enlightened Despot said...

No-one will ever build an estuarial airport. Nothing remotely close to that size of project has ever been financed in the private sector. BAA can only build the third Heathrow runway because it can borrow against existing assets, whereas a new site has nothing to borrow against. Furthermore, the airlines have shown no interest in moving there, so which financier would consider investing in pie in the sea?

Better to build another Heathrow runway than end up with a gridlocked, inefficient airport. If it is not expanded BAA is even more likely to make monopoly profits by seeking increases in charges to ration capacity.

Dual Citizen said...

re labourlist, I stand corrected (dhotorby a few minutes). Tom Harris to the rescue.

Shamik Das said...

Well said Iain! I too wonder how it is that David Cameron fiund himself bounced into opposing these plans.

The green argument simply doesn't wash. A large number of "clean" planes will emit fewer environmentally damaging fumes than a smaller number of "unclean" planes.

Likewise, a greater number of people travelling to Heathrow by rail will emit less CO2 than a smaller number of people travelling there by car.

I've got sympathy for those whose homes will be destroyed and who may have to endure more noise, but, come on, if you live next to the world's busiest airport, what do you expect?

If you want a quiet life, go live in Scotland; the residents of West London have benefitted enormously from Heathrow and will continue to do so.

Anonymous said...

They can borrow against the value of the existing Heathrow. Since when did Brown worry about borrowing.

Its nothing to do with CO2 there is no such thing as man made global warming. its about building the right airport in the right place at the right time.

Anonymous said...

well John McDonnell doesn't agree with you Iain - he's just been suspended from the House after having a right go at Geoff Hoon!

Dick the Prick said...

Funny how John McDonnel only gets passionate when he realizes he's gonna lose his seat. May have to work for a living - perish the thought, poor chap.

WV: jetation - the time it takes to build a plane?

Shamik Das said...

John McDonnell is a nasty piece of work. Voted against the Government something like 25% of the time.

Let him stand on his own, without party money, staff and support and see how far he gets, ungrateful little nonentity.

I really hope they bulldoze his house, preferably with him in it.

Dick the Prick said...

Ah, he's whinging about Government diktat - bit late to the reality of life under New Labour. Ah, bless.

Not believing that man made climate change exists, and even if it does, money should be spent on drainage, better defences and efficiency rather than expensive white elephants like nuke stations, carbon targets of proposterous ambition then on Heathrow I couldn't give a toss.

Catosays said...

Iain, on this you and the gummint are so badly wrong that I wonder where your collective thought processes have gone.

It is clearly the wrong expansion in the wrong place.

Just to compulsorily purchase the 2000 houses in Sipson will cost somewhere in the region of £500,000,000 (my one elses).

Where are those people going to move to? And why should they have to?

As one of your previous commenters said, I've been Tory for as long as I can remember and I'm not particularly pro-green, but I'm with the antis all the way on this.

Furthermore, I don't think you'd be so pro this idea if you lived anywhere near this monstrous carbuncle.

Old Holborn said...

What on earth?

Build another runway on PRIME residential ground?

For crying out loud, build the airport in the Thames Estuary, next to the high speed rail links to Europe (already built and working), next to the Olympics and next to the new Crossrail.

Doesn't ANYBODY think ahead?

Planes can land and take off over the sea, minutes to central London (or less than two hours to Paris or Brussels by direct train), no noise pollution and a double hub to both rail and european airports.

Or build it next to the M4/M25 (already choked 23 hours a day) in the middle of housing at the end of a dilapidated tube line where planes have to follow a flight path right over central london to land.

Brilliant. You couldn't make it up.

Take whatever is sensible and do the exact opposite for 11 long years.

Unknown said...

Put a high speed maglev round Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. That would allow reasonable and reliable inter airport transfers, effectively making it one airport. One additional full-length runway would then match the major continental airports.

The Thames option does have the drawback that coming from anywhere except Lodon it is in the wrong place. Heathrow is very convenient for most of the population of England.

Anonymous said...

while the economics of the arguement are compelling I just feel sorry for the people who have fallen victim to his crime.

Parliament won't even get a vote! They should at least get a vote, if then the Commons votes for expansion then so be it. But they should have a vote on this.

I'm with McDonnell all the way on this - and that's saying something becasue I loathe the man.

Weygand said...

Kaletsky, does indeed praise Mandelson in the Times this morning for, inter alia, "the inaction announced this week - over a new runway at Heathrow".

It is not clear whether this is a prediction of today's announcement or reference to an earlier one.

In either case, the statement is bizarre, given that decision to proceed with the third runway has been widely trailed in the media (presumably as a result of officially sanctioned leaks).

