8 OCTOBER 2012

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Article from BTNews 8 OCTOBER 2012

COMMENT: The London airport dilemma?

It has been a very interesting week regarding literally the future of London, and certainly for its airport development.

On Thursday Mayor Boris Johnson held a very well-attended briefing session at City Hall attracting a whole cross section of interests from the established legacy airlines happily resident at Heathrow, to a whole group of Council Leaders, including Tony Arbour, a member of the London Assembly, who, astonishingly admitted to never having flown since 1971.

The following day the liberal think tank CentreForum published what it called “Bigger and quieter: the right answer for aviation”.

The timing of these reports was most interesting, both appearing in the few days between the two major political party conference gatherings and gaining much media attention.  Draw your own conclusions.

Let us deal with CentreForum first.

The survey was drawn up by Tim Leunig, Chief Economist, and some of it makes sense.  However it does itself no credit by suggesting a four-runway airport at Luton.  Sitting between the west coast and east coast main lines, and the M1 and A1 motorways Luton is in theory at least as good an option as any, but the airport operator, and the freeholder (the local Council) have long given up any hopes of even a two-runway airport.  Mr Leunig has destroyed his own credibility. He also talks about a four-runway Heathrow west of the current site.  Impossible!

As to Boris Johnson’s ideas he appears to be giving some ground.  No longer the Estuary or nothing.  Stansted is clearly within his sight too.  What Mr Johnson has achieved is a real focus on the airport problem which was in danger of being swept under the carpet by the government.

Your Editor in Chief had the privilege of asking the last question in an enthralling final session, Business Travel News being highly praised from the podium.  “The current Heathrow is 98% full.  The airlines don’t want the other existing airports.  What is going to happen in the next 15 years, minimum, whilst the mess is sorted out?”

No real answer from the Mayor.  He does not know.  Nor does anyone.  Willie Walsh seems to have given up with Heathrow (see below – Walsh abandons Heathrow upgrade).

Business Travel News will energetically support the campaign for the independent Commission (The Davies report) not to be – politically – stretched out for the next three years, but truncated into 18 months absolute maximum.  Let the result be a campaign issue at the next General Election.

BTN highlighted the problem with our Maplin story.  Nothing has changed.  We told the history of that politically doomed project back in January. www.btnews.co.uk/article/4405

We need to see real progress now.  2018 is too late.  www.london.gov.uk/increasing-londons-airport-capacity

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