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BAA break-up

Robert Peston | 04:00 UK time, Saturday, 16 August 2008

The charge sheet against BAA is a long one.

Heathrow Terminal 5Passengers moan about overcrowding and delays in its terminals.

Airlines complain that the charges levied by the owner of the UK's largest airports are excessive.

For the Competition Commission part of the solution would be for there to be proper competition between airports.

Which is why next week the competiton watchdog will recommend that BAA's near-monopoly of airports in the South East and in lowland Scotland should be smashed.

BAA would keep Heathrow but probably be forced to sell either or both of London's Gatwick and Stansted airports and also Edinburgh or Glasgow airport.

Sir Nigel Rudd, BAA's chairman, discloses in an interview with me (to be broadcast on BBC News tonight as part of my Leading Questions series of interviews with business leaders) that he fully expects such a recommendation from the Commission.

And he says that dismantling BAA in this way would not be a financial disaster for its owners, led by Ferrovial of Spain.

The owners have already had what he describes as "huge expressions of interest" from potential buyers of Gatwick and Stansted, he says.

And he insists that the painful recession afflicting airlines right now hasn't depressed in a serious way what Ferrovial and its partners would receive from a sale.

But just because the Heathrow proprietors could cope with the disposal of these airports would not make their disposal a good thing: Rudd believes that breaking up Heathrow would be pointless.


Because airlines are still queuing around the block to obtain slots at Heathrow, he says.

And he's doubtful that even the very best management and marketing in the world would ever turn Gatwick or Stansted into serious competition for the UK's great transport hub.

That however is an unprovable proposition: Heathrow has never faced a serious commercial challenge to its extraordinary market position, though it's probably about to do so.

Many will dismiss Rudd argument as what a monopolist would say.

As for the future of Heathrow itself, Sir Nigel Rudd is hopeful that by 2020 it will have the third runway it so badly wants.

This lifelong Tory is disappointed that David Cameron has expressed strong reservations about the necessity of a new runway. But Sir Nigel is confident that once elected to office, Mr Cameron would suddenly see the desirability of expanding Heathrow.

As for the suggestion by London's Mayor Boris Johnson that Heathrow could be relocated to a less residential area in the Thames Estuary, Rudd says that's simply not feasible.


  • Comment number 1.

    I worked at a BAA run airport and found their philosophy to be basically a money-grabbing get-rich quick attitude.


    Maximising the amount of shopping opportunities by extending floor space and bringing in passengers very early to allow them to spend, spend, spend.

    Introducing an escalator of sharply rising fines for plane servicers for any trivial reason.

    The origanisational fiasco at Heathrow's fifth terminal.

    The attempted land grab at Ingleston.

    Competition will expose their short-comings

  • Comment number 2.

    The thing that would most improve Gatwick is fewer customers - hopefully this is now happening with the recession.

    We live in Jersey and Gatwick tends to be our main airport into the UK and using it is generally an unpleasant experience. Hopefully a company will buy it and invest some money in the existing facilities. I gather Ferrovial have little leeway for spending as they borrowed so much to buy BAA

  • Comment number 3.

    If the Competition Commission does not break up BAA the public should break up the Competition Commission.

    The months and years of delay in making the obvious decision to break up this monopoly is real a crime.

    Anybody that thinks, for example, three major London airports run by the same company is not bad for the public needs to be working for BAA not the Competition Commission.

    Any token action to pull a few airports out of BAA will only help BAA finances not the public i.e. just selling off Gatwick.

    All three London airports are major businesses Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead and given the freedom and the necessity to compete will result in lower costs for airlines (AKA the general public) and better services.

    If the Competition Commission does not take the action of forcing ALL major airports to compete as standalone businesses then we the public need to take action against the Competition Commission.

  • Comment number 4.

    It's about time the Competition Commission had some competition as well.

    This should've been done years ago.

    Most of the BAA airports are generally hellholes and a national disgrace. Terminal 5 needs to have the shops scaled backed and seats put in. It has TV screens the size of a house showing adverts but the departure screens (the ones you're interested in) aren't much bigger than the average telly. Queues at airports for security are shocking - it's not that people arrive unexpectedly.

