Heathrow: We need to stop gazing at our navels and think of the future

Heatthrow third runway

Finally, a third runway at Heathrow has been approved in parliament. Next comes the legal challenges and likely consequent delays. The longer the delays, the longer our economy suffers from our procrastination. A supposed outward looking ‘global Britain’ takes twenty years or more to build a single runway and expects to be taken seriously.

If Britain wants to compete in the global marketplace, the government needs to think of the future and take action. Look around the world, Amsterdam Schipol Airport has six runways, Madrid has four, Paris has four and in the US JFK in New York has four, Chicago has six and Boston has six. Our supposed ‘hub’ airport has two; compensate residents and build the damn runway!

We need to stop gazing at our navels and think of the future. The third runway at Heathrow will boost our economy, but its only sufficient for the medium term.  Within a couple of decades of its construction there will likely be demand for an additional runway, then what? Another 20 years of talking?

The independent Airports Commission issued a report in 2015 which pointed out that London’s airport system would be using 90 percent of available capacity by 2030. Even under pessimistic forecasts, it said, by 2040 all London airports except Stansted would be full.  We shouldn’t be pussyfooting around about building one runway, we should be looking to build more!

The debate about airport expansion saw Heathrow and Gatwick compete for investment, the answer to this is to expand both. They both cater primarily for different needs, with Gatwick catering for short haul and leisure and Heathrow for business and long haul. They both connect to different regions of the UK and have a different international network. For real, sustained economy growth; build a new runway at Heathrow and Gatwick. Not only would this be a major boost to the economy, it would likely lead to better services and lower costs for consumers as the two compete.

Environmentalists who wish us all to live in yurts and adopt a vegan diet will complain, but aviation technology will continue to advance and get cleaner. The advancement of cleaner and greener technology is the key to tackling climate change, not destroying our growth prospects without making a dent in global climate change targets.

The strongest argument is concerns about increasing the north/south divide, but this is a strong argument for allowing expansion and development of Northern airports when the necessity and demand is clear in the future.

In response to the Cabinet’s approval of Heathrow expansion, Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport, said:

‘Manchester Airport is investing more than £1bn in transforming its facilities and unlocking the spare capacity on its exiting two full-length runways […]  Government must now match its support for a third runway at Heathrow with specific and practical proposals to maximise the potential of airports like Manchester in the period to 2030 – the earliest the third runway is likely to be delivered – and beyond that.’

Hear, hear! Britain must be a country of action and dynamism if it wants to flourish after Brexit.