Zac Goldsmith: Heathrow as a hub is not the answer – better competition between London airports is
Zac Goldsmith is unarguably an important part of whatever decision the government makes on whether to build a runway. Writing in the Standard on 14th December, Zac said “London’s prosperity depends on it being connected to the world — particularly those emerging markets where new business and jobs will come from. That is not best achieved by creating a monopoly on one edge of our city. We need competition and choice….The irony is that even if Heathrow is expanded, it will not provide the additional capacity we need. Figures produced by the Airports Commission itself show that new activity at an expanded Heathrow would be at the expense of competing airports .. [it] would suck in flights from across the South-East and undermine competition not only at Gatwick and Stansted but as far afield as Manchester and Birmingham too.” And ” hubs will likely soon cease to exist. The new generation of aircraft can travel point to point for longer, and at a fraction of the cost” so a massive airport like a 3 runway Heathrow will not be needed. “The priority is competition and, if and when there is need for additional capacity, for that reason it would need to be at either Stansted or Gatwick, whichever can offer the best value for money without compromising carbon, noise and air-quality limits.”
Zac Goldsmith: Heathrow as a hub is not the answer to our airport dilemma
Competition between all London’s airports and improved rail links to them will serve travellers better
By ZAC GOLDSMITH
Monday 14 December 2015
The case against: Heathrow has high landing costs and new aircraft mean hubs will soon cease to exist
On the back of its decision to keep all airport expansion options on the table, the Government has faced a savage backlash. It has been accused of causing an unnecessary delay, and of being overly influenced by my own campaigning on the issue.
I can’t object to the second point, or see it as a negative. My job as an MP — and Mayor if I am lucky enough to be elected in May — is to secure the right outcome from government on a wide range of issues. If I influenced the debate then I am proud to have done so.
But the charge that the Government has delayed a decision on the final outcome is factually wrong. Had the Government selected only the Heathrow option, as the airport wanted, we would still have faced months of environmental assessment, after which it would have become clear that Heathrow cannot pass a pollution test
The VW scandal makes that test harder still. The Airports Commission chairman, Sir Howard Davies, admitted as much when he told Parliament: “Clearly some things have moved on. The Government will need to satisfy itself that this can be safely done.”
The arguments against Heathrow go far further than air pollution, but even against that test alone, it is clear that Heathrow is moving off the menu. And so, in deciding to put all the expansion options back on the table, on an equal footing, and to subject them all to the same air-pollution test, the Government is saving itself the problem of going back to the drawing board in a few months’ time.
So where do we go from here? It is a mistake to see this as a contest between quality of life and the economy.
London’s prosperity depends on it being connected to the world — particularly those emerging markets where new business and jobs will come from. That is not best achieved by creating a monopoly on one edge of our city. We need competition and choice.
The irony is that even if Heathrow is expanded, it will not provide the additional capacity we need. Figures produced by the Airports Commission itself show that new activity at an expanded Heathrow would be at the expense of competing airports. In other words, if the Government allowed a third runway at Heathrow, the resulting monopoly would suck in flights from across the South-East and undermine competition not only at Gatwick and Stansted but as far afield as Manchester and Birmingham too.
The fact is that competition between London’s airports has already served Londoners well. The number of direct international routes from all our airports has hugely increased.
And it hasn’t happened by accident. In 2009, the Competition Commission broke up the old British Airport Authority monopoly, and it was this that unleashed a wave of innovation. Who would pretend Gatwick hasn’t become a significantly better airport since the Competition Commission liberated it from the old monopoly? That is why Christopher Clarke, the man who led the Competition Commission, is so bitterly opposed to anything that would put that old monopoly back together.
Given the success of London’s competitive aviation market, it is astonishing that anyone, least of all a Conservative Government, would even have considered cobbling together the old monopoly.
The traditional riposte is that London needs a hub to connect to as many routes as possible, and the hub has to be Heathrow. There are two big flaws with this argument.
