UK airport expansion botched again

Interim report favours least popular option.
NO Heathrow Expansion
NO Heathrow Expansion

The Airports Commission’s interim report lists three main options plus at least one other possibility.

  • Commission says UK needs one new runway by 2030
  • Three options, two at Heathrow, one at  Gatwick
  • Airport in Thames Estuary is not shortlisted
  • UK Regions ignored
  • “The third runway at Heathrow is not going ahead, no ifs, no buts.” David Cameron, Richmond, October 2009
  • Residents reject Heathrow and Gatwick expansion plans
  • Heathrow plans politically impossible

They announced that three options will be considered before a final judgment is delivered – two plans to expand Heathrow, including one which would require burying part of the M25 in a tunnel, and one to build a new runway at Gatwick.

None are binding on any government and all three are probably politically impossible.

Heathrow expansion

Heathrow’s controversial expansion plan would involve building a 3,500-metre runway on the site of an old sewage works, to be accessed from a new Terminal Six and an extended Terminal Two.

The building of the runway would mean:

  • the ruin of the villages of Harmondsworth and Longford with 950 properties being destroyed
  • the M25 motorway would be put in a tunnel, taking at least five years and costing tens of billions of pounds
  • would more noise and air pollution for many hundreds of thousands of people
  • increased deaths due to noise pollution
  • a lost opportunity again to properly plan for future UK aviation needs

The Hub Argument

Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said ‘This country needs a hub because without that we won’t have the long-haul connections that we need,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Indeed the hub concept  possibly costs the UK money and jobs.

40% of passengers at Heathrow are transfers. How many are ex UK? Say 30%.

Those ex-UK transfers bring business to Heathrow and British Airways and other airlines but nothing more than maybe £2.60 to Starbucks during the transfer. And Starbucks pay almost no UK tax. Business passengers contribute even less as they usually spend all their time in airline lounges with all the free stuff.

Does it matter if a business man in Glasgow dealing with customers in Chengdu travels Glasgow to Amsterdam to Chengdu instead of Glasgow to Heathrow to Chengdu?

The businessman gets to Chengdu, the deal gets done. The UK loses nothing.

BA and Heathrow make money.

Routes from Heathrow to BRICS

A great deal is made about Heathrow being ‘full’ and that stops the growth of routes to the BRICS countries.

British Airways took over bmi (British Midland) in April 2013. They did this for the slots at Heathrow. Other airlines had the chance to buy bmi but BA actually did it. Well done BA.

In the 21 months since the takeover,

  • extra flights to BRICS countries BA have from Heathrow?
  • new routes to non-BRICS BA actually opened from Heathrow?
  • extra flights to non-BRICS countries BA have from Heathrow?

Extra flights to BRICS countries BA has opened so far / is opening in 2014 from Heathrow?

  • Chengdu
  • Chennai
  • Rio

New routes to non-BRICS BA has opened so far / is opening in 2014 from Heathrow?

  • Mykonos
  • Ibiza
  • Palma
  • Porto
  • Santorini
  • Austin
  • Las Palmas

Extra flights to non-BRICS countries BA has opened so far / is opening in 2014 from Heathrow?

  • Boston
  • Seattle
  • Tripoli
  • Mexico City
  • Haneda
  • Cape Town


The Politics

In a huge exercise in local democracy, Richmond upon Thames and Hillingdon Councils held borough-wide ballots to offer residents an opportunity to express their views on the proposed expansion of Heathrow.

The results show that an overwhelming majority of residents in both boroughs (72%) are against a third runway and 73% do not want to see any more flights in or out of the airport. That is over 100,000 people saying ‘No’ to both questions.

David Cameron, Current UK Prime Minister

David Cameron visited Richmond before becoming Prime Minister. At a public meeting in Richmond  he said “The third runway at Heathrow is not going ahead, no ifs, no buts.”.

Editor: I was at the meeting and heard him give that promise.

But he is the one who put Heathrow back into play.

Zac Goldsmith, Richmond MP

The Tory MP for Richmond, Zac Goldsmith, has clearly stated his opposition on behalf of his constituents.

Editor: is based in Richmond, I live in Richmond and have met Zac on several occasions about local issues. Mr Goldsmith is a really good local MP.

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Lib Dem MP for Twickenham writes,

The Davies Commission interim report has put Heathrow at the front of its thinking which is questionable economically, damaging environmentally and probably undeliverable politically.

My strong view is that the Davies review should not decide to press ahead with Heathrow options and I will be making that view known in the strongest terms.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson  is a Tory politician, who has been Mayor of London since 2008.

Why on earth entrench a huge planning error and expand Heathrow and consign future generations to misery when we could go for the right option?

Airports Commission

The Airports Commission examines the need for additional UK airport capacity and recommends to government how this can be met in the short, medium and long term.


  • Sir Howard Davies (Chairman) –  former Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, former  Executive Chairman of the Financial Services Authority
  • Sir John Armitt – former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Network Rail and Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority
  • Ricky Burdett – Professor of Urban Studies at the London School of Economics and director of the LSE Cities research centre
  • Vivienne Cox – former CEO and Executive Vice-President of BP Alternative Energy
  • Dame Julia King – a scientist and Vice-Chancellor of Aston University
  • Geoff Murihead – former CEO of Manchester Airports Group (MAG). Muirhead resigned from the commission in September 2013.