28 MAY 2018


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Article from BTNews 28 MAY 2018

COMMENT: Heathrow. The world won’t wait forever

It was appropriate that yesterday, Sunday 27 May 2018, was the day chosen by some of Britain’s top business groups to add their heavyweight voices to the demand for the government to table a vote on Heathrow expansion.

Appropriate because the date marked 50 years since the Roskill Commission was announced, the first ever serious study to look into the issue of airport capacity in London. The implied message that we would rather not wait another 50 years for a decision was clear.

The signatories to this latest letter to Theresa May represent more than 500,000 companies calling for action – Confederation of British Industry, British Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses, The Manufacturers’ Organisation, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and London First.

It is worthy of a larger audience, so here it is:

“Dear Prime Minister,

“As the voice of British businesses across the UK, representing large corporations to small SMEs, we continue to support the expansion of Heathrow. It was 50 years ago this week that the then government set up the Roskill Commission to look at airport expansion in the south-east. Half a century later, the need to get on with expanding the UK’s airport capacity is more urgent than ever. As Brexit approaches, Heathrow expansion is crucial to making sure the UK remains an outward looking trading nation and is well-equipped to compete on the world stage.

“For British businesses, the benefits of expansion have always been clear: connections to new markets and trading opportunities, with better links with regional airports across the UK a boost to British exports, and a skills legacy for future generations.

“UK airports are world-renowned and something we should all be proud of. However, in this instance, the choice for extra hub capacity isn’t between Heathrow or any other UK airport, but between Heathrow and other European hubs. Frankfurt, Schiphol and Charles de Gaulle are pulling ahead at the UK’s expense – at our businesses’ expense – as our major port is constrained forcing global investors and trade to go elsewhere in Europe.

“As the UK’s only major hub airport, Heathrow is the gateway to the world for British exports and provides businesses with connectivity to almost any market in the world – from Mumbai to Mexico City, Beijing to Bogotá. Heathrow expansion will strengthen such existing connections and add up to 40 new ones, linking Britain’s exporters – large and small – with customers and opportunities around the world. The airport’s cargo capacity will double, meaning we can put more British goods on shelves across the globe.

“It’s not just exporting businesses that stand to benefit. Across the UK, expansion will create tens of thousands of jobs – most outside London – and 5,000 new apprenticeships.  Even before it opens, the process of building the new runway will bring massive benefits to construction businesses all over the UK, helping develop the skills that businesses need in a post-Brexit Britain.

“The businesses we represent come from every corner of the UK, and each and every one has the potential to benefit from expansion. Four new Logistics Hubs – off-site construction centres – will give small businesses far away from London the chance to be part of Heathrow’s supply chain. Coupled with Heathrow’s Skills Taskforce, chaired by Lord Blunkett and tasked with capitalising on the skills opportunities created by expansion, there is an opportunity to secure a skills legacy for future generations.

“There are many unknowns for businesses surrounding Britain’s future trading arrangements, but what is absolutely certain is that our economic success depends on securing Heathrow’s future as a leading international airport. As the UK’s only major hub airport it is a vital trade link for our members, and it has never been more important to develop our infrastructure, our businesses and our skills.

“And if Heathrow isn’t expanded? It is the country’s biggest port by value, but is currently operating at 98% capacity. Cargo capacity on key export routes to pivotal trading markets such as Shanghai, Delhi and Dubai is virtually full. As other European Hubs such as Frankfurt and Schiphol pull ahead, the risk is that over time British businesses will be denied the increased cargo capacity and long-haul routes we need.

“The world is waiting for Britain’s businesses, but it won’t wait forever. If we don’t do this now after decades of debate, Britain will not become the global trading powerhouse we know it can be. We therefore urge the Government to crack on with the vote on Heathrow expansion as soon as possible. Doing so will unlock the crucial new infrastructure for Britain to secure a strong economy – with trade, growth and skills – at such a critical time for businesses across the UK.”

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

David Bentley, Manchester/UK

A few random observations. (1) Heathrow has been “operating at 98% capacity” for as long as I can remember. Doesn’t seem to stop it growing, does it? (2) Does it matter how a piece of cargo gets to its destination? If it went from East Midlands, or from Cardiff via Doha, does that lessen its value? (3) Mr Holland-Kaye’s ‘Britain’s only hub” has become “the UK’s only major airport hub” here. A little more realistic methinks but still overblown.

Graham Greenwood, United Kingdom

Sadly, we live in times when the incompetence of our government is damaging and dangerous to the future of the UK, from brexit stupidity to Heathrow expansion. This gang of nincompoops could not organise a p*ss up in a brewery and are grossly negligent of the needs of business and the people they employ. The very wealthy lunatics are in charge of the national asylum, and they are so single minded on increasing their wealth, that they cannot see the wood for the trees, and the financial losses that a delayed decision creates. Or are they planning for HS2 to feed a new European Hub in the Midlands?

Malcolm Ginsberg, London

SOME THOUGHTS BY THE EDITOR IN CHIEF Who came up with the idea of Croydon? And also the bright spark at the Ministry of Aviation in 1943 that spotted the potential for Heston.

David Starkie, United Kingdom

I am inclined to disagree with the statement that Roskill was the first serious study to look at the issue of runway capacity for London. The inter-departmental committee report of June 1963 (CAP 199)reviewed 18 different sites for a third London airport. That is near-on 55 years ago. PS. I have a copy should anyone wish to borrow.