Heathrow expansion decision looms

by Rumbold
12th January, 2009 at 2:14 pm    

Despite all the opposition to a third runway, the lack of plausible arguments in favour of expansion, the alternatives (i.e. more trains), the fascistic nature of seizing people’s homes to build the runway, and not forgetting the government’s alleged commitment to reducing carbon emissions, it looks increasingly likely that a third runway will be sanctioned. Perhaps the only hope is opposition from Labour MPs whose constituencies are around the Heathrow area. Heathrow airport is one of the area’s largest employers, and many people are employed by it, or have family and neighbours who work there. Therefore, most criticisms of Heathrow are tempered by the realisation that the area would be worse off without it.

Yet supporters of expansion have failed to make a case for expansion, since the main problems with Heathrow could be solved without a third runway; namely, the way in which the airport is run, and the delays. The former problem simply requires better management, while the latter is a result of too many planes. Fewer planes would mean that planes were able to land sooner, reducing their carbon dioxide emissions and making flying to Heathrow a more attractive prospect. Add in high-speed rail links and you mitigate the need of many to fly from Heathrow, especially on domestic flights. Some foreign airports are indeed expanding their capacity, but it doesn’t mean that Heathrow needs to. It is currently the busiest airport in terms of international passengers, so a faster train network with more capacity would shift the burden from Heathrow. Of course BAA and the CBI argue that expanding Heathrow is vital for the British economy, but then that is their job; BAA is charged with getting the best deal for their shareholders, while the CBI is a lobby group. It is a shame though when they have to resort to increasingly desperate arguments:

“Richard Lambert, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, admitted that reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050 would be a “stretch” under current progress. He said aviation would contribute “meaningfully” to the target even if Heathrow expansion goes ahead, which would generate 2.6m more tonnes of carbon dioxide a year and raise the annual number of flights from 480,000 to 702,000.”

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Filed in: Civil liberties,Environmentalism

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  1. Sofia — on 12th January, 2009 at 2:53 pm  

    I live near the airport and am pretty sure they’re going to push it through..all this waiting around was a red herring..if there are already plans for a sixth terminal then they would be stupid to not push through a third runway…

    I am totally against having another runway..it will kill off sipson right up to harlington..heathrow was never meant to be this big…and if you look at current flight paths over hounslow, i’m surprised ppl in that area are still sane with the constant flow of aeroplanes…

  2. Rumbold — on 12th January, 2009 at 3:00 pm  


    In fairness, the current system works pretty well, as people living under the flightpath have a half a day on, then half a day off. However, those who are really close often have black doors as a result of all the fuel burned around there, yet receive no compensation.

  3. Leon — on 12th January, 2009 at 3:02 pm  

    Therefore, most criticisms of Heathrow are tempered by the realisation that the area would be worse off without it.

    I’m sure the tempering will stop once people in the area are under 10 feet of flood water due to climate change…

  4. Kismet Hardy — on 12th January, 2009 at 3:17 pm  

    One day they’ll build big runways for spaceships to land and launch from. I hope protesters don’t stop them from being built, armed with placards screaming ‘go home aliens’. I think they should bulldoze places like Luton and Ashby-de-la-zouch and start building these spaceports now

  5. fug — on 12th January, 2009 at 4:14 pm  

    public and corporate displays of how theyde prefer alternatives are welcome.

  6. Rumbold — on 12th January, 2009 at 4:20 pm  


    Perhaps, but the modd at the moment isn’t really anti-heathrow, but anti-expansion. And locals are more concerned with increased noise, demolition of houses and more pollution than with climate change, though obviously plenty care about that as well.


    I’m sorry, I don’t understand.

  7. MaidMarian — on 12th January, 2009 at 4:37 pm  

    Rumbold – I think that what fug is saying is that perhaps the public might like to fly less rather than demanding ever more Ryanair flights if they are serious about climate change etc. S/he is right.

    I think that you make a very important distinction about anti-heathrow and anti-expansion, but it still does not change the fact that there is demand for flights, from Heathrow or otherwise. Rail may be able to diminish some of this (though in honesty I have reservations about this whilst Ryanair charge £1 a flight). And that is not to mention that rail links need noise, fights to the death with NIMBYs etc.

