Heathrow expansion delayed another year
The debate over whether to build a new runway at one of London’s major airports, either Heathrow or Gatwick, has been a political hot potato for many years. Even if we ignore the human and environmental costs, which we certainly should never do, there is no easy decision in this debate.
Both Heathrow and Gatwick are enormous airports which see a frankly stunning amount of traffic each year – Gatwick sees 40 million passengers a year use its runway and the even larger Heathrow sees 70 million passengers a year make use of its double runway set up.
It is argued that either adding a second runway at Gatwick or a third runway at Heathrow is vital to the national economic interest. The additional runway at Heathrow in particular has been in the pipeline for many years, reflecting the airport’s status as a major economic hub for the UK and the fact that it is currently at 99% capacity.
As early as 2009, the Labour Government of the day signalled support for a new runway and a sixth terminal, offering the airport operators their best wishes in getting it done. Initial estimates that the third runway would be in operation by 2015 now look absurdly optimistic.
The latest twist in this increasingly repetitive story of obfuscation and delays was served up earlier this week by the current Government who were set to make a decision between Heathrow and Gatwick. However a potential Cabinet split led to the decision being dithered over and left for the future once again, much to the annoyance of both airports.
Perhaps the new delay will give everyone involved a chance to step back and ask whether we really need yet another airport expansion in the age of potentially catastrophic global warming. As 2016 continues to break all records on course to becoming the hottest year on record, it might be worth asking if there are better applications for the money set to be ploughed into a 2,200 metre strip of asphalt and sand.