There has been talk of the defeated third runway project at Heathrow being revived recently, with the national press stating that Chancellor George Osborne has been looking at the pro’s and con’s once again.
According to reports last month, a number of British business leaders have written in to the government claiming that the runway is essential for business growth – They are backed by large corporations such as Microsoft and the Spanish owned telecoms company Telefonica O2, who have signed the letter. Colin Matthews, chief executive of airport owner BAA has also signed, a sure signal that expansion is back on their agenda – It also appears to have the approval of Wille Walsh, high profile CEO of International Airlines Group (British Airways parent company) who has almost challenged the government to act by claiming that they ‘lacked the balls’ to re-open the discussion.
Worryingly, trade union leader Len McCluskey of UNITE and Mick Rix of the GMB Union have also spoken of the need for the runway to ‘protect jobs’ in the face of Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan for a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary.
On the political side, The Telegraph reported on 3rd March that thirty Conservative MP’s headed up by neighbouring Spelthorne MP Kwasi Kwarteng (Below right) are backing the plan – Independent London Mayoral Candidate Siobhan Benita also supports the Third Runway in her manifesto.
We lived in the shadow of this project in Hillingdon when it was discussed before, and due to the tireless efforts of the likes of NOTRAG (No to Third Runway Group) and HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) with some input from local politicians, the plan was defeated.
However, BAA have retained their ownership of many of the houses around Heathrow Villages that they bought during the initial attempt to get permission for third runway and it is worrying that they show no signs of releasing them back in to the market to help tackle the homes crisis that we have in the Borough. Will they once again try to get this monstrosity through and use the state of some of the housing that they have left to fall in to disrepair as an excuse?
I wrote in to The Uxbridge Gazette last week expressing my concern over the possibility of the runway plan being resurrected in response to an article by their reporter, James Cracknell,in the March 28th edition – They very kindly published it in this week’s edition edited down to fit the maximum size allowed on the letters page.
Below is the full text of that letter, which outlines some of the alternatives available. It should be noted that UKIP stand both nationally and locally against the Third Runway (As we do against HS2) , but that the solutions put below are just some of my own thoughts as to how we can get around the problems of increasing capacity whilst causing the minimum of damage to communities and the environment.
One thing is for certain – If the Government do decide that a third runway at Heathrow is part of their transport plans, they will be walking in to a storm of protest from the local community who have won this fight once before, and can do so again!
I read with concern your story concerning the resurrection of the Third Runway idea at Heathrow. (Uxbridge Gazette March 28th)
That George Osbourne is even looking at reviving the idea shows how out of touch the government is both with the wishes of the people of Hillingdon and with the realities of the scheme, both in terms of sufficient infrastructure and damage to the local environment.
The road network around the airport struggles to cope with the volumes of traffic from the two runways as it is, and adding a third will make an already difficult journey for passengers unbearable – Maybe this is a way of justifying Stage 2 of the HS2 rail project and the ‘Heathrow Spur’ that will devastate the south of our borough?
The third runway option also overlooks the alternatives that are available for extra capacity within the existing network . Much of the airport capacity at Heathrow is taken up with ‘grandfather rights’ granted many years ago to airlines, who are not making the most of the slots available. By revisiting these ‘grandfather rights’ and moving the majority of short haul flights from Heathrow to Gatwick, Luton and Stansted it will free up the slots for the heavier traffic that Heathrow needs as a ‘hub’ airport for the transcontinental flights(Which are the main reason given for building the third runway.) . This proposal has already been put forward by the CPRE (Campaign for Rural England), and would have the happy side-effect of reducing congestion on our local roads as the flight demographic changes to more ‘linking’ flights and less flights originating at Heathrow.
Airlines adopting the larger Airbus A380 aircraft will also see capacity increased via more passengers on the same amount of aircraft.
To complement this, there is also an existing airfield at Manston in Kent that has the longest runway in the south of England, and can accommodate these larger airliners without major construction work needing to be carried out. Manston is already operational and is indeed used as a divert runway by Heathrow in case of emergency. It also has the advantage of not being next to a major wildlife reserve which the proposed ‘Boris Island’ would be, thus avoiding the ongoing problems of all major airports – Bird strike.
Manston can be linked very easily to the nearby HS1 train line, allowing easy access to both central London and the continent via the Channel Tunnel. With the completion of cross rail, it should also be relatively straightforward to travel between the two airports with minor modifications to the infrastructure, giving further capacity to that gained at Heathrow by the re-organisation.
One thing is certain – Third Runway is even more of a liability than the HS2 rail link, with the financials and justifications not stacking up on either. UKIP as a party oppose both projects at a local and a national level.