We are writing to you regarding Heathrow and the hidden costs that we believe need to be explored.
Lots of promises have been made to lots of people in different parts of the country about the extra domestic routes they can expect if a third Heathrow runway is built. It’s all part of a divide-and-rule strategy which glosses over the health impacts of worsening noise and air pollution in south and west London while cheerily talking up the prospects of improved internal connections from an expanded hub airport.
Wherever we live in the UK, we all have a stake in ensuring parliament makes the right decision on Heathrow expansion. We know from the government’s own forecasts that an additional runway can be delivered more quickly and at less cost at Gatwick. There will be a price to pay for Heathrow expansion – and not just in south-east England. The transport secretary has a duty to spell out the true costs for taxpayers – and to be realistic about the benefits.
But it’s the airlines that decide where aircraft fly – not the airport and not the government. You only have to look at BA’s recent decision to halve the number of flights between Heathrow and Leeds Bradford to see how fragile domestic services are. Which minister can guarantee in perpetuity the taxpayer subsidies that would be needed to keep “unprofitable” routes open?
It is far more likely that the eight domestic routes we have today will shrink. The Airports Commission saw these dropping to four by 2030. The only way existing routes can survive – and new routes can be made viable – is if they are subsidised by the government. They cannot be guaranteed.
Of course Heathrow will tell you that a hub airport is the key to better connections. But the official forecasts now say that Heathrow will be full within two years of a third runway opening. At this point the airlines can be expected to switch to more profitable point-to-point operations – squeezing out the remaining domestic routes.
None of today’s “promises” or assurances can be relied on. What is certain is that taxpayers everywhere – including those living hundreds of miles away from the south-east – will all be paying for the expansion.
Cllr Paul Hodgins Leader of Richmond council
Cllr Ravi Govindia Leader of Wandsworth council
Cllr Ray Puddifoot Leader of Hillingdon council
Cllr Simon Dudley Leader of Windsor and Maidenhead council
Zac Goldsmith MP Richmond Park and Kingston
Dr Vince Cable MP Twickenham
Andy Slaughter MP Hammersmith
Ruth Cadbury MP Brentford
Marsha de Cordova MP Battersea
Justine Greening MP Putney
True cost of Heathrow 3rd runway to the public purse must be revealed, say MPs
The true cost to the taxpayer of building a 3rd Heathrow runway at Heathrow has not been spelled out to the public, according to a cross-party group of MPs, who warn that domestic flight connections and other transport spending will be jeopardised. Justine Greening and Vince Cable among those saying plan would jeopardise spending elsewhere, who are calling on the government to clarify the costs to the public purse. They also want clarity on what benefits the runway would actually bring. In a letter to the Guardian, MPs and councils around Heathrow warn that promised unprofitable domestic flight connections to an expanded Heathrow would only work with state subsidies, that could not be guaranteed in perpetuity. Additionally, more than £10 billion in additional rail and road spending to support a bigger airport would have to be funded by taxpayers, not Heathrow. Having muted her opposition to Heathrow while in the cabinet, Greening, the MP for Putney and a former transport secretary, told the Guardian that Scottish support for the third runway was misplaced. “The SNP need to wake up to the threat that an expanded Heathrow poses to Scotland … A more expensive Heathrow means fewer connections. People in Scotland won’t understand why the Scottish government think that’s a good idea to support.”