Theresa Villiers shuts door on third runway at Heathrow
Ms Villiers stressed at an aviation conference in London that, although there were divergences of opinion within the Coalition on aviation policy, the Government would look at all options for increasing capacity in the South East “with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow”. She said “The Coalition has always been clear that its doesn’t support a 3rd runway at Heathrow – one of the very first acts as government was to confirm that.” And “The quality of life aspect of a 3rd runway with up to 22,000 more flights over London every year would be massive and there’s no technological solution in sight to ensure planes become quiet enough, quickly enough to make this burden in any way tolerable. So we need another solution.” This could also potentially put the Government on a legal collision course with BAA, which cautioned it could go down the route of a judicial review if Heathrow was the one option barred from the public inquiry into future hub capacity.
The Telegraph reports that:
Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers has implacably ruled out a third runway for Heathrow despite hopes key members of the Government were softening their stance towards expansion at Britain’s only hub airport.
By Nathalie Thomas (Telegraph)
Ms Villiers stressed at a conference in London that, although there were divergences of opinion within the Coalition on aviation policy, the Government would look at all options for increasing capacity in the South East “with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow”.
“The Coalition has always been clear that its doesn’t support a third runway at Heathrow – one of the very first acts as government was to confirm that,” the Transport Secretary said.
“The quality of life aspect of a third runway with up to 22,000 more flights over London every year would be massive and there’s no technological solution in sight to ensure planes become quiet enough, quickly enough to make this burden in any way tolerable. So we need another solution.”
The clear message will come as a major blow to Heathrow’s operator BAA and airlines including BA and Virgin, which have consistently warned the UK is losing out on jobs and investment due to the lack of capacity at the London’s hub.
Ms Villiers’ tough stance could also potentially put the Government on a legal collision course with BAA, which cautioned it could go down the route of a judicial review if Heathrow was the one option barred from an inquiry into how to solve the UK’s capacity problems.
BAA said yesterday: “None of the options for providing new hub capacity is easy, but all options should be on the table.
“It is important that major decisions by Government follow due process and the option to seek a judicial review if they do not, is always available. We expect the Government to carefully consider the pros and cons of all options and consult properly before taking any policy decisions.”
BAA chief executive Colin Matthews unveiled new research at the same conference, organised by Transport Times, showing that 53pc of foreign airlines were increasing their flights out of other countries due to a lack of available take-off and landing slots at Heathrow.
The operator claims Britain is losing its competitive edge due the Government’s inertia on capacity expansion. Heathrow currently serves 180 destinations compared to Frankfurt, which serves 262.
Particular concerns have been raised about connections to China, and Heathrow campaigners point out that there are seven major Chinese cities that are served by European airports but not by London.
However, Ms Villiers challenged the assertion that Britain is losing its competitive edge on aviation.
She acknowledged that both Heathrow and Gatwick were operating close to full capacity but insisted: “It’s simply not the case London’s connectivity is falling off a cliff edge.”
She argued that if the 3,000 flights a year to Hong Kong were included in statistics, they would show Britain led the market in terms of connectivity in China.
The Coalition has delayed its aviation White Paper, the 11th to be produced since the last full-length runway was built in Britain in 1946, until the summer.
Ms Villiers gave a strong steer that the Coalition would examine ways of using existing capacity more efficiently to target routes of “greater strategic importance” to the UK economy.
She hopes to persuade airlines such as BA that some short-haul routes could be replaced by other modes of transport, such as high speed rail, and those airports slots could be re-deployed to serve long-haul destinations.
“What we are doing in terms of high spreed rail will provide a very attractive alternative to thousands of short-haul flights which are now going to Heathrow,” Ms Villiers said.
“By providing an attractive alternative for some of those short-haul flights, there is scope to release capacity for the destinations which are of greater strategic importance to the UK.”