The first is that Heathrow’s landing costs are already the highest in the world, and the extra costs associated with a third runway would make matters worse. That’s why British Airways — Heathrow’s biggest customer — is so adamantly opposed to the airport’s proposals. BA boss Willie Walsh said: “The price tag is excessive and cannot be justified on any basis.”
The second is more fundamental; hubs will likely soon cease to exist. The new generation of aircraft can travel point to point for longer, and at a fraction of the cost. From 2017, Londoners will be able to fly all the way to Perth without changing planes — a 19-hour non-stop flight. In a world where 70 per cent of aircraft on order have no need to stop and refuel, the hub model is receding.
‘London’s prosperity depends on it being connected to the world. That is not best achieved by creating a monopoly on one edge of our city’. Zac Goldsmith
The obvious alternative to creating a vast, foreign-owned, taxpayer-subsidised monopoly on one edge of our giant city is to turbo-charge competition in the sector. To facilitate that, we need to invest in transport links between central London and each of London’s key airports and allow them to fight it out for the routes that matter most to Londoners, through offering better service and lower prices.
Crossrail will open in 2017 and will offer, via Farringdon, fast connections to four of London’s major airports (Gatwick, Luton, Heathrow and City) and two international rail stations (St Pancras and Stratford).
I have been lobbying government for more suburban rail services to be accountable to the Mayor. This could include Thameslink, which could be made more frequent between central London, Luton and Gatwick.
Crossrail 2, which could start construction from 2020, will offer fast links to Stansted through Tottenham Hale.Creating a four-track railway between Liverpool Street and Stansted would cut journey times to less than 30 minutes from central London.
The priority is competition and, if and when there is need for additional capacity, for that reason it would need to be at either Stansted or Gatwick, whichever can offer the best value for money without compromising carbon, noise and air-quality limits.
The wave of competition after 2009 led to increased aviation capacity, new route development, better service levels, product innovation and cheaper prices. Sir Howard Davies said recently: “A competing airport system is right for London.”
I agree with him, and if I am elected Mayor in next May’s election, I will use every lever to deliver one.
Zac Goldsmith is Conservative MP for Richmond Park
David Cameron has abandoned plans for a third runway at Heathrow, senior Conservative claims
Zac Goldsmith hinted that the prime minister has decided against expanding Heathrow amid concerns about a legal challenge on environmental grounds
By Kate McCann, Senior Political Correspondent (Telegraph)
11 Dec 2015
David Cameron has abandoned plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, senior Conservatives have suggested.
Following anger over Downing Street’s decision to delay an announcement on whether to expand Heathrow until at least next year, Zac Goldsmith on Friday gave a clear indication that Mr Cameron has informed him that the controversial plans to grow the airport have now been shelved.
Many now believe that the Government will instead press ahead with plans to expand Gatwick.
The prime minister is under pressure from his own ministers not to back Heathrow
Mr Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, had pledged to resign and force a by-election if the prime minister backed a third runway at Heathrow.
On Friday he said: “Heathrow is now off the agenda. We’re now looking at the alternatives”.
Asked if he had had “the wink” from Mr Cameron, Mr Goldsmith said: “I’m now very pleased with where we are, yes.”
In a further sign that the Government will simply ignore the findings of an independent report that called for expansion of Heathrow, Patrick McLoughlin said that ministers are only now “hopeful” of announcing a decision next year.
Mr Cameron had previously pledged to make a firm decision on the issue by the end of this year.
The transport secretary said: “We accept that additional airport capacity is needed and we will make a decision on where we are going on that hopefully in the summer of next year.
And he hinted that Gatwick could be back on the table, adding: “Please get off the fixation of a third runway because it could be a second runway at Gatwick.”
Asked about whether he had influenced Mr Cameron’s decision to delay the announcement Mr Goldsmith said: “Until the decision was made yesterday the prime minister could not respond to what I’m saying, he made that very clear in our conversations because he had to wait for the committee report, there was no wink.
