Tories urged to back Heathrow expansion

14.7.2009   (Financial Times)

By Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent

A leading business lobby group appealed on Monday to the Conservative party to
reverse its opposition to the building of a third runway at Heathrow airport,
warning the policy would cost the economy billions of pounds in lost productivity.

A study published on Monday by the British Chambers of Commerce said the direct
economic benefit of adding capacity at Heathrow would be in the region of £300m
($488m)- £500m a year.

Not building the runway would cost the economy between £8.6bn and £12.8bn in
lost productivity over 60 years and would jeopardise wider economic benefits totalling

David Frost, director general of the BCC, said: "We must invest now to safeguard
our economic future or we risk wasting £30bn fumbling around for an alternative."

The report, written by Colin Buchanan, the economics and transport consultancy
and paid for by pro-Heathrow expansion lobby groups including BAA, the airports
operator, and British Airways, said the wider economic benefits of increasing
capacity at the only UK hub airport were greater than those found for major rail
schemes, including a proposed high-speed line to the north of England or Crossrail
in London.

The government finally backed the plan for the third runway early this year and
urged BAA, the owner of Heathrow, to accelerate its plan.

Ministers said the runway, fiercely opposed by environmental campaigners and
local residents, should come into operation as soon as possible after 2015. Both
BAA and British Airways have previously said a third runway was unlikely to be
in use before 2020.

BAA expects to take up to two years to prepare the planning application to build
the runway and a sixth terminal. However, a general election must be held by next
May. The Conservatives have opposed the third runway project outright since last
autumn’s party conference.

John Stewart, chairman of Hacan, the leading campaign group opposing the expansion
of Heathrow, said the BCC report "smacks of desperation … It is a sign that
they have lost the battle for a third runway. The Conservatives and the Liberal
Democrats have said they would scrap it.

"The major failing of this report is that it has not factored in the environmental
and social costs – the cost of noise, pollution, climate change, community destruction,
traffic congestion etc. That makes a mockery of its figures."

A 3rd runway at Heathrow would add £30 billion to UK economy, says new study
by the British Chambers of Commerce

The new report, entitled “Economic Impacts of Hub Airports” claims that each
year the runway is delayed costs the country between £900m and £1.1bn. They claim
that building the runway would add £30 billion to the UK economy, and that it
would deliver between £8.6bn and £12.8bn in increased productivity, and approximately
£20bn in wider economic benefits, such as higher levels of employment – over 60

Campaign group HACAN has challenged the findings of the report, and  argues that
this is out of step with previous reports including the Government’s own figures
which found that the benefits to the economy would be £5 billion over 70 years.  
John Stewart said the report smacks of desperation, indicated by the  British Chamber
of Commerce’s need to  resort to sensationalist claims.   The figures of costs and
savings to the economy are based on dubious figures of the financial value of
passengers’ time while travelling or being delayed.

13.7.2009   More …..