The Transport Secretary also gave hope to Gatwick and Stansted, which both have expansion ambitions, that Ministers would consider that case for a new runway to be built at another London airport.
Gatwick is the world’s biggest single runway airport in the world and is seeking to rival Heathrow by offering more connections to destinations in emerging markets.
Ms Villiers was restrained from discussing “Boris Island”, a proposed new airport for the Thames Estuary, due to the purdah period for the London mayoral elections.
Above all, the debate on the future of our airports must be grounded in reality and based on the facts. The reality is that Britain has an extensive and highly successful global aviation network.
Arguably, London is the most well connected city in the world.
It has five highly successful and busy airports … six if you include Southend and some would also like to see Manston to play a role in meeting our aviation capacity needs as well.
The London airport network provides direct links to around 350 international destinations, including most of the world’s greatest commercial centres.
Heathrow delivers over 9000 flights every year to New York making the UK the market leader in Europe, on this route.
2500 to Singapore and New Delhi make us market leaders here too.
Then there’s China.
Like the rest of the Westminster village … I’ve read on the escalators at Westminster tube station that we’re lagging behind in this important market …
… lagging behind unless, that is, we include the 3000 flights every year to Hong Kong.
If we do that … it’s clear that in this market too, we lead with Heathrow delivering more services to China than any of its continental rivals.
And frankly I don’t think my colleagues in the Foreign Office would thank me if I started acting on the assumption, as some people seem to, that Hong Kong wasn’ta part of China!
So while it is true that Heathrow is pretty much full and Gatwick too is approaching capacity … it’s simply not the case that London’s connectivity is falling off a cliff edge.
But good government is not just about tackling the problems of today … it is also about planning for the future.
In the same way that we are not prepared to leave future generations with a fiscal deficit, neither should we leave them with an infrastructure deficit.
So it is right that we have the debate about our capacity and connectivity needs over the years and decades to come.
That is why the Chancellor announced in his Autumn statement that we would explore all the options for maintaining the UK’s aviation hub status with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow.
The Coalition has always been clear that it does not support a third runway at Heathrow.
One of its very first acts as a Government was to confirm this.
Heathrow is unique in Europe in terms of the magnitude of the noise impact it has on densely populated areas.
The airport accounts for approximately 70 per cent of people in the UK exposed to average noise from airports above 55 decibels.
More than one in four people exposed to this level of noise around European airports lives near Heathrow.
Thousands live on a daily basis with a plane overhead every 90 seconds … not to mention the flights that wake them up at 4.30am.
The quality of life impact of a third runway, with up to 220,000 more flights over London every year, would be massive and there is no technological solution in sight to ensure planes become quiet enough quickly enough to make this burden in any way tolerable.
So we need another solution … and last year we kicked off the process to decide what that will be with the publication of our scoping document on a sustainable future for aviation.
Responses came from a wide range of industry and environmental stakeholders, members of the public and community and campaigning groups. I’d like to thank those who took part.
We are using them to inform the drafting of our consultation document on a sustainable future for aviation.
We are also developing a call for evidence on maintaining the UK’s hub airport capacity.
….. and it continues …..
Aviation minister Theresa Villiers defends Heathrow No 3rd runway policy
Date added: April 18, 2012
Theresa, speaking at an aviation conference in London, said a new third runway at Heathrow would have a “massive” impact on the quality of lives of residents near the airport. She stressed the coalition Government had “always been clear” that it did not support a third runway at Heathrow. Instead, she said “another solution” to south east England airport capacity was needed. At the conference, Colin Matthews produced figures showing that foreign airlines were shunning Heathrow because of capacity constraints at the airport. Mrs Villiers said: “The coalition has always been clear that it does not support a third runway at Heathrow. One of its very first acts as a Government was to confirm this. Heathrow is unique in Europe in terms of the magnitude of the noise impact it has on densely populated areas.” She also said that “arguably the most well-connected city in the world, with its airports providing direct links to around 350 international destinations”.