“I was desperately looking for a wink and a nod and I didn’t get the wink, I was talking with a view to getting a wink but I didn’t get the wink but he heard the message.”
Asked if he had now had the wink he added: “I’m now very pleased with where we are, yes.”
But Crispin Blunt, a Conservative MP and opponent of Heathrow expansion, said the prime minister is guilty of “political cowardice, weakness and prevarication” after the decision was delayed.
‘“People will see through this pathetic effort to avoid criticism in the run up to the London mayoral election’ Crispin Blunt
Critics believe Mr Cameron was influenced by Mr Goldsmith’s promise to resign as an MP ahead of his mayoral campaign for the party, alongside concerns about the new Heathrow runway failing environmental tests.
A senior Government source said the prime minister wants a watertight legal case for Heathrow expansion before committing to an extra runway and is not currently confident he could win a legal case.
A source close to Heathrow said the airport group is taking legal advice on its expansion plans.
Mr Blunt said: “People will see through this pathetic effort to avoid criticism in the run up to the London mayoral election. Zac Goldsmith should not be allowed to exercise a veto over the national interest”.
Mr Cameron was branded “gutless” following his decision to delay the announcement on airport expansion by business groups.
The Confederation of British Industry has warned delays will cost the British economy over £5billion a year in lost trade to Brazil, Russia, India and China alone.
It came as British Airways boss Willie Walsh said his company could move operations to Dublin or Madrid amid concern that Heathrow and Gatwick are already operating close to full capacity.
Zac Goldsmith: delay on airport expansion is killer blow for third Heathrow runway
By PIPPA CRERAR (Standard)
11 December 2015
Zac Goldsmith is “wildly confident” that the Government’s delay on airport expansion deals the killer blow to a third runway at Heathrow.
Ministers may blame the need to conduct new pollution tests in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
But the Tory mayoral candidate believes his long-running campaign against expansion has been won for good.
“We know that it is impossible to reconcile Heathrow expansion with the legal requirements on air pollution. I don’t think there is any way round it. The logical conclusion of the decision they have made is that Heathrow is off the radar,” he said.
In his first interview since last night’s announcement, Goldsmith is adamant the Government’s decision to delay airport expansion is not about him.
Although the Tory MP’s mayoral campaign is the obvious beneficiary, he insists that putting it off until the summer was not a political fudge.
“I don’t believe that this is a time-wasting exercise at all,” he said.
Instead, he sees the postponement of the announcement until after May’s elections as a win for the environment.
“The outcome, whichever way we choose to interpret why this has happened, is the right one. We are in the right place now. We have a massive opportunity now to remove the threat of Heathrow expansion once and for all.”
The MP played down the prospect of even more delay, perhaps until David Cameron had left Number 10 so that the Prime Minister would not have to break his “no ifs, no buts” promise.
He suggested that instead, the announcement had actually “accelerated” the decision as Heathrow would have faced lengthy legal battles on air quality even if it had got the green light. “We would’ve been back to square one.”
Yet despite his confidence, Goldsmith may still have a fight on his hands.
Business leaders have accused the Prime Minister of being “gutless” and are claiming the delay is “bad for business”, while George Osborne is understood to be keen to crack on with expansion.
But the MP bats away the Chancellor’s view as “almost irrelevant”.
“There can be no doubt that in a fair contest on air quality, Heathrow will not win. Unless you’re saying that the test is completely fabricated then it almost doesn’t matter what individual politicians think. It’s up to the independent assessors decide whether Heathrow or Gatwick can pass,” he said.
Goldsmith attacked the airport’s owners and the unions for “scare-mongering” local workers by suggesting that if a third runway wasn’t built Heathrow would be forced to close – “its a frightening choice to face, but it’s a bogus choice”.
Instead, he wants the Government to focus on creating a better, not a bigger, airport, and to prioritise improving surface transport links to all London airports to boost competition.
But if faced with a choice between Heathrow or Gatwick expansion, he would back Gatwick.