Does the UK Need More Airport Capacity in the South East?
Author: Bill Wynn
It may not surprise you that I am more for than against new development and expansion of the existing UK airport infrastructure.
December’s edition of Director Magazine featured an interesting debate between Corin Taylor, senior economic advisor at the IoD, and John Stewart, Chair of HACAN Clear Skies. Mr Taylor argued in favour of expanding the current capacity at Heathrow airport whilst Mr Stewart argued against expansion.
There summaries were as follows:
Heathrow is full to capacity and only last week Lucy Tobin for the Evening Standard reported that Colin Matthews, chief executive of airports operator BAA, said of Heathrow that "Chinese and South American airlines were being turned away from routes into London because the world's busiest airport was full to capacity". Very worrying in my opinion, that we have got to this stage. Would this be allowed to happen in Japan or Germany?
Having to turn away business, is not good for business. This is surely not good for the UK economy and something has to be done.
Mr Taylor states that "without any capacity increases, London's other airports are set to be full by 2030". He continues by stating, "if we don't increase capacity in the South East, both business travel and tourism risk being squeezed, with knock-on effects for UK business.
Mr Stewart states that "evidence suggests that, if we use existing capacity intelligently, we can cater for many more flights from key cities in the fast-developing economies of Asia and South America without building new runways". Fewer short-haul flights at Heathrow would free up space for more inter-continental flights without the need for more capacity in the south-east. An AirportWatch report, International Air Connectivity for Business, found that Heathrow has twice as many flights each week to key economic cities as its nearest European rivals, Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle, put together. Prioritising business trips can maintain that position."
In January 2012 the BBC stated that the Civil Aviation Authority highlighted that in their opinion the UK economy will suffer if airport capacity in the south-east of England is not increased.
The government said it was committed to developing "a sustainable policy framework for aviation".
Only time will tell what happens. This summer with the Olympics coming to London, capacity at Heathrow will surely be pushed to breaking point. Let us hope that UK Plc and the UK Government can put together a long-term vision for the UK's Airport Infrastructure that will be innovative, keep carbon emissions low, bring more tourism and business to the UK, create more jobs and show us as the innovative and engineering genius that we are.
What do you think?