Financial News

  • 18 December 2013, 13:38

Airport Expansion: The Case For And Against

The news that new runways at Heathrow and Gatwick are on a shortlist of airport expansion options has been welcomed by the airline industry as well as business leaders.

But green campaigners, local residents and some politicians are worried about the effects on the environment, as the options were outlined in an interim report by Sir Howard Davies's Airports Commission.

There are no firm long-term proposals in the report - they will come when the commission makes its final report in the summer of 2015, after the next general election.


Heathrow argues that a third runway would raise its capacity to 740,000 flights a year, from the current limit of 480,000.

The airport said it would be able to cater for 130 million passengers compared to 70 million today, "allowing the UK to compete with our international rivals and providing capacity for the foreseeable future".

Chief executive Colin Matthews said: "Britain needs a world-class hub airport with the capacity to compete against Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. A third runway is the quickest, cheapest and surest way of connecting the UK to growth."

The airport said a third runway would provide benefits to the UK worth 100bn and expansion would bring considerable benefits to the local community by protecting the 114,000 jobs already dependent on the airport and creating more than 70,000 new jobs.

Addressing environmental concerns, Heathrow said expansion could be met within EU climate change targets. Continued improvements to aircraft efficiency means air traffic could double by 2050 without a substantial increase in emissions, it argues.

Gatwick said expansion "can give the country the economic benefits it needs at an environmental cost it can afford with the lower fares and greater choice that passengers want. It can be delivered more quickly and at lower cost".

And the London Chamber of Commerce said: "Government should just get on and act on the short-term measures now. It will make no sense to delay any measures to enhance capacity until after the General Election.

"Businesses are crying out for aviation action now. Political posturing would put the economic recovery at risk and threaten London's reputation as a world leading city."


Local groups say the north-west runway plan at Heathrow will require significant demolition in the villages of Longford and Harmondsworth.

Anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan have vowed to fight the Heathrow plans.

"We understand the strength of feeling of those living near Heathrow," Sir Howard said.

Countryside campaigners at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) also voiced concern at the options set out.

Georgia Wrighton, director of the CPRE in Sussex, said: "A second runway at Gatwick, together with sprawling development and car parks anticipated on a massive scale, would concrete over cherished open countryside.

"A heady cocktail of increased flights, HGV traffic and cars would erode the tranquillity of rural communities, and the health and quality of life of people living under its shadow."

Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for the South East, said: "The political opposition to airport expansion in South East England is sadly melting away.

"There's no doubt that the Government will be pleased with this report. It gives them the cover they need to go on avoiding answering difficult questions on airport expansion and to prepare themselves for a colossal U-turn on Heathrow expansion.

"This report will be of great concern to my constituents near Gatwick and Heathrow. We know that any new runways at either airport will increase air pollution, destroy homes and countryside and mean more people's lives are blighted by flight noise."

Tory MP for Richmond in west London, Zac Goldsmith, who has many constituents who live under the flight path, told Sky News: "The case for expansion is very weak.

"The case for improving our road transport, our rail links to existing airports is very strong. If we did that, we would have enough capacity for many, many years."

Last week, Mr Goldsmith said any decision by the Prime Minister to back Heathrow expansion would represent an "off-the-scale betrayal" and David Cameron would "never be forgiven in west London" .

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who wants a new airport in the Thames Estuary, said a third runway at Heathrow would be "completely crackers".

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