Is it that Kaletski has spotted something that others have missed or (especially after last week's suggestion that savers should be taxed on the capital in their accounts as well as the interest they receive) that he has gone bonkers?

Blackacre said...

I think quite a lot will vote on this issue - it is one of those that is so intrusive to the good people of Richmond Park etc that they will make a decision based upon it.

FOr my part, I am seriously considering holding my nose and voting Tory for the first time ever as a result of your party's excellent current policy (and for pretty much no other reason) as the Tories are more likely to overturn our Labour MP Andrew Slaughter. This is notwithstanding his sudden backing of the no expansion cause. I am sure I will not be alone.

Iain, I think you and other commentators who do not have to live with Heathrow somewhat underestimate its importance to the locality and we as voters are quite capable of making local decisions not based on the national issues. See for instance Wyre Forest in 01 and 05 and Tatton in 01.

neil craig said...

When the BBC reported of the airport runway extension that "critics say that it will be environmentally damaging" this is clear bias.

What they could, if being impartial say is "Green critics say that it will be environmentally damaging while supporters of economic growth (like Ian Dale, the Asam Smith Institute etc) say it is long overdue & actually insufficient & that the years spent preventing the BAA building it have already cost our economy 10s of billions of pounds".

The BBC aren't even making a token attempt at political impartiality - as usual.

davidtbreaker ( said...

Iain, when it comes to Heathrow I'm affraid you are so far off the mark if you were a plane you'd be landing at Glasgow Prestwic rather than Heathrow!

Heathrow is a badly designed airport in the wrong place, buildding a third (short) runway and T6 will make it worse. Heathrow can never be World class! It needs moving to the Thames Estuary where we can have an unlimited sized World beating hub airport designed properly from scratch, so the sooner we bite the bullet the better. Griefrow is a sunk cost, it shouldn't affect our strategic planning. Expanding Heathrow is like Brunel widening the canals instead of building the Great Western Railway.

Then you speak of NIMBYs and our slow planning process. I take huge offense at the term NIMBY: are you seriously saying people shouldn't be able to object to state actions that could ruin lives? Or that they should just be ignored? The real problem is those supporting R3 as they are not living where they will be affected.

This is not a free market decision. Free markets don't have the state compulsory purchasing private property, forcing people from their own homes! Whatever happened to an Englishman's home is his castle? I thought we were meant to be a free country, not a Stalinist regime.

David T Breaker
David Breaker's NewsJunction -

Fight the Flights - Not Anti Aviation - But Anti Expansion. said...

It's Greed not Need

Heathrow has got its 3rd runway. If it’s built (many people don’t think it will get that far) see how many more people look up and say I wasn't expecting that. That's ridiculous, who let that airport do that, not me. I can't sleep there are so many planes, why is the air around where I live tasting funny. Why is my child not doing better at school? They said it would get better, I wasn't expecting this when they wanted that third runway, can you take it away please it’s affecting our lives in such a bad way.
The answer will be NO Ha-Ha you let us build it now live with it. Our shareholders are happy and we've got our bonuses. The promises we made can’t be done, but it doesn’t matter now as we got what we want and there’s nothing you can do.
Oh by the way we want more, can we spin you more lines so you’ll make us richer please. You fell for it before we’re hoping you’ll do it again.

This is what will be said by those who say nothing.


Anonymous said...

I don't care very strongly, either way, about the third runway question in itself. It is worth pointing out, however, that a core part of BAA's pitch for Terminal 5 back in the 90s was the trade-off that if they were given the go-ahead for T5 they would not need and would never seek a third runway. T5 alone would satisfy all future traffic growth forecasts.

Yes, it's analogous to BT saying that each successive STD change would absolutely be the last. In the case of Heathrow, however, it's substantially more significant than a few weeks' trivial inconvenience. This means the bulldozing of houses and the destruction of a community - in circumstances where the company involved had sworn blind it would not happen. To that extent my sympathies will be with the dissidents who will do all in their power to stop the third runway.

Windsor Tripehound said...

We've already got a third runway north of the M4. It's called Northolt.

Develop a fast land link from Heathrow to Northolt as a short-term measure and simultaneously start developing a repacement for them both in the Thames Estuary.

Anonymous said...

Nobody has any money,who's going to use it.
Hate to say it but what happens when a plane comes down in London,and it is when not if.
Lets have a proper purpose built one not a bodged up make do.

Unknown said...

