During Theresa May’s first Prime Minister’s Questions, the MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, Catherine McKinnell, asked Mrs May if she’d “do better than dithering Dave and give us a decision without delay?” and give Parliament an answer on Heathrow’s expansion. The Prime Minister’s answer, however, was not reassuring, claiming the Cabinet would take the decision “in due course.”
Since Parliament is on recess at the moment and the Cabinet will not be taking any decisions for the time being, this seems like a good time to take another look at the arguments in this debate.
Heathrow airport, the U.K.’s so called “hub airport” serviced 75 million passengers last year, more than LA International, Charles De Gaulle and JFK. However, if you compare these 4 airports, one thing becomes clear, Heathrow airport only has half the amount of runways as these competitors.
The expansion of Heathrow has been considered since 2003, however, since the Conservative Government came to power, they have continually pushed the timetable back, preventing a definitive decision on Heathrow’s expansion. It appears it is politically unpopular to commit to the expansion at Heathrow, given that the Labour, Tory, Green and Lib Dem candidates in the 2016 London Mayoral race were all opposed to expanding facilities at Heathrow. Likewise, John McDonnell, the MP for Heathrow in his constituency, has continually opposed the third runway. Despite all this opposition, the expansion of Heathrow still remains a viable option to increase the country’s wealth and aviation industry.
One of the reasons that people argue against the third runway is that it would cause more air and noise pollution. However, Heathrow airport is surrounded by two very busy roads, the M4 and M25.
The lack of a third runway, can lead to delays and cancellations, which may actually have a negative effect on the environment. Aircraft use less fuel while in flight, meaning while they are on the ground, running their engines, waiting to take off, they are polluting more than they would be in the air, due to the fact that air is thinner at higher altitudes.
As far noise pollution is concerned, aircraft have been getting quieter, with Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye confirming that planes are “getting quieter, flying higher and changing their angles of descent into Heathrow” and then going to say that Heathrow will “will also completely insulate 160,000 homes”, along with the airport making the decision not to schedule flights between 11pm and 4am.
There are many positives to expanding Heathrow, one of these is the reduction of stress on air traffic controllers. British airspace is split into sectors, bits of the air, and only a certain amount of aeroplanes are allowed in one sector at a time. Since Heathrow currently runs at such a high capacity, this can lead to aircraft having to wait to land if the runway is busy.
The third runway would also clearly benefit consumers, opening up to 40 new direct destinations from Heathrow and saving the average traveller £300 on their tickets. It is also estimated that a third runway would bring up to £211 billion pounds in economic benefits to the UK.
Additionally, the Airports Commission has estimated that building a third runway will provide nearly 180 thousand new jobs across the entire country, which would increase our GDP by almost £150 billion. This increase in jobs and GDP would likely come from the increase in tourism across the U.K. that such an expansion would bring.
It is ludicrous that our Government is refusing to make the decision that would positively benefit the economy. After the U.K.’s disastrous decision to leave the European Union, politicians have been claiming that Britain must be open for business, and expanding Heathrow, would be the best way to do just that.