Government urged to allow airport expansion

Runways at Heathrow Airport The letter says London must improve its links with emerging economies like China

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Seventy business leaders, MPs and trade unionists have called on the government to support airport expansion, including at Heathrow.

In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, they say: "With the economic recovery so fragile, we cannot afford to cut our country off from growth and jobs."

The government has ruled out a third runway at Heathrow, but says it is exploring all other options.

A review of airport capacity is due to report later this month.

The letter to the newspaper includes the signatures of Len McCluskey, the general secretary of the Unite trade union, and Simon Walker, the director general of the Institute of Directors.

It claims Heathrow airport is falling behind Paris and Frankfurt, which, it says, offer 1,000 more flights a year to the three largest cities in China.

Emerging markets

"There are 21 emerging market destinations with daily flights from other European hubs that are not served from Heathrow," the letter points out.

Start Quote

As the chancellor made clear in his autumn statement, we will explore all the options for maintaining the UK's aviation hub status with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow”

End Quote Department of Transport

The letter does not explicitly refer to a third runway at Heathrow, in west London, but suggests expansion is essential.

"There is a huge opportunity for the UK to lead in connectivity to growth markets, but we need a hub solution that has the capacity to compete if we are to seize it," the letter says.

"Growth won't wait - while there are more ambitious long-term projects for aviation that can be examined, in the near term Heathrow must continue to be part of the solution if the UK is not to miss out on vital trading opportunities.

"With economic recovery so fragile we cannot afford to cut our country off from growth and jobs."

In its coalition agreement, the government said it would cancel plans for a third runway at Heathrow and refuse permission for additional runways at Gatwick, in Sussex, and Stansted, in Essex.

The decision followed widespread opposition from councils, residents and green groups. The Conservatives and Lib Dems had both opposed the plan in opposition, preferring improved rail links instead.

Thames estuary

A spokeswoman at the Department of Transport told the BBC: "As the chancellor made clear in his autumn statement, we will explore all the options for maintaining the UK's aviation hub status with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow."

Transport Secretary Justine Greening is expected to announce a new airport capacity review later this month, including the possibility of a new airport on reclaimed land in the Thames estuary.

In January a group of more than 30 Conservative MPs called on the coalition to rethink the decision to rule out a third runway at Heathrow.

But in October Ms Greening said she would not reconsider a third runway at Heathrow, and Labour has also said it is "off the agenda".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Completion of a third runway at Heathrow as soon as possible is essential and a no-brainer. All the other alternatives such as an Estuary hub will take too long to develop, but may be a solution in the longer term. The problem is that the UK needs a competitive hub right now and a third runway at Heathrow is the only viable interim solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    When will theis governemnt put the economy before short term political advantage? THere are grandiose schemes for the future bu the economy needs more runways now. LHR and LGW have existing infrastructure and transport links. RUnway 3 at LHR should be built ASAP and runway 2 at LGW when agreements permit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    And when oil reserves are completely depleted what could we possibly do with these giant witnesses to a bygone era? re-instate the towns and villages destroyed to create them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Business leaders ... Crikey they want it all, tax cuts and the rest! Must people really pay over £2 for a jar of pasta sauce that probably costs less than 10p to make. BTW, business tax cuts will not create more jobs, all it will do is create more profit for greedy businesses and their shareholders; it will not be passed on to consumers. It's time to rope in the perpetrators of corporate greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    I'd like to point out to many here that London subsidizes the rest of the UK very heavily, it's our most important city and provides a huge amount of money so naturally it gets a lot of investment.

    Still we need more investment in the areas north of London to try to spread wealth and businesses outwards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Building an airport in the Thames estuary would be an act of environmental vandalism. This internationally protected area is home to thousands of birds & welcomes hundreds of  thousands more migratory species every year, with aviation industry experts estimating that the likelihood of bird strike with aircraft is 12 times more likely within the
    estuary compared with any other major UK airport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Can this be the same Len McCluskey who wants strikes during the Olympics?

    London gets far more than its fair share of investment in order to maintain its privileged position and ensure the rest of the UK is
    kept in its place.

    It is no wonder the Scots want independence the pity is the rest of England is saddled with this bloated and greedy City.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Hope we can rebuild that invaders wall a few miles further south. Who knows how far south but I'll bet there's a lot who would like to come join you.
    British (London) Airways deserted Manchester too. They always said they didn't want to compete with their LHR hub. Those lost passengers now travel via Amsterdam & Frankfurt etc for long-haul connections. Lost revenue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Are planes still be flown empty, just to keep the air slot?
    If they are then expansion can't be needed. Other flights could take those slots and all planes should be full before taking off. It might be inconvenient for some to fly at a different time, but environmentally it would be better.
    Business might want but they aren't very accommodating, so why should people who are most affected?

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    I agree we need airport expansion in the UK, but not at Heathrow. Heathrow already struggles to deliver a good service if we have bad weather due to being too busy. If we proceed with HS2 why don't we try to increase capacity at Birmingham and Manchester airports. Increase jobs and business in these areas and utilise the HS2 project to have a joined up infrastructure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    The UK contributes a trivially tiny percentage of global human CO2 output yet we punish ourselves, destroy our growth and make the next generation poorer through green taxes and restricted infrastructure development and it doesn't even reduce CO2 output, the businesses just go to another country to do business and and they get rich while we suffer for nothing while CO2 output barely changes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Expand the existing Farnborough airport and add a high speed rail link to Heathrow and London. Build short new motorway links from the M3 to the M40 and M25. This would relieve London congestion and provide an airport accessible from the south, west and midlands. Options involving crossing London are a nightmare scenario for the rest of the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Tax jet fuel at the same rate as road transport and you will see a dramatic drop in flight numbers and people transferring to trains why should road users pay 85 pence tax per litre and airlines 11 pence tax per liter just so the wealthy tourists can shoot of to the alps or southern Spain .Utilize the infrastructure we already have most airports are running at less than 50% capacity

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    More pollution and overcrowding for the South East, that will be very good for business. We avoid using Heathrow and London ( Ex British) Airways as it is.
    At least in 2 years we can vote to be independant of South East rule, I just feel sorry for the rest of the English that will be remain under South East domination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    If we're going to spend more money to keep the economy afloat, let's spend it on something useful like the NHS, not something unsustainable, polluting, and environmentally catastrophic that makes millions of London residents' lives a misery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Only if it is Boris' plan. No more capacity for Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, or Stanstead. Boris' airport in the Thames Estuary is perfect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Again some people are making the mistake that they think we are living in a nation.

    We are not.

    The entity is closer to a city state with a hinterland that serves it when it wants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Over 30% of heathrows flights are transit so little economical benefit. Route them via the south of england. It's stupid that people in the south have to travel to heathrow to go away so expand flights in the south. Even build HS railway from the south to London, we can then expand tourism. We don't need extra capicity, we just need to use what we have intelligently.

  • Comment number 123.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Why not expand at Farnborough Airport? It's close to Heathrow, has a direct link to 1) Mainline stations direct to Waterloo, Basingstoke, Gatwick and Reading! 2) M3/M25 transfer to Heathrow connections, and most importantly, wont need much investment as its already operating as a commercial airport. I think we have a winner! (and I was born and still live here in Farnborough!)


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