    Sadly privatised companies are only interested in the profit they can extract and customer service is an unwelcome cost. Splitting BAA will do little to help the beleagured traveller as the next company will be only interested in securing the airlines fees.

  • Comment number 5.

    Paragraph 11

    "Rudd believes that breaking up Heathrow would be pointless"

    Do you mean Heathrow? Aren't what you're talking about the monopolies that BAA has in SE England and Central Scotland?

    Surely the punch point of your article is that although Rudd foresees the break-up being ordered, and although he suggests it wouldn't be a bad thing for BAA, his main assertion is that because Heathrow is unchallengeable by competition, placing Gatwick and Stansted in non-BAA ownership would be pointless.

    Maybe he's right. Perhaps the capacities of the three SE airports are such that Heathrow must continue to service most of the traffic no matter how well, or badly, it is administered.

    In which case, if there is no real stimulus to be gained from introducing competition at Gatwick/Stansted, the answer must be fully-toothed regulation, because it is only by such coercion that monopolies will not operate in ways that are focused on their own self-interest.

    We don't live in an honour-box society. There is no acceptance of reciprocity as a human value. This is the nature of what has evolved, so let's do what we need to do to protect ourselves from its worst excesses, not go through life pretending that it's not happening.

  • Comment number 6.

    It's rarely pointless to break up large, monopolistic firms. The system needs public intervention to break the largest firms down to create entrepreneurial chances down below. The alternative is an undesirable form of capitalistic hegemony – we don’t want that in Britain.

    But this firm particularly requires public intervention. I want to see them punished for turning their airports into shopping malls, for having uncomfortable and insufficient seating, for the poor throughput of passenger terminals, and for overcharging. In particular, I want to see them punished for trying to force you to pay at Stanstead for just picking people up at the lay-by. To avoid paying, now I have to go to the departure lay-by to pick up people who are arriving, believe it or not.

  • Comment number 7.

    Bundle Gatwick and Glasgow and sell that bundle to either the bunch that runs Changi or the ones that run Dubai !! After all, they have the reputation of running the best airports in the world.

    Then break up this nonsense of landing slots and allow fair competition between the airports. Heathrow is in its current position because of the unfair emphasis placed on its landing slots. Let Gatwick have more and better landing slots and the changes will be enormous !!

    BTW if the BAA bosses did what they did at T5 in China, they will be taken out and publicly executed in front of the enraged passengers to atone for their sins !! A fate they so richly deserve !!

  • Comment number 8.

    Oh, I forgot one thing. There are no (or very few) drinking fountains at their airports. And they stop you taking your own water... so we are supposed to buy mineral water, which as dear as petrol!

    Talk about gouging - please, Competition Commission, give these guys a good haircut!

  • Comment number 9.

    First and foremost, why has it taken 20 years to realise that BAA has a monopoly? It was only after BAA fell on foreign hands in 2006 that the regulators got jumpy. The reason is the 'market fundamentalism' consensus, with the prevailing wisdom in political circles being (e.g. railways): "If it is in private hands, then it is a market, and markets, like nanny, always know best"

    The whole model of putting airports of national strategic interest in private ownership is fundamentally flawed. Even if BAA only owned Heathrow, which other airport was going to compete with it? Gatwick? You cannot be serious ! Both LHR and LGW are operating either beyond capacity (LHR) or to full capacity (LGW). And each of them has a virtual monopoly over a different market segment in the vast territory to the south of Manchester airport: LHR has a virtual monopoly over scheduled long haul business travel and LGW a joint monopoly over scheduled long haul leisure travel with Heathrow. To these monopolies, we have to add the 'de facto' monopoly of serving their respective catchment areas.

    This means that there would only be any chance of these airports competing with each other if Gatwick doubled in size, something which is not on the cards. So in that respect the BAA chairman is right. Heathrow doesn’t have any competitor. It is a monopoly on its own right. The only way to strike a balance between markets and common sense would be to follow the American model, where different private operators manage different terminals in a given airport.

