Conservative Party will not give Heathrow its third runway

Heathrow BAA.jpgIt’s the annual conference of the Conservative Party in the UK – those are the people who are almost certainly going to get to run the country from next summer – and one very clear piece of news out of it seems to be that Heathrow will not get its third runway.

Various senior Conservatives have more or less said this before, but the London Standard newspaper is reporting today that it will go into the manifesto as a promise. It’s not impossible to walk away from such commitments when in power but it’s not easy.

And I don’t think they’ll need to. Two things have happened this yearwith respect to the issue. One is that those senior Conservatives said what they said and nobody much argued. And the other is that Heathrow operator BAA and major tenant BA threw absolutely everything at warning of the consequences of having no third runway and convinced pretty well nobody.

Their arguments equated London’s interests with the nation’s interestswhich leaves Londoners cold since most of us think London is big enoughalready and we’d actually like to get back some of the greenery thatwe’ve lost, and leaves everyone else cold because they’re sick ofLondon getting all the investment.

I still think there’s a third issue which is that hardly anyone fliesfrom Heathrow. Let me explain – Heathrow is largely a business airportand the whole BAA/BA argument is based on it being even more so. Butactually very few people fly on business more than once or twice ayear. And everyone else uses Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. They’re fedup with being told that the business community has absolutely got tohave this, that and the other. And post-crisis they’re more fed up thanever.

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5 Responses to Conservative Party will not give Heathrow its third runway

  1. FF2 October 6, 2009 at 5:09 pm #

    Kieran, I believe you are mixing up the issues – pretty much like the Conservative Party itself. A runway is simply a strip of concrete. Adding a third runway hugely affects people whose homes would be obliterated by the bulldozers – but nobody else much. It wouldn’t affect other people living in London any more than someone in Inverness. What affects Londoners is the number of flights, the route they take and the time of day. The flexibility of an extra runway could actually help with the scheduling.

    What is clear, though, is that the ghastliness of Heathrow is directly connect to the limited runway capacity. People avoid London because of the lack of a decent international airport, compared with other major cities. I certainly do.

  2. FF2 October 7, 2009 at 10:05 pm #

    Kieran, you think there’s a lack of trust, it seems. The Industry says they want another runway because of the inefficiency of running the airport at full capacity. But what they really want is to add more flights, possibly to the extent of hitting the 3 runway capacity barrier.

    In this case, the Conservatives could call the Industry’s bluff and tell them: the default is no new runway. But if you want to build one for flexibility and efficient turnaround you can do so. But we won’t allow you to add a single flight to the total.

    To come back to my original point, the issue is flights, not runways.

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  4. Kieran Daly April 7, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    I see your point, but Heathrow really affects quite a lot of people. There really will be more flights, and more traffic which disrupts the surrounding area for huge numbers of people not using the airport, and more local pollution. Obviously just how much of all of that is endlessly debatable I realise.

    And what then? Why only three runways? I’m not really supporting one side or the other, but I do think the pros are currently losing to the antis in a big way.

  5. Kieran Daly April 7, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    I don’t think that’s really the main argument that the industry has been using – that’s just one strand of an argument that basically says ‘we need more capacity for growth’.

    The killer argument that was suddenly wheeled out this year was that the nation had to realise that the first victim of capacity constraints was domestic services but that what everyone needed to understand was that this would make a substantial number of international (esp long-haul) services unviable because of the lack of feed. So then people would have to bounce through Amsterdam, Paris etc rather than Heathrow to get to where they were going. And the London business community would lose some direct services.

    But the predictable response has been “and why should I care?”

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