Britain needs more airport capacity, but where?by Prospect Team / August 21, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
In a recent report, CentreForum recommended expanding Heathrow, for which it won the Prospect Think Tank of the Year award for best publication. But this suggestion has sparked a furious response, saying that the sky over west London is too congested—Gatwick or Stansted would be better suited to expansion. Boris Johnson has even suggested building a new airport to the east of London and, at the end of the year, the Airports Commission will report its conclusions to the government. Here, two leading commentators take up the debate.
NO–Simon Jenkins: The London airport market is essentially about leisure and tourism. Some 80 per cent of journeys are “non-business,” while the majority are taking Britons abroad rather than bringing foreign tourists here. Nor is there any need for a hub—less than 15 per cent of passengers arriving in Britain are in transit. Hub is another word for British Airways’ eternal bid towards monopoly.
The eagerness to expand Heathrow is entirely driven by BA’s desire to capture the lion’s share of the London market. Since the concept of directing ever more noisy planes over built-up areas is now outside the thinking of airport builders everywhere, to inflict such pollution on west London for the sake of one company’s profit should be unthinkable.
Business flights can be concentrated on Heathrow and City Airport as that appears to be what business travellers want. But tourists can go elsewhere. Nor is there any overriding need for domestic flights—a fifth of the current total—to leave from Heathrow. Pushing them elsewhere might encourage more passengers onto the trains.
Tourists have rights, and the right to civilised travel is one of them. But London’s airports ha…