Thursday, January 15, 2009

Brown is right on the third runway at Heathrow

If you've read any of my other posts you'll know how much it pains me to say this, but Gordon Brown is right about the proposed third runway for Heathrow, and current Conservative party policy is wrong.

Heathrow is more than an airport. It is the beating heart of much of the West of London, the western home counties, the City, and many high tech industries and consultancies from the M4 Corridor round to Redhill.

Let be clear these are high skilled, good paying, and internationally mobile jobs.

Killing Heathrow, which not doing something about its capacity will be, is the equivalent of killing the Golden goose that lays the eggs.

Heathrow is also fast becoming an embarrassment due to its lack of capacity.

You can't just move the air traffic East of London - which is shown by the fact that Stansted hasn't challenged Heathrow at all. For this reason the "In the Thames" solution isn't any help.

Also whilst high speed rail may be of value in itself, it just won't provide the necessary capacity. ( If you think the planning battle about the third runway looks tough - wait till you try to build new high speed rail lines through the rest of our major cities ). The only flights it will replace are those to Manchester. The other locations will just build more demand for Heathrow. ( At even if a high speed line was built at fantastic cost to the English tax payer - it still wouldn't compete with a flight from Edinburgh/Glasgow for a transfer to long hall.


Rachel Joyce said...

I usually agree with you on most things - but not this one. See my blog for more detail including the problems of the democratic deficit here. I am not against airport expansion but Heathrow is a mad place to put an airport anyway and we need high speed rail links even more.

Man in a Shed said...

Rachel, I thought you'd disagree.

High speed rail is a fine thing. I took the kids down to the South of France in Summer on the TGV and enjoyed the experience ( the train stopped at Charles de Gaulle on the way down - and indeed I looked at flying from Heathrow to CDG and then using the TGV for the rest - it was cost neutral ).

But if any of the lines about the UK in the new world global economy are to be remotely true we must have a world class airport with world wide connections.

London is a great selling point for international consultancy/engineering work in the Middle East for example. Just the thought of a days shopping in London could swing the deal !

However conversely being badly treated at the airport puts of our intentional clients. The US have probably lost billions of dollars of business ( much of it to us in the UK ) when the US Dept of homeland security started treating every Arab as a close friend of Osama Bin Laden. There's only so many strip searches you'll put up with when you have millions of dollars to spend.

The same negative impact can be generated by Heathrow chocking after Weather incidents etc, or having to fly else where in Europe to get here.

There are a large number of multi million pound businesses based West of London because of Heathrow.

I would be fine with moving Heathrow further West, but in reality it isn't going to happen. Moving the airport East is a non starter.

I suspect the voice of opposition is heard more clearly than those who's livelihoods rely on Heathrow.

Perhaps a solution could be if those who are impacted by the third runway enjoy some of the benefits, or are allowed to relocate at no loss. Heathrow could contribute more to the local boroughs it over flies.

If you think the protests over Heathrow are bad - wait till high speed rail links get punched through the most populated parts of our country and cities !

Personally I think the high speed rail links won't be built for 30 years. We have a bad tradition of doing things either on the cheap or for political expediency ( see Sheffield Tram - Eurostar link to St Pancras not Waterloo etc, West coast link North of Manchester etc ), or just not at all.

We have a general problem with planning in that key infrastructure just isn't getting built in this country.

We need more Motorways, Airports, Gas storage, Power stations Coal and Nuclear. All are held back by local protest and short term political expediency.

The answer is that local people need more compensation in recognition of what is taken from them for the greater good. I understand the French have a more generous compensation system, which vastly reduces their opposition.

Having said all that it is of course the duty of local representatives to put their constituencies case as well and forcefully as possible. I'm sure your going to make a good case, and Conservative policy is very clear on this issue ( even if I disagree with it ! )

What we have here is a clash between local and national interests. In the UK local interests usually win, which is why we are now facing a power crisis, gas storage crisis, and motorway gridlock.

OK a bit of a ramble there...

I suspect the third Runway won't be built in the next 50 years and the UK will lose some of its remaining world class businesses as a result. I'm afraid high speed rail just won't make any difference even if it was built - which I doubt.

Unknown said...

I was inclined to be opposed to the new runway at Heathrow, but you've argued your case well. It's not at all clear cut is it?

Man in a Shed said...

Wildgoose - no its not straight forward at all.

But I think it helps is people state what their objectives and objections are.

Say in the case of the good people of Harrow the noise, pollution, increases risk, and reduction in property values.

All these could be dealt with and prevented from getting worse with new aircraft technology, varying flight paths, and giving generous compensation ( and why not ? We are always trying to get thigs from people ont he cheap. Why shouldn't HEathrow compensate the people it puts out ? ) etc.

However because government has reneged on promises it has made in the past, such assurances just aren't trusted. The only clear way for people to stop more air traffic over their house is to oppose the third runway. That is a failing in the integrity of government. ( I'd like to say just Labour, but Stansted shows differently ).

I suspect that the opponents of the third runway will win, and slowly businesses will relocate elsewhere.

My favourite overseas country is the Netherlands, and their airport Schiphol is just a wonder to behold. If I had an internationally mobile business that's where I would go.