18 NOVEMBER 2013

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Article from BTNews 18 NOVEMBER 2013

COMMENT: More from the Mayor

Business Travel News likes to think it is fair and is only too pleased to acknowledge (reasonable) views that it does not agree with.

We publish here a response to our editorial last week "Davis – is it taking too long?” outlining the Mayor’s argument in favour of a new estuary airport.  Sadly it misses the real point.  The South East and the UK in general cannot wait until late 2015 for a decision on a new runway.  The fact that the Mayor’s arguments are wrong is irrelevant.  What it does prove is that Business Travel News is read and respected in all the right places.

See also Britannia Airport London and Heathrow is advertised

LET’S NOT ACCEPT SECOND BEST... AGAIN

Daniel Moylan, the Mayor of London’s Aviation Adviser, responds to last week’s comment article on the Airports Commission

Sadly, your COMMENT “Davies – is it taking too long?” (BTN 11 November) offers no more than a depressing re-working of the tired old arguments in favour of Heathrow expansion.

The UK needs a long-term strategic solution to provide the additional hub capacity that will meet long-term demand forecasts and deliver the domestic and international connectivity the economy so badly needs. 

The idea that bolting on runways in an un-coordinated constellation is the answer to the UK’s capacity shortage flies in the face of overwhelming international evidence.

It also requires a belief that the hub model, tried, tested and repeatedly modelled the world over, is flawed.  I personally find it extremely difficult to suspend disbelief even further and accept that the UK’s unique approach to aviation – a cunning blend of masterful inactivity and patch and mend – has been a great success after all.

Given the extent to which the UK has fallen behind in terms of global connectivity, that would require a leap of faith the length of which our Olympic hero Greg Rutherford would be proud.

Expansion at Heathrow is so politically toxic it is undeliverable.  The airport is already responsible for vastly more noise pollution than any other airport in Europe and to worsen that solution by adding a third, and inevitably a fourth runway, would be indefensible even before other serious questions involving air quality, vehicle pollution, rerouting the M25 and relocating local reservoirs were considered.

To call for Heathrow expansion and a second runway at Gatwick is to belie market reality.  They are mutually exclusive projects and as a solution it is a mirage.  This perhaps explains why it’s not on offer from any of the 50 or so parties that submitted proposals to the Davies Commission.

Gatwick already has the capacity to provide more flights but airlines are not taking it up.  Frustrated by congestion at Heathrow, they are nonetheless aware that the greater number of transfer passengers found at mega hub airports offer them larger profits, and so rather than head for Gatwick they are choosing to fly from Schiphol or other hub airports instead.

Meanwhile a four-runway hub airport will deliver the step change needed in routes to the emerging markets of the world.  So please do tell me precisely which parts of the Mayor’s detailed three submissions for a new hub – available to view at www.newairportforlondon.com are “hopeless in practice”, because I really would like to know.

The quadrupling of the number of destinations London serves in China and South America, destinations which can currently only be reached from the UK by travelling through rival hubs in Europe?

Or the 4,200 long haul flights every week to 205 destinations, including 192 flights every week to 14 destinations in China, plus the addition of 50% more destinations in the United States?

The nine new domestic routes to the UK’s hub, reversing Heathrow’s scandalous failure to support the UK’s regional economies?  All these are made possible at a new unconstrained hub, according to research by York Aviation.

If you’re worried about the travel times to and from a new airport, the detailed plans for new high speed rail links to transport passengers to the airport from central London in half an hour should do the trick.

Perhaps protecting the nation’s coffers is your primary concern.  The conventional wisdom is that Heathrow expansion comes without a large price tag for the taxpayer, but there is no foundation to that school of thought.  No Heathrow shareholder has confirmed they will help fund the schemes put forward by the airport’s management, and Heathrow’s own submission to the Airports Commission indicates that part of any expansion “might be more appropriately funded by government”.

When you add Heathrow’s own indicative costs for two new runways to the £20bn or so needed to pay for the massive upgrades to the road and rail infrastructure that would be required to transport the millions of extra passengers, the cost to the taxpayer will be similar to the funding needed for an efficient, well configured new airport.  And that’s a new airport that would affect around just 5% of the number currently blighted by noise from Heathrow.

It’s time we ended our historic failure to take bold strategic infrastructure decisions and end 40 years of policy failure.  Above all, we must stop thinking of Heathrow as the simple and cheap solution; it is neither simple, cheap, nor indeed a solution to our problem.  A new hub airport, meanwhile, would send a powerful message to the world that the UK really is going places.

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