    The other Tory, Cameron, is also showing more common sense than the government on the issue of Heathrow expansion. Heathrow is saturated for one reason only: CENTRALISM. I live in the Midlands and because LHR and LGW have a virtual monopoly over scheduled long haul travel in the area to the south of Manchester airport, more often than not I have to travel to LHR or LGW when Birmingham is just round the corner (incidentally they are not owned by BAA and now charge you just to drop people off). The same applies to most of the rest of the country, which is why these two airports have so much transfer traffic. The solution is not building more runways in Heathrow but to DECENTRALISE air traffic, something that the market cannot do.

    Sadly, as we are stuck with the ‘market fundamentalism’ consensus we will have more shopping malls, more queues, more extortionate prices and more rubbish service.

  • Comment number 10.

    It is unfortunate that Heathrow was built in the wrong place. It now finds itself in a heavily populated area and planes have to fly over Central London.

    A third runway would not ease this problem and I cannot see how the capacity problems of the terminals is going to be improved by having an additional runway.

    Currently it is not in BAA's interest to make improvements at other London airports that will attract more custom away from Heathrow and you can see why the BAA company chairman doesn't want anyone else to.

  • Comment number 11.

    I don't see why Heathrow should be regarded as such a jewel, it's a truly dismal airport to use. If they designed a place to cause as much hassle as possible to travellers they couldn't do much better than Heathrow.

    I use Gatwick wherever possible. It still suffers the same malaise of appearing to be a shopping centre where a few planes happen to take off and land but at least it's usually possible to find a seat somewhere that doesn't involve having dozens of strangers squeezing past every minute.

    Truth be told anything that increases competition between airports and forces them to raise their game can only be a good thing. I may have three hours to pass before my flight but that doesn't mean I want to be herded through shops, especially when I can't take my purchases with me anyway because my bags are full.

  • Comment number 12.

    I kind of agree with Sir Nigel Rudd. Gatwick and Stanstead aren't really any competition for Heathrow.

    With the recent open skies agreement particularly, many big airlines jumped at the ability to move much of their operations to Heathrow despite its poor reputation.

    Breaking up BAA could have some positive results but really the government needs to decide now what to do so that Heathrow as a avaition hub remains competitive. Investing in a high speed rail network would free up Heathrow mostly from the hundreds of domestic flights everyweek but requires huge sums of tax payers money.

    Or they need to bite the bullet and decide now whether to build the thirdrunway.

  • Comment number 13.

    I too am disappointed by the quality of airports, but it is a captive market for most of us and even if heathrow and gatwick were equidistant I would probably need to go to heathrow for the flight anyway.

    If you dont like the shopping don't use it. The customer always has a choice. Even the 'duty free' price now is undercut by duty paid via internet.

  • Comment number 14.

    Comment 5 is definitely correct in that we don't - or at least shouldn't - lie in an honour box society.

    We all know that people are all essentially greedy, opportunistic and sometimes even cruek when they know there's little chance of getting punished. Honour-box means no punishment therefore greed, opportunism and cruelty will abound.

    Regulation is key. There are some that will say BAA (and other companies in other industries) will desert the country if we regulate. I say, good riddance, and there's plenty of other companies willing to step in and provide a fair service. Some of them even have ethics.

    If noone volunteers, I'll be willing to give it a go :-) (It's got to earn better than admin work)

  • Comment number 15.

    Comment 14 : ProLiberty

    Thanks for the support.

    I'm not sure that I agree with this statement of yours:

    "We all know that people are all essentially greedy, opportunistic and sometimes even cruel when they know there's little chance of getting punished."

    My take on this is although this is a basic human characteristic, what will happen in an enlightened society is that children will be taught to understand that they, as individuals, will be far better off if they develop a higher level of interaction, based on reciprocity. An interaction in which an individual's focus is on his own commitment to equity in every dealing he has, in the confidence that the other party to the dealing will be acting similarly.

