We're not sure the villagers of Sipson would agree with this but apparently Heathrow needs to expand still further. Madrid Barajas airport opened two new runways today, expanding its capacity by half so that it can cope with 120 take-offs and landings per hour. That's two per minute, and Frankfurt and Schiphol are planning on offering the same. Let's hope air traffic control at these airports have a ready supply of caffeine and the ability not to need to blink.
By comparison, Heathrow's capacity is a mere 85 take-offs and landings per hour, yet even though Madrid can handle nearly 50% more flights, they'll only be able to handle 4% more passengers (70 million compared to 67 million). Madrid's advantage is enough to cause the expansionists at the pressure group Future Heathrow to issue a melodramatic "red alert" to the government, though. Apart from trotting out some stats, Future Heathrow's man, Lord Soley said, according to the Indy:
The pre-eminence of London's docks was taken for granted in the 1960s, but by 1980 they had all closed with the loss of 50,000 jobs. "I do not want a repeat in West London. And while we're at it, let's expand the M25 western section to 12 lanes."
We may have added that last bit.
Meanwhile, in more percentage-heavy news, BAA hasn't exactly endeared itself to foreign airlines by allegedly discriminating against them in its efforts to ration fuel at the airport. The shockwaves from the Buncefield explosion are still making themselves felt, as the unscheduled biggest-firework-display-in-Europe took out a source of 35% of the fuel supply for Heathrow. Foreign airlines are therefore being told they can only take 40% and 70% of their usual allocation, for short-haul and long-haul flights respectively. BA, BMI and Virgin, on the other hand, can take 55% and 82% of the norm. If, like Londonist, you liken this to your local Shell being off limits so filling up at the Esso instead, then you are, like Londonist, very much ignorant and flippant. The restrictions mean that aircraft coming into Heathrow need to carry extra fuel which means the planes are less fuel-efficient which means higher financial costs and, more importantly, even more pollution than usual.
All this begs the question: why on earth does anyone buy property in the areas surrounding Heathrow? Comments from readers who have done such a thing are very much welcome.