Do we really need a third runway at Heathrow Airport?

25.2.2008     (Scotsman)

NO – the case against.       By Robin Oakley, senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK

FROM the way the aviation industry talks, you’d think that the entire British
economy – Scotland included – was dependent on the building of a short strip of
tarmac in West London.   This is absurd.

If the runway is allowed to go ahead it will effectively sound Gordon Brown’s
surrender on climate change – the most important challenge that we, as a society and a country, face today.
The government itself admits that 13% of the UK’s overall climate impact is related
to our flying habit.   But it is not just the flights we take today that are important;
it is the unprecedented growth in climate pollution that the aviation industry
and government are planning to allow over the coming years. This pollution is
predicted to grow so much that by 2050, even if we took every car off the road,
switched off all the lights and shut every power station, Britain would still
miss its 2050 target – because of aviation emissions alone.

London already sees the highest number of flights in the world pass through its
airports.   Britons fly more than any other nation on Earth. We even fly twice as much as the Americans.

More than 100,000 flights from Heathrow are to places easily reached by train.
The most popular destination is Paris.   Manchester is number four.

No wonder people fly to these places when the fares are so much cheaper.   But
if Gordon Brown took climate change seriously he would not only rule out the third
runway and put a cap on flying at today’s levels, he would also take the £9 billion a year subsidy given to this industry and invest it in making our trains better, quicker and, most crucially, cheaper.


YES – the case for.     By Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways

THE hard truth is that Heathrow is running at 99% capacity and is losing its competitive edge to airports such as Frankfurt, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam, which
all have more runways.   Heathrow had 227 destinations a few years ago and now
has 180.   It struggles to cope with demand and any problem can cause a domino
effect of frustrating delays.

But Heathrow is an immense force for economic good in Britain, which, with a
third runway, could bring in £7 billion. [not specified by when   – it is over 60 + years]

Opponents tend to be blind to the needs of people who live in Scotland.   They
have argued many times that transfer passengers bring no value to the UK economy.
They forget that a high proportion of transfer passengers are UK residents, flying
from Scotland and other UK regions to the national hub airport to catch connecting flights.  Many of these are business people from
Scotland, making their journeys to sell British goods and services.

There are also very few destinations where a high-speed rail alternative is feasible
for passengers wanting to travel and return on the same day.  Flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London take about an hour.   By rail, the journey takes about five hours. [not counting check in times, and travel to and from the airport]

Growth at Heathrow cannot be at any cost and the aviation industry is investing heavily in reducing its carbon footprint.

Finally, but not least in importance, Heathrow is the biggest single site employer in the UK.   There are 172,000 jobs at Heathrow itself and in the local area that depend
on Heathrow.   UK wide, there are an estimated further half a million jobs indirectly
dependent on Heathrow’s success.

Do we really need a third runway at Heathrow Airport?