    Of course society can never totally establish itself in this way, but what it can do is to create an ambience in which acts of raw selfishness are recognised by everyone, including the perpetrators, as being socially reprehensible. Where the orthodoxy is NOT to act in this way.

    Mass behaviour is determined by mass expectation. If we do nothing to discourage the retention into adulthood of childrens' base attitudes we will have a society that behaves like children. And this, in my view, is what is happening. It's worrying.

  • Comment number 16.

    Comment 15

    Yea but you are too late ! Since Thatcher and the clones of her that followed ( right until the present day) the mantra that greed is good has been the cornerstone of day to day living . So we now have second possibly third generation Thatchers children all around us . Their lack of concern for anything but what they want and want to do is the basic reason for the miserable society we how live in . Gone are those who care because as there is 'no such thing as society ' thanks to the blessed Margaret the word compassion has been removed from the dictionary.

  • Comment number 17.

    To me Heathrow is like one of the outer circles of hell. I avoid it like the plague

    I thought the whole point in privatising BAA in the first place was to improve performance. It clearly hasn't so why do we continue with all this market dogma?

    Supposed free markets have delivered the current economic crisis so do we want yet more crises?

    What we need is to redress the imbalance between the economy in the south of England and the economy in the north of England. A way of doing this would be to develop a larger international airport in the north. It can be connected to London or Edinburgh or both by a high speed train. Might I suggest some tax and investment incentives in the right place might elicit some response?

    Might I also tentatively suggest some national economic plan? A bit Wilsonian I'm afraid but the alternative isn't working either. I can recall arguing before Stanstead was built that we needed a larger airport in the north. It was suggested that Glasgow was the alternative but it never happened.

    The current mess is because nobody will make a decision about anything other than one that lines their own pockets.

  • Comment number 18.

    This is like a footballer's come and buy me statement.
    Ferrovial, unless they have drawn up a clever agreement allowing compensation for calamities or problems like T5 or a superb insurance programme, might effectively be issuing a come and buy part of me plea to the market rather than the regulator. And if that happens watch the share price climb.

  • Comment number 19.

    What Mr Rudd doesn't explain is that it's the American airlines that are rushing to get into Heathrow to take advantage of their alliance partners since Open Skies was announced. Delta and Northest connecting to Alitalia, Air France, KLM - United, Continental and US Airways connecting to Lufthansa and Swiss - AA connecting to BA, Iberia, Finnair and Aer Lingus. Formerly, Delta, Northwest and Continental were restricted to Gatwick only. This has meant a HUGE shift in transatlantic passenger traffic from Gatwick to Heathrow. This increase in passenger numbers only bolsters Mr Rudds case for the 3rd runway at Heathrow.

    However, with Gatwick and Heathrow in competition it may be possible to encourage one of the alliance partners (either Skyteam or Star Alliance) to Gatwick with decent landing slots and cheaper landing fees while maintaining those critical partner connections to/from Europe. Without competition the BAA has no incentive to encourage a wholesale move of an Alliance from Heathrow to Gatwick and therefore depress pricing at Heathrow.

    That aside, Gatwick is a far superior airport but it is slipping as the BAA focuses effort on its crown jewel - Heathrow. The government should not be considering a air transport policy until the BAA is broken up and true competition reveals where the demand for new infrastructure is.

  • Comment number 20.

    Just been through T5 at heathrow - ok so nothing was lost but I was appalled to see graffiti in the toilets and toilet door locks broken already.

    Some people should get out to Asia to see how to run an airport and more one.

  • Comment number 21.

    Why didnt anyone come to this view prior to the sell out / takeover and save the problems now ?

    Whatever the eventual outcome Airports will forever forget their real purpose and be simple shopping malls and cash cows.

    We would not need bigger terminals if the Airport was designed to serve its proper function but no one in Government has the real guts to resolve the problem.

    Heathrow Avoider at all costs.

  • Comment number 22.

    Well, its about time really. The effective monopoly has gone on for too long. Finally the airline operators will have the oppourtunity to tendor for their business and this can only be good news for the consumer.

