The UK economy does not need another Heathrow runway or other new runways in the south east

The Times goes very big on Heathrow today, with 3 pages, including the front
page story.  The thrust of it is that business is losing out because of the lack
of capacity at Heathrow.  It does, though, include a short comment piece from
John Stewart, which it asked him to write.

John Stewart Commentary

June 28 2011
The Government was right to scrap plans for expansion at Heathrow and rule out
new runways at Stansted and Gatwick.  It will benefit the environment and will
not hurt the economy. If a third runway had been built, Heathrow would have become
the largest single emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK. The impact of expansion
on local communities at all three airports would have been significant. The third
runway would have resulted in more than 100,000 people being newly disturbed by
aircraft noise.

It is, though, the impact of the decision on the economy where supporters of
expansion have been most critical. They argue that a lack of new capacity will
drive business elsewhere. The hard evidence suggests that this will not be the

In 2009, the last year for which full figures are available, more than 130 million
passengers used London’s five airports — more than any other city in the world.
Paris was London’s closest European competitor, with just under 86 million passengers
using its airports. There is no sign that any European city will overtake London
in the foreseeable future.

The other advantage that London has is what it can offer business, including
the vibrancy of its financial sector, English as the international language of
commerce, and a lower tax regime and lighter regulation than some competitor countries.
According to a recent report from York Aviation, London is “the world’s pre-eminent
financial centre”.

This importance of London as a destination has a key implication for Heathrow.
Other cities require a high percentage of transfer passengers to interchange at
a large hub airport to enable airlines profitably to operate a lot of flights
to key business destinations. But this is not the case at Heathrow. It has sufficient
business traffic coming to London to enable these flights to be profitable. The
economy is not dependent on airport expansion in the South East.

John Stewart is the chairman of HACAN ClearSkies


from The Times:



Log jam over London sparks airport capacity crisis

Philip Pank, Transport Correspondent

Tens of thousands of passengers are kept circling over London every day waiting
to land at the world’s busiest international airport, according to data seen by
The Times.

Sixty per cent of arrivals at Heathrow are delayed in holding patterns above
the capital, to the frustration of passengers and great cost to the economy. Jets
circle for a cumulative 55 hours every day, burning 190 tonnes of fuel and discharging
600 tonnes of CO2 into the skies above London, figures compiled by NATS, the air
traffic control service, show.

The £119,000 ($190,000) value of fuel wasted every day pales alongside the cost
of delayed business meetings, missed connections and wasted leisure time.

Disclosure of the figures comes as the biggest UK airlines seek future alternatives
to Heathrow because of the inability to expand at an airport running at 98 per
cent capacity. They, with companies reliant on trade, are highly critical of the
Government’s decision to overturn plans for a third runway at the airport and
to ban new runways at Gatwick and Stansted.

More than 100 chairmen and chief executives at The Times CEO Summit last week
called on George Osborne to explore building a new airport in the Thames Estuary
as a possible solution to a feared capacity crunch.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, believes that building a £40 billion, four-runway
island airport east of London would improve the quality of life in the capital
and secure vital trade links with emerging market economies.

The congested skies, where aircraft circle around four holding stacks, are unique
to London. Average delays for the 55,800 passengers held on a typical day range
from four to ten minutes, rising to twenty minutes during the late morning peak,
when between 32 and 40 jets typically circle over the city.

“It is not a great environmental story and it is not something that we will be
shouting from the rooftops,” Jon Proudlove, managing director of NATS at Heathrow,
said. “But it is important that people know that when you are operating at 98
per cent capacity and you have the two most utilised pieces of infrastructure
in the world [Heathrow and Gatwick], then one of the results is that you have
airborne holding.”

Its 476,000 flights this year made Heathrow, with its two runways, the busiest
international hub, while Gatwick is the busiest single-runway airport. Airlines
argue that unless the Government takes urgent action to increase capacity business
will migrate to Europe.

Competing airports are able to stack aircraft, but aviation experts said that
London is unique in its requirement to place the majority of commercial aircraft
into holding patterns around the capital as a matter of course.

“We are not a Paris, Frankfurt or Schiphol where we can open another runway when
the going gets a bit tough. We are on a knife edge,” Mr Proudlove said.

NATS estimates that Heathrow operates well for 300 days of the year. Fifty days
are “really difficult” and 15 a “complete disaster”. With no slack in the system,
poor weather or problems on the ground have an immediate impact on schedules and
increase holding.

“That is why we need a third runway,” Steve Ridgway, the Virgin Atlantic chief
executive, said.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of International Airlines Group, parent company
of British Airways, has admitted that the third runway at Heathrow is “dead” and
that he will look to expand through Madrid.

But he said that stacking over London had improved in recent years thanks to
sophisticated air traffic management. “I do not think that is the issue. The issue
is growth. There is absolutely no opportunity for growth at Heathrow — none,”
Mr Walsh added.

The Government is also opposed to Heathrow operating in “mixed mode”, which would
allow aircraft to take off and land from the same runway. Its operator, BAA, says
that this would allow more flights to land in the morning and evening peak times.

Safety experts say that the congestion poses no risk to passengers, but is damaging
the environment. Vicky Wyatt, of Greenpeace, said: “Heathrow is clogged up with
over 100,000 short-haul flights to destinations that are easily reachable by train,
like Manchester and Paris. If we shifted these on to trains it would free up capacity
and there would be no need for stacking.”




An expanded vision for Stansted that never managed to take off

Analysis Philip Pank


A single runway in the Essex countryside stands as testament to the missed opportunities
for growth. Stansted airport, once cited by Government as a multi-runway gateway
to the world, is fighting off a slide in passenger numbers.

Those living closest to the airport and environmental groups who feared its impact
on global warming are delighted. Businesses in its eastern catchment area are
less pleased.

When new Labour set out its vision for 30 years of aviation in 2003, it said
that the priority was to build a second runway at Stansted by 2011. Plenty of
land, proximity to the M11, M25 and good rail links were all cited in the decision.
Its rural location meant that fewer people would suffer noise pollution, while
the economies of London, Hertfordshire, Essex and Cambridge would benefit. Ministers
even considered authorising three or four runways there.

In the event, a virulent local backlash fought on environmental and quality-of-life
issues scuppered the plans.

Carol Barbone, campaign director of the Stop Stansted Expansion Campaign, said
it was the fourth time in 50 years the local community had fought off construction.
The campaign is now pressing the Government for a moratorium. “The community really
needs some security and time to rebuild. This has had a terrible effect,” she

As locals lick their wounds and the airport’s owner, BAA, braces itself for a
forced sale, the low-cost carriers are quietly moving out. Ryanair has withdrawn
33 routes this summer. Last week, easyJet announced it would switch some services
to Southend airport from next spring, in part to avoid Stansted’s legendary queues.

The number of flights is expected to fall by 8 per cent this summer. Analysts
expect 17 million passengers to pass through this year, well below the record
24 million seen in 2007.

“At first we thought it was a missed opportunity, but with the change in the
coalition things have moved on, so you have to cut your cloth,” said Denise Rossiter,
chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce.