Heathrow – Putting politics before the public good?

Heathrow terminal 5Heathrow Airport has been firmly back in the spotlight after Sir Howard Davies recently announced his interim report in to airport expansion in the south of England.

Three options have been put on the table –  A new runway to the North West of the existing airport, an extension of the Northern runway to the west (Allowing it to operate as two separate runways) or a second runway at Gatwick. Sir Howard has also committed to reviewing his decision to rule out an airport in the Thames Estuary, the so-called ‘Boris Island’, later this year – This seems unlikely to make the shortlist.

A Political hot potato

The threat of a third runway at Heathrow is not new – The Blair government were committed to the project, but local residents won out through dedicated and active campaign groups such as NOTRAG and HACAN, with support and assistance from local Labour MP John McDonnell. The people of Hillingdon spoke loudly and were heard – Yet the spectre has come back once again.

So, where do the politicians nationally stand on the issue of expansion?

Conservatives

David Cameron 3David Cameron promised that there would be no new runways during the duration of this parliament, which comes to an end in May next year. Interestingly enough, Sir Howard Davies was reported  as saying this week that he could have delivered a full report on a shorter timetable but had been asked to delay his findings by the coalition government.(Source – Daily Telegraph)

With Chancellor George Osborne known to be a supporter of Heathrow expansion, could this be a ‘fudge’ so that a policy that could harm Tory re-election prospects is kicked in to the long grass? It would also be massively unpopular with at least two Tory MP’s whose constituencies would suffer in Zac Goldsmith and Adam Afriyie, both of whom have been consistent in their opposition to the third runway.

London mayor Boris Johnson has been very vocal in demanding a completely new airport in the Thames Estuary, and attacked both the Davies Commission and the Commons Transport Committee in very strong terms for ruling it out recently, criticism that resulted in Davies using the term ‘vulgar abuse’. Expect more toys to be thrown out of the pram if Boris doesn’t get his own way with his unaffordable and impractical vanity project going forward.

Labour

The original proponents of the third runway, they have officially dropped the idea and are thought to favour new runways at Gatwick or Stansted according to HACAN. (This would make sense, as neither are traditional Labour areas and in theory it would not be too damaging to them nationally at the ballot box)

However, shadow chancellor Ed Balls is known to favour Heathrow expansion and two key union backers in the GMB and Unite have both publicly backed it. Leader Ed Miliband was vehemently against during the final term of the last Labour government, but his stance appears to have softened with a recent statement that he has ‘yet to be convinced’ of the case for Heathrow expansion. Maybe the threat of the withdrawal of Len McCluskey’s wallet may ‘convince’ him in the coming months, although again he will be painfully aware that an unpopular policy could bite at the General Election.

J McDonnell

Local Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell (Above) is a vociferous opponent of Heathrow expansion, which could put him once again on a collision course with party command should the union bosses get their way.

Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg 2Opposed to all airport expansion in their 2010 general election manifesto, leader Nick Clegg recently indicated on his LBC radio phone in show that the position may have changed and he could be in favour of a second runway at Gatwick. Party heavyweight Vince Cable remains firmly opposed to Heathrow expansion, which would directly affect his South London constituency

Clegg backed up his statement by saying that Davies sees more growth in point to point flights rather than long distance ‘hub’ solutions, which puts him at odds with his own coalition partners who have stated on numerous occasions that the lack of a ‘superhub airport’  is damaging to our trade with emerging industrial powerhouses such as India, China and Brazil.

Greens

Totally against all airport expansion (Unsurprisingly) – No ‘plan B’ if it is shown that there is demand for additional flights.

Working together locally to stop the third runway

Shortly after the Interim announcement, local meetings were convened to rally support against the third runway.

UKIP Hillingdon postponed our event and attended a non-aligned meeting with cross organisational support in Harlington on 16th January organised by John McDonnell.

Nearly 100 people turned out on a wind and rain swept evening to hear speeches and swap ideas with John Randall MP, NOTRAG’s Christine Taylor and a very late arriving John McDonnell, who had been caught in traffic and initially relayed information to the meeting via phone through his assistant Helen Lowder (Below – I myself arrived over half an hour late due to a combination of work and a serious accident on the M4)

heathrowvillages-meeting-300x225

Noise, pollution and blight were all subjects that were high in the minds of the local residents at the meeting, with questions surrounding the ability of the existing road and rail infrastructure to cope with more people arriving on flights also aired. Our Heathrow Villages spokesman, Bryan, also pointed out to Mr McDonnell the Ed Balls support for Heathrow which elicited a response of “Leave Ed Balls to me” – I would pay good money to be a fly on the wall when that conversation takes place!

I myself made 2 points to the meeting – Firstly, that many residents in London who are not currently affected by noise from Heathrow will be should the expansion go ahead, and those communities and their MP’s need to be made very aware of it. (It would appear that some of the activists at the event are already working on this)

Secondly, in response to a gentleman talking about the roads disruption and the possible closure of the M25 during construction work causing massive delays and extra pollution – If the third runway goes ahead, then a spur will be run from the proposed HS2 high speed rail line to the airport, most likely running through West Drayton and Iver. This makes the two projects symbiotic – An HS2 link is already listed on the third runway plans, so this project going ahead gives extra weight to the campaign to build this monstrous and unnecessary rail project. Likewise, if HS2 goes ahead then part of the economic case for third runway will be that a high speed rail line exists close to the airport already that is relatively easy to hook up and therefore Heathrow has ‘superior transport links’ over it’s competitors in the airport expansion stakes.

John McDonnell replied that he is for high speed rail (Hardly surprising as he is the RMT union’s parliamentary spokesman) but voted against HS2, and was not aware of any current plans as to where a proposed Heathrow HS2 spur would go. I offered to share with him the draft plans that had been seen by some of the Stop HS2 campaigners – These can be seen on the following link at the bottom of the page

http://www.hs2.org.uk/have-your-say/consultations/phase-two/exceptional-hardship-scheme

It was generally agreed that we all need to work together to stop Heathrow expansion irrespective of our political allegiances, which made the report that came in from the council meeting that night almost surreal

Hillingdon Council backs Heathrow Closure

The local Labour opposition group on the council proposed a motion for a ‘better, not bigger, Heathrow’ – Essentially, to oppose the Third runway whilst working to make sure that jobs are not lost by a gradual rundown of the existing airport.

Ray PuddifootRather than discussing the proposal, which on the face of it seems reasonable, the ruling Conservative Group unanimously voted to close the airport – Council leader Ray Puddifoot’s (Pictured left)’Third Way’ as reported by Jack Griffith in our local Gazette.

After hearing of the council meeting, my UKIP Hillingdon colleague Jack Duffin received the below tweet from Tory Cllr Dominic Gilham after he enquired as to what was going on

Heathrow have said without expansion it will close, so it’s a clear choice What do you support as do nothing is not an option?”

https://twitter.com/DominicGilham/status/423963391984926720

A strange tweet, but also quite revealing – Cllr Gilham is essentially saying that unless you expand Heathrow it has to close, a tactic that the airport has been using to try and bully the third runway through.

This also poses the question – Do the council really want expansion and the closure threat is their way of justifying a potential change of heart should a 3rd runway be Tory policy AFTER the general election and in line with the full report from The Davies Commission? If so, this is a very risky strategy – Heathrow Airport Ltd’s Colin Matthews has already stated live on LBC radio to claims that a third runway would be inadequate and a fourth would need to be built immediately after it’s completion that they will do that if required.

Alternatively, with Cllr Puddifoot already having stated in the press previously that he was comfortable with Heathrow closure, are they jockeying to assist Boris Johnson’s Estuary airport and the Mayor’s vision for a high tec based ‘London Borough of Heathrow’? With David Cameron unlikely to survive as Tory leader should they not win the next general election outright, is this an attempt to curry favour with one of his potential replacements?

Either way, the council and indeed their national party should state what their position is and stop playing politics with people’s lives.

We have already seen the council quite rightly opposing the HS2 rail project whilst their national party is recklessly pushing ahead with it – Our two local Tory MP’s, John Randall and Nick Hurd, voted FOR the paving bill that enables money to be allocated to pay for the railway, a clear case of a muddled message that leaves Hillingdon residents unsure of which way their public representatives will react at any given time to their concerns.

As was stated at the public meeting in Harlington, everyone needs to work together to confront and stop Heathrow expansion – We have offered to print leaflets and publicise the upcoming West Drayton third runway meeting that John McDonnell is organising along with our own event in February, which both he and John Randall have been invited to attend (Which they have declined, in John Randalls’ case due to a prior engagement)

It would also be helpful if the major political parties got off of the fence and stated what their intentions are towards airport expansion in the south east and stop hiding behind a delayed report – To start the ball rolling, below is the UKIP policy on aviation in the South of England

 

UKIP’s alternative to the Third Runway

Airbus A380 in flight
UKIP opposes a third runway at Heathrow – The infrastructure surrounding the airport will not support the additional traffic and the environmental concerns regarding air quality and noise need to be listened to.
The public in the surrounding borough’s have made their voices heard and are against – It is time for the politicians to listen to the people.
Likewise, we are not convinced of the need for a ‘super hub’ airport similar to those in Holland, France and Germany. A comparable city to London is New York, which operates with two hub airports (JFK and Newark), a large domestic flights airport (La Guardia) and smaller business airports such as Teterboro.
We are well placed to operate a similar system in the South of England already, with Heathrow operating as one of the two hub airports with it’s existing runways, whilst a combination of Gatwick, Luton and Stansted can cover short haul ‘point to point’ services in the way LaGuardia covers US domestic flights. The business jet community is also well served by London City, Biggin Hill and Farnborough.
Our solution is to develop the existing airport at Manston in Kent (Kent International) as a second, complimentary hub to assist Heathrow.
Manston has the second largest runway in the UK, and can already accommodate the largest airliners including the Airbus A380 (Pictured above). Indeed, it is a designated divert airfield for both Heathrow and Gatwick in the event of problems and has a high level of available safety equipment – BA already use it as a training facility for their pilots.
No demolition of houses would need to be undertaken as would be the case with Heathrow expansion, plus the pollution and noise aspects would be minimised by flightpaths that come in over the channel. The local council are in favour of the project as it would bring much needed jobs to the area (Whilst leaving Heathrow to operate in West London and preserve those jobs that already exist for the communities in Hillingdon and Hounslow)
Expansion of Manston would be far less expensive than the alternatives – With the runway already in place (Plus wide enough that side by side landings would be possible at a future date with minor modifications if demand increased drastically), the only major infrastructure upgrades required would be a revamp of the terminal buildings and links to existing road and rail infrastructure.
A spur line to the existing HS1 channel tunnel rail line, which operates currently at less than 50% capacity, would enable international travellers to be in the heart of London in 40 minutes and give a much needed boost to a loss making service. It would also open up the possibility of international travellers using Manston as a gateway to the channel ports, re-invigorating communities. Indeed, with the City of London being a main economic driver for our country, it could be argued that an additional airport to the east of London would be a better way to service the city than making people disembark at Heathrow and then have to fight their way through central London to go eastwards from Paddington.
Likewise, links to both the M2 and A2 road network can be achieved relatively quickly  and would enable comparatively easy access to London and the South East.
(It is also worth pointing out that a ‘hub’ airport exists to take passengers from long haul international flights and transfer them to short haul flights for the domestic or European final leg of their journey – To this end, it does not matter where the second hub is placed for this particular part of the airport function, as passengers will only be travelling within the terminals and will not need additional transport infrastructure outside of the confines of the airfield.)
We would also look at the issue of ‘grandfather rights’ at Heathrow – Currently, the runways are operating at 98% capacity but the terminals are operating way below that, in the main caused by airlines with historic slot allocations filling them with empty or almost empty aircraft to deny rivals the ability to land. Making Heathrow more efficient would also have a positive knock on effect for employment in the boroughs surrounding the airport.
Aberdeen Airport jet
You can help to stop the third runway
If you are concerned about the impact of Heathrow expansion, please help spread the word.
There are a number of groups organising against the proposals – I have attached links below if you would like to get in touch, or you can contact us at www.ukiphillingdon.com
HACAN Clearskies                                         http://www.hacan.org.uk/
Office of John McDonnell MP                     http://www.john-mcdonnell.net/
iPetitions                                                          http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-third-runway
Zac Goldsmith MP                                         http://www.zacgoldsmith.com/default.asp?contentID=26
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Planes,Trains and Automobiles

Issues of transport infrastructure have never been far from the headlines nationally in recent months, with the government’s commitment to the controversial HS2 high speed rail project getting a large share of column inches.

Heathrow terminal 5Airport capacity has also been flagged up, with the spectre of the Third Runway at Heathrow raising it’s head again – A political hot potato, the government have set the Davies report in to this issue for after the next general election.

In Hillingdon, we are affected by both, with HS2 looking to carve a swathe of devastation through the north of the borough and a possible third runway decimating the south. Our local UKIP branch have been campaigning on both issues, but also on the state of our roads – Indeed, a resident’s petition in Cowley co-ordinated by the branch has seen the three roads affected re-surfaced recently after years of failed patching of potholes.

We have also been alerted to heavy goods vehicles speeding in both Harmondsworth and West Drayton, with our teams out talking with local residents about how they would like the issues tackled. Upcoming EU regulations increasing the size of lorries allowed on English roads could also make a bad problem far worse.

 

Public Meeting – Saturday 14th September

In response to the many enquiries we have received about transport issues, UKIP Hillingdon have now organised a public meeting entitled ‘Trains, Planes and Automobiles’ for next Saturday (14th September) at 7pm.

The venue is the Yiewsley Baptist Church, Colham Avenue, Yiewsley, UB7 8HF

The speakers include –

John Stewart – Chairman – HACAN Clearskies

JohnStewartJohn is a respected campaigner on noise and pollution issues surrounding airport expansion who has spoken and campaigned across Europe.

HACAN Clearskies, along with campaign group NOTRAG and assisted by local MP John McDonnell, fought and successfully stopped a third runway being built at Heathrow last time it was suggested.

John will be giving the case against Heathrow expansion.

 

Cliff Dixon – Chairman – UKIP Hillingdon

I will be putting forward the radical alternative to the third runway as laid out in the UKIP manifesto – Far less expensive, friendlier to the environment, utilising existing facilities with small upgrades and mainly welcomed by local residents and businesses

 

Special Guest Speaker

Mike Nattrass MEP – UKIP Transport Spokesman

Mike Nattrass MEP 2Two term Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the West Midlands, Mike is not only the UKIP spokesman but sits on the EU committee for transport and tourism.

A former deputy leader of UKIP, Mike will be outlining the issues surrounding both our roads and the HS2 rail link, offering sensible alternatives for the future

 

Admission is free, and there will be a Q&A session after the speeches.

If you have an interest in transport on a local, national and indeed international scale, then we look forward to seeing you there.

HS2 – Taking the fight to Westminster

Last Monday (16th July), the Stop HS2 campaign group took their message to the House of Commons.

Consisting of ordinary people from along the length of the proposed high speed rail line, they have been massively successful in gaining publicity about the lack of a sound case for building this new rail link and have confronted both the HS2 Ltd company that has been put together to organise the construction and the successive governments that have insisted that it must be built.

Whilst they are an independent and non-aligned protest organisation, both myself and UKIP as a party (Both nationally and locally) oppose HS2 and as such I tagged along to show my support for the demonstration on the day.

I met with the Hillingdon protesters at Ruislip Underground station at 10am, from where we travelled by Tube to Westminster to meet up with groups from other areas.I was advised by the demo organiser, Lottie Jones, that the MP’s split for their summer holidays the following day so the protest was organised to keep the issue of HS2 fresh in their minds as they headed off.

Whilst on the Tube, it also became apparent that the Government had announced that morning a £9 billion pound rail network investment programme aimed at upgrading existing lines – Something that the campaigners had been calling for as an alternative to HS2. Indeed, one of the people present commented that the architect of the HS2 project had been on record as stating that electrification of the Midland Main Line should be resisted as it would seriously undermine the case for building HS2!

We arrived at the muster point under the statue of King George V at around 11.30am, where protesters from other areas were starting to assemble and put up their banners. A huge inflatable white elephant was to be the centrepiece of the demonstration, and attracted attention from a number of journalists in the area who came over to talk with the organisers.

Just before 12pm, we also got a boost with the arrival of UKIP leader Nigel Farage to have a chat with those assembled and to show support. Amongst the other familiar faces to arrive with him were UKIP press officer Gawain Towler, GLA mayoral candidate Lawrence Webb and Aylesbury councillor Chris Adams.

Film crews were also starting to take an interest, with Russia Today the first of a number to show up. These were followed by a team from the BBC and finally a very well dressed and affable fellow from Sky with his team.

Most of the UKIP luminaries moved on after around fifteen minutes, although Chris Adams stayed with us to the end. He is currently producing leaflets for his Aylesbury constituency pointing out the absurdity of spending £32 billion of public money on a train line that most ordinary people won’t use or can’t afford and how everyone in the country will be affected by this in increased taxes to pay for it!

He brought a large laminated copy of the leaflet with him for the day,and can be seen displaying it (right) with one of the David Cameron masks that were doing the rounds obscuring his handsome features!

Just before 1pm, a spokesman for the Stop HS2 campaign made a speech from the bottom of the George V statue commenting on the £9 billion upgrade package, and advising all who were there of  what the campaign had achieved so far and what more needed to be done in the coming months. He then asked all present to dial in to the House of Commons switchboard and ask for their MP to come out and speak with them.

I rang through and asked to speak with Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell – The switchboard put me through to his office, where I received a recorded announcement telling me that this is a message line for him and messages can only be left between 10am and 1pm Monday-Friday!

The other campaigners had more success with their MP’s, and we were soon joined by Uxbridge MP John Randall and Ruislip & Northwood MP Nick Hurd.

John Randall (In the green jacket) chatted quite happily with the crowd for around twenty minutes and seemed to be genuinely interested in the issues, whilst Nick Hurd (In the red tie) also promised to look in to certain aspects that the demonstrators were raising with him.

 Another MP who I didn’t recognise also came down and talked with the assembled protesters for around ten minutes before heading back in to the House somewhat dampened from the experience!

Making a Valid point

I spoke with a number of people throughout the day who had travelled in to London to have their voice heard by our government. The message from them all was quite clear – There is no valid business case for HS2, it is a massive waste of money when other options are available at a fraction of the cost to improve our railways, it will destroy large swathes of the countryside and the country in it’s current predicament can’t afford it.

This message was conveyed calmly and firmly to the MP’s who spoke with us on the day, and hopefully has been noticed by transport minister Justine Greening. She has delayed discussion on the compensation packages for those affected until Parliament returns in the Autumn, when stage 2 of the project (Including the Heathrow Spur) will be announced.

Let us hope that the protesters voices are heard and that there is no need for compensation or a stage 2 as reason will out and the whole waste of money will be shelved.

For more details on the Stop HS2 campaign, visit their website at http://ruislip-against-hs2.co.uk/

UKIP Campaigning in Hillingdon – Part One

Regular visitors to English Patriot will have noticed that new posts have been somewhat lacking recently.

This has been due to the ramping up of UKIP campaigning in Hillingdon over the last 5 or 6 weeks in preparation for the London Assembly and mayoral elections this coming Thursday, May 3rd.

Current polling is looking very good, with Survation showing us ahead of the Liberal Democrats and Greens across most of London and likely to get 2 seats on the Assembly via the ‘top up’ list part of the vote (This is the third voting slip you will see on Thursday, where you vote for the party you wish to represent you in London).

Our Mayoral Candidate, Lawrence Webb (Below left), is also showing strongly and is worthy of a look when placing your cross in the ballot booth.

You actually have 2 votes on who becomes mayor – If less than 50% of the vote goes to one candidate on your ‘first choice’ on the ballot paper, then the second choice votes come in to play for the 2 candidates who got the largest share of the first preference votes. Because of this,you can use your first choice vote for the person you really want to represent you, whilst using the second choice as a ‘fall back’ position if you are concerned about a particular candidate getting elected who you know would be a disaster (eg – If you really don’t want Ken, then you can give your first choice to the UKIP candidate but your second choice to the person you think stands the best chance of keeping him out if Lawrence does not get in the top two).

 

UKIP are campaigning with the tagline ‘A Fresh Choice for London’ – Particularly apt when you consider that Labour, Lib-Dem’s, Conservatives and Greens have all put up the same faces for the Mayoralty as they did last time in 2008 (Although the Green’s would probably claim that this is just recycling in action!) Below is a quick overview of what we have been doing in Hillingdon with images from the various parts of the borough where we have been out and about.

 

Uxbridge – March 17th

Our first street stall of the campaign saw activists from across West London joining in to distribute nearly a thousand leaflets to shoppers outside the Pavilions Centre. Signatures were obtained for the ‘Save Lake Farm’ petition, and several people asked for further information on membership.

 

Ruislip Manor – March 24th

Hillingdon Branch were joined by members of ‘Young Independence’ and neighbouring Ealing as the stall pitched up outside the Underground station

 

 

Again, a large amount of leaflets were distributed with the main topics of conversation this time being the HS2 rail link. UKIP is opposed to the scheme at both a national and local level, whereas the old establishment parties are complaining locally but pushing ahead at a national level. Indeed, current Mayor Boris Johnson has ‘No to HS2’ on his election leaflets,but will not back Hillingdon Council’s legal challenge to the government over the controversial rail link.

 

Yiewsley & West Drayton – March 31st

 

We were joined by ‘Wilma the UKIP dog’ for our foray in to the Southern half of the Borough. Again, we found considerable support for our stand against destruction of the Green Belt and putting the residents of Hillingdon first in allocation of jobs and housing. Former councillor Geoff Courtenay provided some additional side boards to highlight these local issues as part of the London wide campaign.

More than 700 leaflets were given out in a 4 hour session and extensive canvassing of local small businesses accompanied the stall.

 

Hayes Town – 7th April

 

A great turnout from the branch saw us hit the streets in Hayes Town. Leafletters and canvassers were positioned both sides of the street with two on the stall, whilst others canvassed the small businesses up and down the High Street.

The Conservatives turned up shortly after us with their GLA candidate and current Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes for a few hours of canvassing, their team is shown in the picture above and includes Conservative Future rising star Peter Smallwood. Some friendly banter was indulged in and Peter tried to explain why Boris is a good bet as a second preference mayoral vote to some of those who visited our stall,including local cabbie Brian who indulged in a spirited debate with the young man!

More signatures were garnered for the ‘Save Lake Farm’ petition and nearly a thousand leaflets handed out, including some of the new  Helen Knight candidate leaflets and A5 flyers advertising Nigel Farage’s upcoming visit to Ickenham to talk about the HS2 rail link

 

To Be Continued………

 

 

 

 

 

 

The revival of a monster?

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.

 

Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed

NB – The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the members or officers of The UK Independence Party (UKIP)

 

26th December 2011 sees another strike from a Public Sector Union over pay and conditions, this time the members of ASLEF (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) going on a one day strike to press home their claims for triple pay and an extra day off for working on Boxing Day on the London Underground System.

 

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan called for a ballot on strike action to pursue this issue with his members, and got just over 50% backing industrial action on a 42% turnout.

TFL (Transport for London) asked for a judicial ruling to stop the strike, but the courts declared it legal and as such the London Underground is operating today on a very limited service – This has impacted on the first day of the sales, a vital lifeline for our hard-pressed retailers in these straightened times, and has also caused the postponement of the Arsenal vs Wolves football match on what has traditionally been a full day of sport going back over many years.

 

Part of the Christmas tradition for as long as I can remember has been the working man enjoying a day at his chosen sports venue on Boxing Day, taking advantage of the Bank Holiday – Not this year, as Mick’s minions make demands for conditions that most of us can only dream of. One of my cherished memories of Boxing Day was taking my elderly father to see the last ever Hayes vs Yeading local derby match at Church Road, something that Mr Whelan’s union are probably denying to fathers and sons throughout London today.

 

On a Different Planet

 

So let us look at the reality of the situation that Mr Whelan (left) is arguing.

 

His union represent around 50% of the Tube Driver’s on the London Underground. This means that less than one in six tube drivers actually voted to go on strike today.

 

More to the point, as was eloquently pointed out to Mr Whelan by Nick Ferrari on his Friday morning LBC Radio show, his members already enjoy wages in excess of £40k per year on a working week of well under 40 hours, and get 8 weeks holiday per year (I consider myself well looked after by the company I work for and earn half this amount with half the holiday entitlement).

 

Mr Whelan’s argument revolves around his member’s ‘right to quality time with their families’, something that we all enjoy and I would venture builds the family bonds that benefit us all as a community.  However, surely those family bonds could be built during the 8 weeks holiday his members already receive? Surely, if they are that worried about family life then they would just book holiday or ‘go sick’ on Boxing Day rather than putting in these outrageous pay demands – Demands that would have to be paid from the taxes of the working man in the private sector who earns far less and has far fewer holidays than the tube drivers?

 

There is also the argument that tube drivers know that part of the job involves working on certain public holidays every year when they take up their position, so why the big song and dance about it now? To put this in to perspective, let’s look at other public sector workers who have to work over the Christmas holiday period and their standard conditions –

 

Police Constable – £23,259 per year rising to £36,519 per year after 10 years service

Police Sergeant – £36,519 rising to £41,040 per year based on length of service and performance

Police Inspector – £48,840 per year (Capital only, based on London Weighting payment)

Figures from  www.police-information.co.uk – Please note that the Police are also not allowed to strike based on their contractual terms.

 

Firefighter – £21,157 per year rising to £28,199 per year when fully trained

Watch manager,Fire Brigade – £31,940 to £34,961 per year

Station Manager, Fire Brigade – £36,365 to £40,109 per year.

Source – www.prospects.ac.uk, a graduate careers website

 

NHS Nurse (Band 5) – £21k to £27,625 per year

NHS Nurse Specialist (Band 6) – £25.528 to £34,189 per year

Ambulance Services Driver (Band 3) – £15,680 to £18,827 PA

Senior Paramedic (Band 6) – £25,528 to £34,189 per year

Source – NHS Careers.

 

Now think to yourself what these public sector workers have to do for a living and how their decisions affect lives, and what the tube drivers do for a living?

Whilst it is a vital job in the public interest, a bus driver has to be far more alert and aware of his surroundings on an open road than a tube driver but still has the same duty of care to his passengers. The bus driver also has to do more than push a lever backwards and forwards to increase and decrease speed and tap a brake to stop. He also has no safety cut outs should he run a red light, and no ‘dead man’s handle’ if he passes out at the controls.  Now look at the bus driver’s pay and conditions and those of the tube drivers.

 

Time to get in to the real world

 

Mr Whelan posted on the ASLEF website on 20th December that the 5.9% fare increases coming in to effect on our railways next year are unacceptable, under the headline ‘Rail for the Rich’. I would ask him if, in this context, pushing for yet more money for already very well paid train drivers is not contributing to the problem? 

Does he also not see that actions such as these diminish the chances of further investment in the railway network, damaging the long term prospects of his members when a co-ordinated transport plan including rail could be put forward as an answer to the congestion problems we are seeing at the moment? 

Whilst I don’t agree with the HS2 project, there are other options involving rail that could be put in to action on a limited budget that would bring him many more members on a sensible pay rate boosting both his union coffers and the economy.

 

Public sector unions and their disconnection from reality

 

This latest tube strike is just another in a long line, although the last few have been triggered by Mr Whelan’s counterpart at the other rail union, The RMT, Bob Crow (Left)

 

Mr Whelan is a member of the Labour Party (As confirmed on the ASLEF website), whilst Mr Crow has links to several ‘far left’ organisations.

 

In one way, you could say that they are doing a great job for their members as official figures show that public sector workers now earn on average 7.5 per cent more than their equivalents in the private sector, and their pension provision is stratospheric compared to those in the open market. However, as I pointed out to our local Labour MP John McDonnell on his website (A comment to one of his posts supporting public sector strikes that he dared not publish), the actions of Union leaders such as Mr Crow may give a short term boost to the pay packets of his members but the knock on effect of increased transport costs and increased taxation to pay for them will lead to more private sector workers losing their jobs, affecting the government’s ability to pay these wages.

 

Mr McDonnell makes great copy with his tirades against the greed of the corporate bankers and the efforts of the Government to set public sector against private sector workers. What he fails to grasp is that by supporting the likes of Mr Crow in their industrial actions (A man, incidentally, who earns over £100k per year from union donations and lives in a council house that most of his members would not be entitled to) he is fuelling this division in our society and playing in to the hands of the people he claims to oppose. Whilst the salaries and bonuses of the big bankers are obscene and cannot be justified, their companies employ a large part of our private sector economy that funds via taxation the public sector workers who are making these claims for pay increases and protected pensions.

 

I did not hear the union bosses or Mr McDonnell (right) screaming blue murder when those of us in the private sector had our pension plans destroyed by yet another of then Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown’s tax grabs

 

I could be uncharitable and suggest that this may have been down to the Union Bosses giving themselves huge pay rises and increasing their Labour Party donations during the 13 years of the ‘New Labour’ government, but maybe I am being cynical.

 

What I do know is that they need to look at the situation that our country finds itself in seriously and start accepting that the days of generous pay increases and bloated pensions are over if they truly believe that we need to maintain services without cuts.

Labour increased the public sector workforce by half a million people in the good times without any noticeable improvement in the services provided whilst the private sector workforce saw their wages and job security impacted by the effects of mass immigration in the market place.

 

Union placemen found themselves well paid jobs within government departments (A Daily Telegraph investigation by Robert Watts earlier this month found 250 such union officials at Whitehall costing the taxpayer at least £5 million per year) whilst their leaders screamed about excesses in the private sector.

 

A healthy society needs good public sector services with well trained staff dedicated to looking after the general public. They should be highly valued and well remunerated for their efforts, but should never forget that they are there to serve and are not immune to the ups and downs that affect those who pay their wages in the form of taxes.

 

The attitude of the likes of Bob Crow and Mick Whelan in constantly pushing for industrial action over petty differences does our society no good and harms the community spirit needed to get through the hard times we find ourselves in.

One of my favourite songs of the last 5 years is ‘Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed’ by the English folk group Show of Hands – It was written about the banking crisis and those at the top of the chain who caused so much damage to our economy and society. I pray that in 2012 another group does not feel the need to write a similar tune about the excesses of the TUC affiliated trade unions and their funded puppets within the Labour Party.

 

What do you think? Are the Trade Unions going too far and pitching public and private sector against each other? Do you think the tube drivers are being unreasonable, or their strike action is the right thing to do? Do you feel that the public sector strikes are justified or that they need to take a long hard look at themselves and count their blessings? Let us know your opinions!