It has become a surprise to some but not all, but the Conservative Government has again kicked the ball of London airport expansion back into the long grass, haven’t they? They commissioned an independent full report on what to do about the County’s economically necessity to have increased runway capacity serving London. It took three years in the making and publication was cynically delayed until after the summer’s General Election. They then promised a final decision before Christmas, but have now found an excuse to delay even that, because the final Davies Report recommended a new third runway at Heathrow and not only had PM David Cameron previously promised that ‘with no ifs or buts’ that it would never happen, but the Tory Mayoral candidate is also against it – and they don’t want to scupper his chances of winning the election in May next year, do they? Cameron is widely seen now as being very weak. A typical case of short term local political self-interest overruling the major national interest, so all the governments’ inertia continues (despite a dozen policy documents over the past fifty years, which have gone absolutely nowhere), doesn’t it?
NO new runways have been built in this Country in the last SIXTY years, while our European competitors have soared ahead to establish major hub airport capacity – taking substantial business away from the UK. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport now has six runways with the latest one of nearly 4k m long, built a dozen years ago, which gives Holland a significant advantage over the UK, whose connections to the world’s growing economies has faltered and is no longer competitive. France’s Charles de Gaulle airport has four runways (one over 4k m long), as does Germany’s Frankfurt (4k m long). Even Spain’s Iberian Madrid airport has four runways one 4.5k m long, and two were constructed this decade.
Back in the 1950s Heathrow Airport, located west of London, boasted six runways, set at different angles so that two runways would always be within 30° of the wind direction, but it now has only two runways (running parallel to each other running east–west). Nevertheless, it is the busiest airport we have in the UK, and the busiest for passenger traffic in Europe – its capacity needs though to be increased by half. The airport is surrounded by built-up areas, and when the wind is from the west the airliners’ landing approach is usually directly over the city of London, hence the clamour not to expand the Airport. The other two main international airports serving London are Gatwick and Stansted, each with only one useable runway.(both at about 3k m long), so building another runway at either of these has also been previously seriously considered.
Heathrow is not really British these days of course, as like everything else we had owned, it has already been sold-off to foreigners (Spanish headed in this case).
The increase in air travel demand will undoubtedly continue to increase dramatically over the next half decade – so why does this Country keep p-ing around? We should already be constructing a new runway not only at Heathrow, but at Gatwick and Stansted AS WELL NOW (as has been said here in this blog before), shouldn’t we? Stansted itself could even accommodate four runways to meet demand.
[The people living around Heathrow are having a laugh aren’t they in their complaints – the bulk of them have actually moved there (it has been a commercial airport since 1946 so only those who are over seventy have a case, eh?
[There does seem to be no hope of Britain ever overcoming vested interests and accepting the undoubted pain of building airport capacity where it is needed – our cowardly politicians, instead of getting together and jointly agreeing a way forward, prefer to fight their own corner, don’t they?].