Business leaders question 3rd runway plan for Heathrow Airport
he says. “I run an international business that relies on aviation. I travel a
lot – though I have been wondering lately if my BA Gold Card might mysteriously
By Alistair Osborne
a different type of plane, not to mention all the other tools found in his DIY
and the Conservative Party as an opponent of the proposed third runway at Heathrow.
Mr Cheshire is one of the 13 heavyweight signatories of an open letter urging
the Government to rethink its Heathrow expansion plans – debunking the myth that
business is squarely behind the third runway.
Justin King, the J Sainsbury boss; James Murdoch, head of News Corporation in
Europe and Asia; and Jeremy Darroch, the BSkyB chief.
says Mr Cheshire. “The feeling in the group was: can we at least have a proper
debate before we make a pretty irreversible decision to double the concrete at
including the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, but Mr Cheshire’s concerns
for the planet are only part of the story.
Mr Chambers, says Mr Cheshire, had “got increasingly annoyed that the whole runway
thing was going to be presented as a pro-business whitewash”.
name moment where you say if it went through and I hadn’t said anything I would
have felt I’d been irresponsible.”
you believe. But it would deliver, claim its champions, at least £5bn a year of
written in 2006. Heathrow, which has not had a new runway since 1946, handles
68m passengers a year – or about 60,000 a day more than its theoretical design
capacity. Adding another runway, OEF said, would provide an extra £7bn of economic
benefits a year by 2030, with annual air traffic movements rising from the current
cap of 480,000 to as much as 700,000. They would be capped initially at 605,000
until the aviation industry proves it can comply with environmental standards.
much greater than I first thought. So you can destroy the economic benefits they claim really quickly with just a couple
of small changes.”
the wrong question here,” he says. “Instead of saying what are the economics of a third runway, we should be asking
what do we actually need to do in terms of transport solutions in the round.”
and British Airways, the airport’s major customer, though other supporters do
span the CBI employers’ group, the British Chambers of Commerce and unions.
in building it, that can’t really be a balanced debate,” he says.
passengers simply switching planes – roughly a third of the traffic – bring economic
benefits to the UK. The argument is that these passengers underpin otherwise
marginal routes, enabling airlines using Heathrow to offer direct flights to more
on to Geneva goes straight through. They don’t touch the sides except for BAA
landing fees. Does that really help UK plc?”, he asks.
is serving fewer international destinations as the total traffic has gone up and
it’s also serving fewer UK destinations. Airlines have been adding more frequency on existing routes and growing transfer
passengers quicker than UK passengers.”
be replaced – as the Tories suggest – by high-speed rail links; the cost of the
project; and the ability of Spain’s Ferrovial, BAA’s controlling shareholder,
to fund it.
live on the flight path? Cheshire laughs. “It’s only after the letter was published
that someone mentioned where does everyone live,” he says. “Actually, there’s
a fair spread. Most of us are London-based in the sense of our work but we live
all over the place.
I’m in Wandsworth but I don’t feel I’m under the flight path. Then look at someone
like Jon Moulton [the head of Alchemy Partners and another signatory]. He lives
their own research, coming at the issue from a different perspective – such as
examining capacity at all five London airports and whether Heathrow could be more
efficient if the physical layout was changed.
case for putting money into resolving that layout,” says Mr Cheshire, noting that
“with extra capacity you can see how you can get money out”.
there are some options that don’t work for it but could work from a public good
type of argument?”
guys rather than default to the idea that we have to build the runway.”