The Impossible Airport Dream?

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 111 months ago
The Impossible Airport Dream?

Is this tranquility going to be shattered?
Image by philmciver
Debate over the fate of London's airports is hotting up this week. A decision on whether to allow the controversial third runway at Heathrow is expected on Thursday and business types are piling pressure on the government. But the Thames Estuary airport idea is gaining more backers - including a new parliamentary group...

Future Heathrow, an umbrella group that covers organisations as diverse as the CBI, TUC, London First and airlines (who have taken out pro-expansion newspaper adverts today), are, shall we say, very much in favour of the new runway. They claim Heathrow is already operating at 99% capacity and point out that other major European airports have more runways: Frankfurt has three, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Madrid have four while Amsterdam Schiphol is frankly just showing off with six.

But residents and environmental campaigners are bitterly opposed to expansion plans - don't forget the Climate Rush picnic in Terminal 1 this evening - and it also looks like EU rules on pollution would stop the runway even if it's approved. So what's to do?

Enter Nick Raynsford and Boris Johnson. The Mayor is reported to be planning a legal challenge if the runway gets the go-ahead, and is pushing for the Thames Estuary airport as an alternative. He's now got the backing of a group of cross-party MPs, led by Raynsford, who are promoting the MARINAIR plan. The airport would involve taking off and landing over water and aviation experts have pronounced such a thing impossible, but Johnson is off the mark, getting the executive chair of Crossrail doing a feasibility study. Could we really be getting closer to an off-shore airport?

Last Updated 12 January 2009


I find disappointing to see many mainstream media and blogs, including yours, relaying the main argument for Heathrow expansion: that, without it, Heathrow would be unable to compete against other European airports.

This is an easy argument to peddle, calls into National Pride and prevents the media from focussing on the fact the business case for the airport is tenuous at best.

As I've written many times in my blog (RichmondTransits):

<li>the DfT, BAA and BA are in collusion to preserve their own interests and not that of Londoners or the country
<li>when they talk about Heathrow not being competitive compared to other European capitals, they conveniently forget that only London has FIVE international airports and that many other capitals have successfully relocated their airport"

I think it's a little unfair to say we're 'peddling'! We're airing both sides in the interest of balance, and we make it quite clear that the people saying Heathrow is almost at capacity are pro-expansion. This article isn't an op-ed, it's reporting developments that are newsworthy for London; the expansion argument was newsworthy as adverts were taken out on that day.