    The ugly truth is that the protesters will get lots of good will, but I don’t see any evidence that it is reducing the appetite for flights from London. Think of it this way. Compare the reaction to Heathrow expansion with the type of reaction full blooded bans on cheap flights would generate. I suspect that the reaction such a ban would create would make the reaction to conflict in Iraq look muted.

    Hectoring the government is all well and good – it is the public that the environmentalists need to take it up with.

  8. Rumbold — on 12th January, 2009 at 4:45 pm  


    “But it still does not change the fact that there is demand for flights, from Heathrow or otherwise… it is the public that the environmentalists need to take it up with.”

    Agreed. But the government, if it is serious about reducing carbon emissions (i.e. the externalities) , can use the tax system to make rail more attractive and flying less attractive. Properly taxing transportion relative to its carbon emissions would raise the cost of flying and lower the cost of rail travel. Obviously we would need the rail infrastructure would need to be in place, but I see no reason this could not be done in the same time that it takes to build a third runway. With Britain now in recession, the demand for flights is likely to drop anyway.

  9. MaidMarian — on 12th January, 2009 at 4:54 pm  

    Rumbold – I don’t per se disagree, but…..

    ‘With Britain now in recession, the demand for flights is likely to drop anyway.’ Well, that lovely bloke O’Leary is on the record as saying he wants a depression. Hyperbole? Maybe, but I can see recession actually being good for low cost airlines if peole see them as cheaper. They probably are cheaper than rail.

    I agree absolutely about using tax, but not in a million years will you, protesters, government or anyone get that past the electorate in one piece. I do not revel in this, but environmentalists seem to want to deal with the world as they wish it was rather than as it is. As I said, lots of good will but naff all in terms of impact in really changing anyone’s behaviour.

    Again, high-speed rail links will attract protest.

    I have sympathy with environmental arguments – I just that they were less disingenuous about the end-point of those arguments. Indeed Rumbold, on the face of it, the liberty implications of this seem at least equal to those in anti-smoking legislation the you railed against on here a few weeks ago.

  10. Rumbold — on 12th January, 2009 at 8:14 pm  


    Sorry for the late reply. I am not sure that a tax system that reflects environmental costs is an attack on civil liberties, since is merely acknowledges the impact of a particular thing’s externalities. Indeed, some economists would argue that such a tax system is an ideal one. I do agree though that there is not some simple solution to the whole thing.

    As for cheap flights becoming more popular, I suspect not, as people will be cutting back on foreign holidays.

  11. Amrit — on 12th January, 2009 at 9:53 pm  

    THANK YOU for highlighting this. I have never understood why on Earth they wanted to expand Heathrow since I never really heard any justification for it… It would appear nothing has changed there, then.

    Heathrow might provide people with jobs, but that’s no reason to make it any bigger than it is. I have often thought that if BAA could have it all their own way, then much of that area of West London would be Heathrow, with just a surrounding strip of dwellings for people working within the airport, like Bournville for Cadbury!

    I hope this does not happen. Incompetence should not be rewarded – if they can’t manage bleeding Terminal 5, then they REALLY don’t deserve another runway!

  12. persephone — on 12th January, 2009 at 10:07 pm  

    BORIS Johnson is coming to Hillingdon on Jan 21 for a debate over Heathrow.

    Quote: Residents are invited to join him for a lively debate about the implications of expansion at the airport.

    Other speakers inc. Richard Barnes, Deputy Mayor and London Assembly Member for Ealing and Hillingdon, British Airways, BAA and campaigning groups from both sides of the expansion debate.

    This is the first issue based People’s Question. The event at the Beck Theatre is on January 21 at 7pm. Doors open 6pm.

  13. persephone — on 12th January, 2009 at 10:12 pm  

    There was a demo by Climate Rush this evening at Terminal 1 – anyone know what transpired?

  14. El Cid — on 12th January, 2009 at 10:44 pm  

    London needs a third runway at Heathrow.

  15. douglas clark — on 13th January, 2009 at 9:15 am  


    I’d like to see Heathrow return to the idea of intercontinental traffic. Continental traffic should be, largely, the stuff of TGVs.

    Could you arrange for direct links from Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow to London, Paris, Frankfurt, maybe even Rome and Berlin, etc?

    It would kill half the traffic through Heathrow stone dead.


