Do we need airport expansion?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Heathrow Terminal 3

Over the last year, airlines, business groups and some politicians (but what do they know?) have been screaming that the UK will sink without trace because we don’t have enough airport capacity in the south east of the country. OK, they haven’t quite gone that far but Willie Walsh at BA, the Institute of Directors, ABTA and others have suggested that without expansion at Heathrow any economic recovery will be held back.
Is this right?
Last August I suggested that there was capacity at Stansted and wouldn’t we do better in apportioning flights more evenly rather than cramming them just into Heathrow. I still don’t understand why Heathrow is “fashionable” and the answer to everything to people in the travel trade.
Now a daily trade e-zine, Aviation Industry News, has pondered whether there is a capacity crisis at all. By looking at current airport master plans, they calculate that the south east airports could handle another 25 million more passengers. On that basis why worry? Just tell BA and all those who want a third runway at Heathrow to look at placing flights where there is spare capacity.
That a new airport in the south east is needed may be in doubt. At least for a while. And by then the aircraft industry might have developed because, let’s face it, for the last fifty years or so there hasn’t been much in the way of breakthrough thinking. We don’t have vertical take-off or landing passenger flights, the rocket aircraft has come to nothing so far. In many ways you could argue that the aircraft industry is old-fashioned and hidebound just used to tinkering with small improvements.
Where are the innovative things like the equivalent of the Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, Tim Berners-Lee of the aviation industry? Why is it that the biofuel powered supersonic ‘rocket-plane proposed by EADS (called ZEHST) to take us from Paris to Tokyo in 2.5 hours is not planned to operate for another 38 years?
You do wonder whether all the bright people have chosen the internet to work on instead of the basic needs of moving people around, quickly, quietly and without wasting natural resources to do it.

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