  • Comment number 23.

    BAA and BA have steadily colluded to siphon off profitable routes from Gatwick to Heathrow to bolster their arguments for a 3rd runway over the last decade. This is certainly not to the benefit of business or private travellers who must endure the most appalling road access, expensive rail links or distant hire car service of any major european hub! LHR is simply too overdeveloped for the space available, and a 6th terminal or 3rd runway will simply add to the misery of anyone unlucky enough to be forced to use it. We prefer to travel 200km to Cologne to fly into LGW than to use LHR from Frankfurt city!

  • Comment number 24.

    Surely there should be more than one Competition Commission. Stands to reason, doesn't it?

  • Comment number 25.

    Rudd and the BAA board have clearly been expecting this for some time, hence the appointment of Colin Mathews, his entire career history is breaking up and outsourcing for overly large corporations...

    I'm not sure where the news in this article is or surprise that BAA will have to De-merge some of its assets has come from?

  • Comment number 26.

    A harsh result today for BAA. At least it will allow Ferrovial to make a profit - I am sure their directors and bankers are cock-a-hoop.

    However, if we think Ferrovial are bad owners, remember some of the alternatives

  • Comment number 27.

    Surely this is just more of the same.

    The City needs to make deals so that it can make a bit on the side so that it keeps going.
    No deals no City.

    If everything was running smoothly then the regulators or government would step in to break things up. Think Ma Bell in the US and utilities in the UK.

    If things aren't going so well then the regulators step in.

    Result - some executives will get paid big bonuses and of course more work for the City.

  • Comment number 28.

    To #8,

    I completely agree!

    I can remember there being water fountains in airports, where have they gone?

    Is this yet another cynical attempt to screw more money out of passengers?, the answer is probably yes.

    It just makes the whole experience that little bit more miserable.

    Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the law could inquire further but is there not a requirement for the provision of mains supplied drinking water at such venues. I believe there are requirements for toilet facilities.

    So should anyone reading this actually work for BAA or any prospective airport owner , GIVE US OUR DRINKING WATER BACK!!!

    Irrespective of that little moan the current owners will no doubt make plenty of money and the rest of us will just need to put up with whatever fudge is arrived at. The consumer will be at the bottom of the pile as usual.

  • Comment number 29.

    It's the failure of imagination and closed-box thinking about UK air travel that most irritates me. This seems to be the fault of BAA and Government in roughly equal measure.

    We need to question the assumption that all the individual journeys that make up air travel demand need to or will continue to continue and / or increase into the distant future. I for one am so put off by the hassle of getting to Heathrow and the chaos there that I am cutting down my flying via London.

    There are also a large number of flights from Heathrow that simply don't need to be based there. Few people know that less than half Heathrow slots are long-haul flights.

    We need a hard-nosed analysis of the real importance of transit and transfer passengers and the cost / benefit of putting some of these onto other forms of transport. Eliminate or move many of the 11% of Heathrow slots used by domestic flights (especially those less than 200-250 miles) and expedite the extension of the rail link to St Pancras and Kings Cross via Crossrail, as is planned. The airport would then be nothing like as full as BAA claim.

    More controversially, there is also a large and under-used airport near Heathrow (less than 6 miles away). It's called RAF Northolt, and as well as RAF traffic it handles lots of private business jet flights. I suspect that a modest increase in the number of movements there, coupled with moving RAF activities which don't have to be there such as the Air Training Corps, could also take pressure off Heathrow, and with modern air traffic control could be managed. A rail link to Heathrow would be relatively inexpensive and very fast; I suspect it might not take much more time than transfers between terminals at Heathrow. Passengers could even check-in at Heathrow and be shuttled by rail to their planes.

    Of course the people living nearby would scream, but it might be preferrable to building a new runway at Heathrow...

  • Comment number 30.

    Re: Comment 15 ExcellenceFirst and comment 16 jabber_jabber

    I apologise for my negative opinion of society coming out there - unfortunately I am one of those children of Thatcher, and I do find my own attitude completely incongruous to most of my peers.

