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3rd Runway: Saying No Is Not Making A Decision

3rd Runway: Saying No Is Not Making A Decision

Our World | On 04, Sep 2012

Justine Greening has re-affirmed the coalition government’s position that a 3rd runway at Heathrow is not the medium or long term solution to the UK’s air traffic issues. Labour have also stated they are opposed to a 3rd runway, so all the parties are in agreement – the cynic says this probably means it is 100% perfect solution, but that is by the by. The real issue here is that all parties, political and commercial have identified that we have a problem and need to do some something urgently before we are left in the wilderness watching all those lovely income generating flights from the Americas fly past us.

I’m not the transport expert here, but one thing is certain, we need extra capacity and we need it now. Our pre-eminence as a European hub is being eroded quickly and we have been debating for 10 years about expanding Heathrow and other so called “London” airports. At this stage, simply saying “no” to a 3rd runway is not making a decision. The official reason is that it is only a short term solution, but surely doing nothing is worse than doing something that will work and buying time to deliver a long term solution. Unfortunately that is not our way.

The M25 was discussed in the 1960’s and work started in the early 70’s with the first section open in 1975. Sadly successive governments dithered over planning and implementation delaying the official completion until 1986 meaning that by the time it was open it was already inadequate.

The channel tunnel was first proposed in 1802, then again in 1856, 1865, 1867, 1876, 1881, etc etc. Construction work finally started in 1974 only to be cancelled by the 1975 Labour government. Thatcher kicked the project into life again in 1979 and final plans were approved in 1987 with construction starting the following year. The tunnel opened in 1994. After 170 years of dithering it took all of Margaret Thatcher’s notorious drive, determination and bullying to get the job done and it still took 15 years.

Two massive infrastructure projects, both massively delayed because no government had the courage of their convictions. We simply cannot afford to do the same with our air travel.

I personally don’t care if it’s a brand new airport like Boris Island or the expansion of Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Heathrow. I do know that whatever we do it will be late, out of date and insufficient by the time it arrives.

So, given parliament’s proclivity towards tardiness, wouldn’t it be better to sanction the short term solution and then start work on the long term solution? Chances are we will need both anyway.

Nigel Cooper