  16. Rumbold — on 13th January, 2009 at 7:42 pm  


    I would certainly like to see a better UK rail netwrok, thus drastically reducing the need for internal flights. However, there will always be demand for planes to Europe.

  17. douglas clark — on 13th January, 2009 at 9:50 pm  

    Rumbold @ 16,

    Why exactly? If the cost and the time of, say, London – Paris is cheaper and quicker by surface transit, what’s the point of having an air link? Fast rail has allegedly killed the air alternative on some routes:




    IIRC the London – Glasgow flightpath is the busiest in Europe.

    If you can make the overall journey time less than or equal to a couple of hours, your on a winner.

  18. Sofia — on 15th January, 2009 at 3:53 pm  

    well looks like it’s going ahead *sigh*

  19. Ysabel Howard — on 15th January, 2009 at 10:52 pm  

    There was a piece I think on the BBC only this week saying a good night’s sleep improves immunity. Verily being woken at 5 am is a benefit to the area. Then there’s being unable to maintain a conversation in the garden in the summer or indeed hear the TV/CD/radio with the windows wide open, but that’s all right because you can look up at the clear blue sky and admire the little darling circling nose to tail in the pauses. Meanwhile the Council not only recycles but nags about recycling, no, no, you put tins in the black box and we won’t collect your papers unless you put them in the blue box. Did someone mention carbon footprint? What an incentive to the more unreconstructed citizens of the Borough to save that piece of junk mail to live again. ‘Vaguely farcical’ is I think the appropriate expression. Of course there are knock-on effects too. The Piccadilly Line is really good, a fast and frequent service, but commuting on it is not so good when it’s packed with large families and their luggage, apparently oblivious to the fact that London is not a theme-park but somewhere people work. O why are these stressed-looking people in suits not more sympathetic to our five suitcases and little Johnny screaming his head off.
    With love from a humble denizen of the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. There must be a short word for what it’s like still closer to the beast. How about ‘hell’?

  20. douglas clark — on 15th January, 2009 at 11:11 pm  

    Decent High Speed Rail Links should come first, and that should include direct Channel Tunnel links to the continent that bypass London completely. There is little or no reason that anyone should need to take a plane to France or the Benelux countries, from places like Manchester, Birmingham, or Newcastle. Maybe even Glasgow and Edinburgh if you do it right. The idea that London is a necessary interchange point for rail travelers, is something that also needs to be blown out of the water.

    We need a dual spine, East and West, of new TGV routes the length of this nation.

    That would reduce some of the traffic on Heathrow. Boris is also quite right in suggesting that Heathrow is in the wrong bloody place. Spending more money on it is pouring good money after bad. Stick the hub airport away from residential areas.

    Heathrow expansion is a stupid idea.

    Shut it.

  21. fug — on 16th January, 2009 at 12:55 am  

    its just really sad how the material and parochial economic arguments always win.

    what pansy global leadership on co2 reduction is this?

    why are the good people of sipsonganj making this a reason to vote tory?

    how has boris been able to take this up so easily?

  22. douglas clark — on 16th January, 2009 at 3:00 am  



  23. persephone — on 25th January, 2009 at 11:58 pm  

    Despite the permission decision allowing BA to submit a planning application to the Sec of State there are several avenues that those opposed to expansion are pursuing:

    Greenpeace & others are talking with lawyers to legaly challenge the decision. Opposition groups will also be raising issue during the planning enquiry stage of the application

    Politicians are seeking a vote in parliament & are seeking an allocation for a full days debate in parliament this Wed

    A Labour policitian in the area suggested that those 700 families whose homes would be demolished should each adopt one of the 650 politicians who vote & harry them – write to them etc

    There is also an EU Protocol which gives an inalienble right to a property/ landowner to stay in possession of their property/land. One of the residents affected has written to the EU court system to elicit such a case & urges other residents to pursue the same – maybe a multi-track legal action pending

    Apart from this there is alot of community demo’s & other direct action planned. It remains to be seen if this affects the course of this application…

  24. no name — on 26th January, 2009 at 8:37 pm  

    i live in richmond and am pretty sure that they are going to be a lot of noise up here when they build the 3rd runway. there are a lot of noise now so i wonder what will happen if i cant sleep because of thenoise now….

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