    However, I haven't seen any evidence at all so far of true compassion or self-sacrifice, saving perhaps a few examples from people around the age of 50-60. Everyone younger seems to have been infected by the evil individualism of the 80's.

    On a different subject, I live under a flight path to one of the northern airports and I would not like air travel to be expanded up here. It's already difficult enough to sleep with a window open, I really feel sympathy for those who have to live with airfreight noise all the time - we only get about a flight an hour overhead.

    Really, airports should be relegated to remote areas where noone lives, and high speed train lines built to connect them to major cities. Anything else is clearly unfair to residents as they have no choice to move away (noone else will want their house)

  • Comment number 31.

    #8 #28
    It is not just airports where regulated private enterprise fails to deliver to the required standard.

    Motorway service area charters require provision of a minimum service including selling fuel 24/7.

    So how come a few years back one of the main services on the M1 was closed for fuel one evening?

    The carriageway was being resurfaced and was reduced to two lanes. Obviously some bean counter decided it was not worthwhile opening up and more to the point decided their establishment was no longer a motorway service station due to the resurfacing work.

    Result - miserable and angry customers. Optimized profit for private company.

  • Comment number 32.

    Well, BA has grumbled about it so we might be on the right track:

    "We think the ownership structure is secondary - the focus should be on strengthening the regulatory system."

    I can't speak BAABA, but I think it means "we're happy here running things with our chum, so just toddle off and bother someone else".

  • Comment number 33.

    Comment 30 : ProLiberty

    It was only your use of the word "essentially" that I raised doubts about. I agree completely with your description of how society is, but I've enough faith in human capability to say that it's not inevitable that it remains this way.

  • Comment number 34.

    I have just has a rather wicked thought:

    I wonder if an airport site, say Stansted or Gatwick or even Heathrow world be worth more as a site for housing rather than an airport?

    After all they have reasonable transport links and if they were to be converted to housing think of the peace and quiet their neighbours would gain!

    It might even be possible to get a large airport's neighbours to subscribe to a company that had the intention of turning the site over to housing!

    (But I guess that the planners would object to the change of use!)

    Then with the money the present owners could have a new airport built in a more appropriate place - in Northern France for example!

  • Comment number 35.

    # 34

    Good thinking. Heathrow would be worth about 20 billion pounds just for the brown-field site.

    But to chop Heathrow, we need to apply strong tax disincentives to all those commercial travellers from London. They don't need to fly thousands of miles just to talk to people - the telephone is just as good for that. And it'll cut the carbon ... a double bonus!

  • Comment number 36.

    Co operate. Not for profit. TRUE COLOURS.
    Humanity. I talk about it. We're not going to change. But we should.

  • Comment number 37.

    It's not so much the airports. It the oil. And food, stupid.

  • Comment number 38.

    By the way, Mr Peston, check me out on red bubble. You might be entertained.

  • Comment number 39.

    There are too many inconsistencies with competition commission for my liking


  • Comment number 40.

    The interests of BAA and BA have dominated the UK Aviation Industry and government policy for decades dating back to when both were Nationalised entities, as Virgin/British Caledonian/Laker etc all discovered to their cost. It’s high time this nasty dominance ended. Heathrow is a slum and to be avoided at all costs, yet BA force its customers through its crowded terminals and archaic bus links by minimizing services and connections to other UK regional and international airports. It bought British Regional a few years go for their European routes out of Manchester, rationalised them and then sold the business to Flybe. Likewise BAA under invest in its other Airports to force us to use Heathrow as a hub. The assertion that it needs another runway is nonsense. The ground infrastructure around Heathrow can’t cope with anymore traffic and the airspace over it is dangerously over crowded. There are several under utilized runways already in existence in the South East that would make an excellent basis for additional capacity which just need appropriate Terminal expansion and rail links. (Southend/Manston/Lydd/Blackbushe/Odiham/Wattisham) Lydd for instance is just a few miles from the new high speed rail route into St Pancras at Ashford so could be less the 45 minutes travel time from Central London with appropriate investment. If the Competition Commission is serious in its desire to open up the UK Airport market then urgent action is needed so others can do what this self serving cartel have failed to do …

  • Comment number 41.

