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Does London need a new airport? Or new runways? Or just a high speed railway…

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Does London need a new airport? Or new runways? Or just a high speed railway…

Alex Helling's picture
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Joined: 13 Sep 2011
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What happens to airport infrastructure around London and the South East is the most contested infrastructure project in the UK. Heathrow wants a third runway, Gatwick could get a second or Stansted could be expanded. A couple of years ago Boris Johnson the Mayor of London began suggesting that there should be a completely new airport built for London in the Thames estuary – either on an existing bit of land or on a manmade construction. Even the debate about High Speed 2, Britain’s other contested infrastructure project, has been a part of the debate with suggestions that it could run from Heathrow, or more fantastically that it could link Gatwick and Heathrow together into one air hub.

Now the commission which is looking into what are the best options has created a shortlist of three options. One option is to expand Gatwick with a second runway. The other two are at Heathrow, currently uncontested as Britain’s hub airport. One is a third runway North West of the current runways and the second is that the existing runway should be doubled in length so that it could have both take offs and landings occurring on it at the same time. Either would be fiercely objected to by those who live near Heathrow and under the flight path who have objected to Heathrow for decades to such an extent that politicians find it very difficult to back any expansion to Heathrow for fear of the political consequences. Instead they appoint commissions to look at what all the possibilities are – and this one manages to delay giving its final report until summer 2015 which just happens to be right after the next election so kicking the can to the next government.

It should come as no surprise then that Boris is not pleased at the result saying "What is being proposed at Heathrow is not some oven-ready peasy scheme. Both the Heathrow options require concreting the M25, probably closing it for five years and doing major realignments of the M4 at a cost of £10bn. Why entrench a huge planning error and consign future generations to misery?" It is notable however that £10bn is small change compared to the cost of his proposed estuary airports that could cost £112bn. Yet although Boris’ plan was not on the preliminary shortlist the commission does intend to look at his proposal during the first half of 2014 to see whether it is credible so the idea is not yet dead.

Environmentalists on the other hand wonder whether there needs to be expansion of airport capacity at all. They note that business travel has barely recovered since the recession in 2008. The airports commission however says that there will be demand for another runway by 2030, and probably yet another by 2050. However at the rate at which this debate seems to progress it is quite possible politicians will be yet to reach a decision by the time these dates appear – then we shall really know if a new runway, or several, is needed.

Debatabase debate ‘This House would build a third Heathrow runway to maintain its position as a hub airport’ http://idebate.org/debatabase/debates/environment/house-would-build-third-heathrow-runway-maintain-its-position-hub-airport

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/17/heathrow-gatwick-airports-expansion

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25402007

3 years 10 weeks ago
stephenward's picture
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It's hard to say new airport or high speed rail. In my opinion other airports needs to be develop rather then just focusing on heathrow.

2 years 6 weeks ago
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