While it is disappointing that the Commission’s first recommendation for a third runway at Heathrow reflects a backward looking view of aviation world, there is good reason for optimism. Gatwick remains on the table as a credible and commercially viable option.
With the door open for Gatwick we may finally be closer to a decision and I will be urging the Government to take the opportunity of a generation to choose Gatwick.
It is frustrating that Sir Howard’s main recommendation is destined to join the long list of reports left gathering dust on the shelves of Whitehall. Heathrow expansion is politically undeliverable and I am confident that residents, local authorities and MPs will put a halt to it.
The scale of the noise, congestion and pollution issues associated with a third runway make it unrealistic to think they can ever be overcome. Particularly when 27 times more people will be affected by flight paths and noise from an expanded Heathrow compared to a two-runway Gatwick.
A third runway at Heathrow would be this generation’s Millennium Dome. An embarrassing grand projet, which proves both costly and counter-productive for residents, consumers, taxpayers, the economy and our environment.
Our long-term capacity issues cannot be solved by views that rely on the old fashioned notion that a single national ‘hub’ is the future, rather than the dynamic point-to-point services chosen by travellers. The aviation world has also recognised this new world. More than 90% of the new aircraft ordered by the airlines are for long-distance “hub busting” planes.
The hub concept will certainly be around for decades to come and there is no reason why Heathrow cannot continue to fulfil that function while it’s needed. But if we want a modern 21st century airport network to compete flexibly and globally for the next hundred years, a third runway at Heathrow is counter-productive. It simply entrenches Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd’s existing market dominance and holds back progress.
Heathrow expansion would be a sticking-plaster in the wrong place. It will bring higher prices for passengers, less flexibility, unnecessary pollution, and a massive tax bill whilst hindering our quest for international competitiveness with the emerging aviation model of point to point travel.
Today the Government will make a statement and respond to the recommendation in due course. It should be under no illusions about the high level of opposition to Heathrow expansion across London, Berkshire and the South East.
As the MP for Windsor I will continue to fight to protect the homes, livelihoods and wellbeing of my constituents. And, yes, I believe that residents in Colnbrook, Datchet, Wraysbury, Windsor, Old Windsor, Ascot and the Sunnings, Binfield, Winkfield, Warfield and elsewhere deserve better. Thankfully, a third runway at Heathrow remains against the national, regional and local economic, environmental and fiscal interests.
The Davies commission have made their recommendation, but it is the Government and Parliament that will make the decision, and I will be fighting tooth and nail, alongside colleagues from all parties, to rule out these undeliverable suggestions for Heathrow expansion once and for all.
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