    Lydd! What a great idea. It has a more or less SW facing runway, that could be extended if required. Both landings and take offs would be largely over the sea, thus saving the misery of noise for the millions who now suffer from Heathrow. And as Greennortherner says it's very close to the Channel Tunnel link.
    Problem solved!

  • Comment number 42.

    Just flew back this morning from Detroit by Northwest Airlines.

    Detroit and Chicago are modern, clean and imaginative airports, that work properly. No crowding, excellent facilities, no excessive retailing and very light and airy facilities

    It's not our first trip to the USA, and if you include San Francisco as well, then you have possibly three of the best western airports around.

    Fly into Heathrow this morning, (cannot leave Detroit on time as a tail wind will mean that "the company is fined for an early arrival") quote from the Captain.

    Arrive slightly early, and we are parked out on the tarmac and have to wait for a stream of buses and coaches to queue up and take us off the plane, then we have to queue up in the buses at T4 to unload at the doors.

    Got through immigration fairly quickly, only to find that bagge carousel No6 isn't working, and is full of baggage.

    Got our bags in the end, went to the Red Channel at Customs to check on our allowances - nobody there!

    You then have to go 'upstairs' to Departure to reach the drop off and collection point. No signs anywhere that we could see pointing you to the upstairs exit.

    Fortunately our son was very close and we were out of Heathrow fairly quickly, but T4 has completely imploded in terms of service and access, and the whole airport needs a good kick in the butt to get it working for its customers - the people who pay the bills, NOT the shareholders.


  • Comment number 43.

    Everyone, bar the functionally challenged Ms Kelly, have long been aware of the mind numbingly incompetent BAA. Yet the answer lies not in juggling around with who owns what - given that anyone who takes on this poison chalice will be in it as much as anyone else, for the money. The prospect of having a Spanish run airport with British catering and the baggage organised by the Italians for, say, a (at best) remote Arab based investment vehicle - run airport with the remaining attributes still in place, does little to raise the spirits.

    Where is rail in all this? Why is there no discussion and (preferably) investment in high speed TGV or ICE style lines to the North and Scotland - and to Wales (who need investment more than anything)? What about a second bore on the channel tunnel? All this would neatly remove any further need for more runways and would replace nasty, noisy, smelly aeroplanes with something that would not only run quietly, would also significantly reduce door to door times within the UK.

    We are aware that Ms Kelly has been got at by the aviation lobby which lobby, having seen what high speed rail does to short haul aviation on the continent of Europe, want to make sure it does not happen here.

    So breaking up the BAA looks good - but that is all it is; a bit of wallpaper over one huge crack

  • Comment number 44.

    Agree with biztravelman wholeheartedly about high speed rail. A disused high speed trackbed built to continental loading gauge already exists bertween London and Manchester via the East Midlands. It was built by the Great Central Railway 100 years ago. It could be re-activated at less than the cost of a new SE Airport and could provide not only a new domestic high speed link but also a freight link to the Channel Tunnel. Last year a review commitee appointed by government rejected any further investment in High Speed Rail in UK as "unnnecessary". Who chaired this enquiry? Rod Egginton, former head of BA - work it out for yourself...

  • Comment number 45.

    Glad Greennortherner agrees. We are talking about our beloved Chiltern Line (as is now). Unique, perhaps, in that it runs on time, has clean trains, helpful staff, manages to have enough carriages (usually) and generally speaking does a very good job...... which means that some egit in the DoT will decide that the Franchise should go to someone else. Like Old Beardie, so he can trouser another pot of taxpayers money. Or, Heavens forbid, that First goup - but I digress. Yes, the Great Central was built by Sir Edward Watkin and designed for speed and efficiency - and all that 100-odd years ago. Have we advanced since then? Nope, we have the collapsing TESCO tunnel (which only just avoided killing off a train load of commuters) at Gerrards Cross and the sale of land around Marylebone just to make sure that anyone thinking "rail" could be told - "Nice idea, but a bit late". Yes, the (of course) totally unbiased Rod Eddington ex BA head (no chance of any conflict of interest there, then) decided that Rail was not a good idea, and that we should carry on in true British style and totally ignore the success of Rail in Europe, er... and Eurostar but what does Eurostar know about it?

