A Runway for the 1%?

Sometimes the arguments used in favour of something can be the best arguments against that thing. For an example, see this press release I received about the expansion of Heathrow Airport:

A significant amount of time, effort, and energy has been spent at arriving at the conclusions. Strong account has been taken with the need to meet EU air pollution limits, address noise pollution concerns and move most ground traffic from road to rail. What must happen is action by the politicians: further delay would significantly damage UK plc.

In context, the UK has not built a full-length runway in the South East since World War 2. Our neighbours in the EU have overtaken us – Frankfurt, Paris, and Amsterdam already have much more runway capacity. What this means is that we’re losing out in the global connectivity race: Paris already offers 50 per cent more flights to China than London, for example. This is significant, because by 2025 there will be 7,000 new $1bn companies globally, and nearly 7 in 10 will be in emerging economies. If we want to connect with these we have to act.

With the world’s biggest cities planning 50 new runways by 2036, allowing for 1bn new passenger journeys, we simply can’t afford any further political delay. Given that Dubai will soon have more capacity than all of London’s airports combined, it is clear that expansion of airport capacity in the South East is a must. The world is watching to see if London and the UK has the ambition to maintain its position as a Global trading hub – we’re losing ground to our competitors, and further political delay would be unacceptable.

I find this self-serving corporate-bureaucratic bullshit a lot more offensive than Anglo-Saxon terms for bodily functions used as expletives. Look at the way it glosses over the environmental impact with meaningless empty platitudes, and says nothing at all about how it might affect the lives of ordinary working people. It’s clearly not about the transport needs of the those who actually live and work in the south-east of England, let alone the rest of the country. It’s all about “competing as a global hub”. Who cares how many runways they have in bloody Dubai?

The whole thing speaks volumes about the worldview of big money. The only people that matter are the global elites who owe no loyalty to any nation or culture. The same people who are slowly and steadily turning London into a soulless corporate wasteland filled with luxury apartments that they occupy for a few weeks a year while ordinary Londoners are relentlessly priced out of their own city. The people who only see the rest of us through the tinted windows of the chauffeur-driven cars, except then they’re barking orders to the staff in expensive restaurants.

Screw these people. And if their needs are really the main thing  that’s driving the demand, screw their runway as well.

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4 Responses to A Runway for the 1%?

  1. ” The same people who are slowly and steadily turning London into a soulless corporate wasteland filled with luxury apartments that they occupy for a few weeks a year while ordinary Londoners are relentlessly priced out of their own city.”

    For London, substitute NYC. Same thing. (And I would wager that’s part of what’s made the suburbs around NYC uninhabitably expensive over time as well.)

    Also, from what I understand about ATC technology, we wouldn’t NEED more tarmac on the ground if the ATC systems currently in use weren’t horrendously antiquated pieces of trash. But that’s another rant…

  2. Tim Hall says:

    I bet London and New York aren’t the only two places. It’s probably not a good thing to have too much economic activity concentrated in a handful of places.

    As for airport capacity, according to Adam Bienkov’s piece for Politics.co.uk there’s no shortage of runways in the south-east of England, and the only airport with capacity issues is Heathrow. This is really about Heathrow’s desire to compete with places like Schipol and Frankfurt as long-haul transfer hubs rather than airports serving London itself. Bienkov proposes improving transport links to the region’s smaller airports and use their spare capacity to take short-haul traffic away from Heathrow.

    Heathrows’s problem is London’s suburbs have expanded westwards since it first opened, and is now surrounded by built-up areas on all sides. Expansion will mean demolishing vast numbers of homes and businesses.

  3. Michael says:

    LHR is full because airlines want to operate it as a hub airport.

    I am not convinced passengers want to fly via hubs, but many are willing to take the inconvienience of going via a hub in order to save some money. Direct flights often cost more due to lacking economies of scale.

    Airlines exist which exploit the less popular airports and the lower prices they offer. However taxes like APD now make up such a large proportion of the ticket price that the scope for a minor airport to offer a significant saving has been wiped out.

    IAG have pretty much sunk the Boris Island proposal simply by stating they will stay at LHR unless and until it is closed. I cannot see any government closing LHR simply because they want to force all the flights elsewhere. The shareholders of HAL will demand compensation as will the airlines, all of whom would have to make tens of thousands of people redundant.

    So if there is to be any growth it has to be focused on the existing airports.

    But note that “if”. Can we make better use of what there is?

    I think we will have to devise new ways to use the tarmac we have because the demand is here now and the extra runway will take years to be ready.

    Of course when the runway becomes available it will be saturated exactly as the existing runways are. The demand is such that the increase in supply will make very little difference.

    Failure to increase the supply of slots at LHR or LGW will not end the world as we know it. Given the polution generated, it might even save it!

    LHR is no longer the world’s busiest international airport. What difference do this make to most residents of London?

    Does there really need to be more capacity in the area?

  4. Tim Hall says:

    According to CityMetric, Amsterdam Schipol is already London’s best hub airport. It points out that Schipol has direct flights to 24 British regional airports to Heathrow’s 7. And it suggests that by one metric at least the best-connected British city is actually Norwich, because it’s the shortest flying time to Schipol. Heathrow obviously wants a bigger share of that business, but I’m sure many people living in the south-east would rather travellers continued doing what they’re doing.

    What that article says about Manchester is interesting too, especially the way it’s developed as a continental-style rail hub in a way Heathrow hasn’t.

    Britain’s problem is due to a combination of historical accident and strategic decisions not made in the 70s and 80s. we’ve ended up with Britain’s major hub in a location where it can’t be expanded without demolishing vast amounts of homes and businesses.

    One question that need to be asked is if we need an international hub in Britain, why does it need to be in London at all? And why is Stansted operating well under capacity?