I completely agree. As a loyal Conservative, I have to say this is the first time I have been so strongly against my Party's policy. We are meant to be the party of opportunity who know how to run a successful economy. Heathrow is a major driver of our *national* economy - to be against it is wrong. Yes, we must offer green policies but to do so at the expense of our country's future growth and economic success is barmy. With any luck, Theresa Villiers will never become Transport Secretary and we can drop this ridiculous policy when we form the next Government.

Not a sheep said...

A third runway for Heathrow is just plain wrong. Why are we so stupid as to have our main flightpath into our main airport over the skies of our capital city?

A new airport should be built on the Thames Estuary, you can see the beginnings already. The flightpath would then be over water and the sound disruption to human beings much much reduced.

Also why have all the air traffuic going to the West of London (Heathrow), the North (Stanstead and Luton) and the South (Gatwick) when there are so many people living nearer the Thames Estuary?

Steve said...

Oh come on Mr and Mrs Chelsea Flat are finished which ever way you look at it. B&I gets very little aircraft noise at present, in the future it will be a constant drone throughout the whole area.

Really, why are we trying to compete as a european hub? The others countries have masses of land and can throw in extra runways whenever they like. The only thing we will win from this decision is the prize for most polluted city, longest traffic jams, and lowest quality of life.

Domesday said...

Wonder if you'd be so sanguine if it was your home being bulldozed. It's an unnecessary expansion of an airport that is badly sited and which is overcrowded anyway only because it seeks hub traffic that adds less to the economy than the adverse environmental impacts of expansion. I'm a European sales director for an IT company that has used Heathrow scores and scores of times. Business people don't need a bigger Heathrow; instead people need to pay the true cost of flights - that will cut personal travel and in turn negate the need for expansion....which, even if I'm wrong should be at Gatwick or in the Thames estuary anyway.

Martin said...

Interesting that no one in the media bothered to ask Emma Thompson just HOW many times she flies a year.

I bet she flies more in a year than I have in my entire life.

I challenge her to burn her passport and promise not to fly anymore.

Shamik Das said...

I challenge her to burn her passport and promise not to fly anymore.

Her, Jamie Oliver and Zac Goldsmith. In fact, everyone who opposes air travel should be banned from flying. For life.

OBC News said...

"John McDonnell is a nasty piece of work. Voted against the Government something like 25% of the time."

Blimey, anyone voting with this execrable government 75% of the time must indeed be a nasty piece of work.

Wat Tighler's Return said...

I have an idea. Let's flatten Tunbridge Wells and turn that into an airport? Then Mr Dale should be forcibly relocated to accomodation under a Heathrow flightpath and spend the next five years feeling the walls of his accomodation shake, losing sleep because of the incessant noise, choking on the foul jet and associated traffic fumes, spend half his day sat in the traffic chaos, seeing the value of his property plummeting, watching his posessions damaged (see how jet fumes rot car paintwork for example) whilst suffering the general squalor that such places create and all the time being dazzled by the incessant ugly neon of all the associated hotels.

Closet inverse NIMBIES like Dale (anyone else's backyard but mine) would be wise not to wish the curse of airports on anyone. It is little wonder he was such a dreadful failure as a politician!

Iain Dale said...

That comment is hardly worth a reply. Tunbridge Wells is on the Gatwick flight path so your point rather falls at the first fence, doesn't it? Prat.

neil craig said...

Those who say we should have the estuary airport instead are missing the points.

Firstly the estuary airport will take a much longer time than one new runway & the growth in air travel is undeniable & must be expected to continue as long as materials technology & engine efficiencies continue to improve (& subject to government not physically preventing it in the interests of global warming or to prevent witchcraft). That means there is going to be, in time, plenty of room for both - at least if the economy is not stiffled.

Secondly the alleged costs are not relevant to the discussion of granting permission. Both projects are being done commercially & will cost us nothing, zilch & zero, indeed they will provide billions to the Exchequer as such things do. By comparison the rail systems, sometimes described as better value, will be infinitely more expensive to us because no investor using their own money is interested. This is what Mr Fight the Flights means when he says being willing to invest your own money to make a profit is "greed". Unlike the eco-fascists whose opposition to greed makes them demand billions from us to counter their fabricated threats & subsidise them.

It is accepted across the board that if Britain ceases to have a hub airport it will be enormously damaging to our economy.

The bottom line is do we want a free market which will produce a growing economy or do we want every single decision to be subject to endless bureaucratic delays & many of them to veto to produce the comparative economic stagnation (10 years up to last year of 2.5% growth as the world averaged 5%) which Brown has called "success" - a definition the Tories have not seriously challenged? I would like to see an opposition party willing to say that Britain should at least aspire to being average, hopefully even better than that.