    There is too much blinkered thinking about this runway nonsense and whilst the powers that be tinker around mucking up the BAA even more than it already is, we are losing time. True, in order to have a cohesive railway, the thing would have to be re-nationalised (effectively) which may be an anthema to some but one must bear in mind that the last only true public project that was effected on time and on budget (and unlike Terminal 5, worked) was the East Coast Mainline upgrade which was accomplished by.... British Rail.

  • Comment number 46.

    Steady on now.

    Careful what you write. It could be construed as a national transport strategy - where rail is improved to the point where it would compete against road. That would never do.
    Think of the efficiency. Think of the number of lorries taken off the roads. Think of the reduction of waste and CO2.
    But spare a moment to think about what the nation would do with the time and effort saved. Where is the money to be made in getting folk home quicker?
    We would have to think how we would force them out of their houses to spend money.
    Don't forget that we are a service economy now; no manufacturing that would benefit from an increase in productivity.

  • Comment number 47.

    If you need some stress to start you holiday,

    Then do make sure you travel by BAA.

  • Comment number 48.

    I recently returned from Japan via Heathrow Terminal 1.

    It was impossible not to be shocked by the grimy and dated environment.

    Then you leave through the unmanned customs into a tired shop with a couple of assistants staring and slumping with boredom.

    Finally you exit into the dismal, grey chaos outside.

    This is supposed to be one of the premier airports in the world - it's not.

    It's hard not to cringe, imagining the thoughts that travellers from around the world must be having when they see this decrepit hole.

    It's a shameful testament showing how the airport has been treated as nothing but a cash-cow and the barest minimum of money spent.

  • Comment number 49.

    Overcrowding, delays and excessive charges to be cured by the break of the BAA monopoly. Overcrowding is caused, I think, by the rapid increase in the demand for air travel by an increasing number of passengers leading to an increase in flights. The correct response from BAA in this would be to increase their capacity with more terminals and more runways which would have to be paid for through higher charges and hence higher fares. Delays are caused by aircraft equipment failures and the lack of slack in the schedules which lead to ripple effects where a problem with one flight cascades down into others. Delays can also be caused by baggage handling, and of course passengers. The right response from BAA in this is to increase their efficiencies to manage the available resources better. This may require further investment which needs to be paid for and hence through higher charges and hence higher fares. Excessive charges are certainly likely in a monopoly position, but I doubt that we will have a guarantee of better service from any break up as there is little incentive whilst demand remains so high. Well at least in a pre credit crunch, fly by credit card society. There are further complaints of poor facilities but again much of the complaints come from passengers enjoying the lowest air fares for many years (if not in all time) and thus it is not logical to expect 5 star treatment from a 1 star fare.
    Don't get me wrong, I also deplore the state of British airports which includes non BAA as well. Manchester for example has next to no decent seating in its older terminals and is also over crowded, but there was a time when this was not the case, but this was before the cheap air fares/budget airlines were around.
    Is the answer, government intervention? Well why were they all sold off in the first place?

  • Comment number 50.

    Typical British logic.

    1. BAA don't give us what we want.
    2. Get rid of BAA
    3. Complain about whoever replaces BAA.

    How about people thinking about what the problems are and either a) realising it is extremely difficult to do the job without fault or b) suggest WORKABLE solutions, ie: don't just say: "gid rid of BAA"

    Don't get me wrong, I have many a complaint againts BAA, but just getting rid of them is NOT a solution.

  • Comment number 51.

    I found amusement in the article that BA had taken beef off the economy menu being replaced for the healthier option of chicken. However this change was only actioned in economy class.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]


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