27 JANUARY 2014
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Simon Jenkins' slating of the Airports Commission for dismissing an estuary airport and Stansted expansion in the face of pressure from the aviation industry flies in the face of key facts. (London Evening Standard Tuesday 21 January)
The development of Stansted airport in the Eighties was funded by BAA post-privatisation, not by the taxpayer directly as Jenkins claims. The fact that over the past decade this airport has lost traffic has nothing to do with the regulator. People go to airports that are most convenient to them hence the popularity of Gatwick, well connected by rail to destinations all over the South, while Stansted is relatively remote and with poor transport links.
"Directing a procession of noisy, dirty planes over heavily populated areas is acceptable in no other city on earth" he claims apropos Heathrow. Sir Simon (70 and a former Editor of The Times) can surely recall the noisy and smoke-emitting Boeing 707 of the Sixties. Today’s aircraft are vastly quieter; the new generation of jets, such as the Boeing 787, even more so.
Jenkins accuses aviation lobbyists of acting in private interests, but whose agenda is Boris Johnson pursuing over new airport development apart from his own? His campaign for the mayoralty did not highlight the estuary airport and he has changed his clear option from a deepwater airport to Stansted, and now the Lord Foster scheme. His very well paid consultants do not have a track record in this field, and are frankly giving him poor advice that he wants to hear. Regarding financing the project his ideas are vague, the overall scheme of waterways, runways, railways and roads grandiose and far more complex than the alternatives. Sir Howard’s, an economist, estimate of £118bn, is probably a very good one.
The Airport Commission's initial report, put together by 18 academics, is by no means perfect but is a sincere attempt to find a solution to the UK hub problem. By contrast Jenkins sounds more like another Londoner, Arsène Wenger, who will dispute any decision he does not like.
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