Letters to the Times on UK airport capacity and south east runways

Letters to the Times, on the Aviation Scoping Document

Our airports are a product of ad hoc additions made to deal short-term with a
demand which reports show is now dropping


Sir, Complaints about lack of airport capacity need to be kept in proportion.

London — with Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and City — has six runways, more than any other European city.
London has flights to more destinations than any other European city. Last year
London airports handled more passengers than any other city in the world.


Far from demand outgrowing capacity, in the past two years air travel has declined.
Gatwick is now working at 75 per cent capacity and Stansted at little more than
50 per cent. The Government’s policy of building no new runways is absolutely
justified. The policy is also justified on economic grounds — it makes little
sense to waste money building new infrastructure for a demand, mainly for leisure
flights, which is artificially stimulated by low taxation. The revenue lost from
no fuel tax and no VAT is four times the revenue received from air passenger duty.


Brendon Sewill 

Chairman, Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign



Sir, The aviation industry is right to seek a clear aviation strategy. But it
is right for the Government to rule out the expansion of Heathrow from its future
strategy. There is no overwhelming economic case to expand the airport.


The 2008 report from the Dutch consultants CE Delft was quite clear that a third
runway was not critical to the
London economy because, for business as a whole, other factors were of greater importance
than the size of Heathrow.


There is also a lack of evidence to back up the claim that business would lose
out if the proportion of transfer passengers using Heathrow fell.  However, transfer
passengers use routes that are already highly profitable:
New York,
Chicago and Hong Kong. The top destinations where transfer passengers do make a difference to the
financial viability of the route — Bishkek,
Freetown and Provinciale — are not key destinations for
London business.


There is a business case for more flights to serve the expanding economies of

Asia over the coming decade. The way to accommodate them at Heathrow is to auction
the slots to reduce the number of short-haul leisure flights, which are clogging
up the runways, and to invest in a high-speed, affordable rail system that allows
rail to become a viable option for many of these short-haul trips.


John Stewart 

London SW9


Sir, Transport uses nearly 40 per cent of our energy, uses the vast majority
of our oil and produces more than 25 per cent of our carbon emissions. Alone among
the major sectors of energy use, its consumption and emissions have been growing,
not falling. Yet it is an essential component of our economy, and demand is growing
and the population is rising. Our transport infrastructure is ageing and it has
not been enhanced for some time. For all these reasons, not only do we need a
strategy for airports (
report, Mar 29) but also a long-term integrated plan for the whole of transport, energy, housing
and town planning.



Our disgraceful airports are a product of ad hoc additions made to deal short-term
with demand. Our railways are not only the most heavily supported from the public
purse in Europe, the fares charged are the highest in Europe. Our roads are congested and there is no plan to alleviate congestion. We have
ambitious plans to reduce carbon dioxide production, which we have no realistic
hope of meeting. Our electricity generating capacity is decreasing and power cuts
are inevitable when the economy starts to grow again.



Laissez-faire, historically, has served badly in transport and the market is
far too short-term to be interested in the timescales of planning for the next
20, 40, 50 years and beyond. The emperor is not only naked, he has terminal pneumonia.



Professor Roderick A. Smith 
Imperial College,




Sir, Hurtling down the almost deserted M2 to
London from the equally deserted Manston Airport in Kent, it seems almost beyond belief that this fabulous facility did not feature in
your report. Manston has a runway that can accommodate the largest aircraft and
the Isle of Thanet is one of the most deprived, employment-hungry regions in the country. There
is only one question to answer: “When is Manston scheduled to take off?”


Harry Marsden 






Sir, What’s wrong with making better use of existing facilities in the South
East, such as Southend and Manston? With prevailing westerly winds, approaches
would be over the sea, except for the last two or three miles, and departures
could route out over the Thames estuary, both causing far less noise pollution than Heathrow.


As for Heathrow being the
UK’s only hub, forget it. I live near
Bristol, so my regional hub is Schiphol, even though it’s not in the
UK. I can get there in significantly less time than I would need to allow myself
to be confident of getting to Heathrow in time to catch a flight.


K. G. James 

Rodney Stoke,