Sunday 18 March 2012

Whither a new Airport in London?

How can a Government ignore needs for so long on such an important subject? Firstly we had the last Labour Government faff over UK Energy needs - which has resulted in the prospect of power cuts in the next few years.

Now the current Government has also decided not to fight some battles, firstly a replacement Trident has been postponed until the next Parliament. More worryingly is the dither over a new runway for the South East.

Air travel has become controversial, but one thing it is good for is jobs and business. Airports employments tens of thousands of people and the trade generated is enormous. Sadly, these also come with pollution in the form of noise and air pollution.

What is clear though is that there is a need for more capacity in the South East of England. Either Heathrow needs a new runway or somewhere else in the South needs to be developed. However, due to power of local campaigning no Government wants to face this challenge. Indeed, it is left of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London to try and promote a new airport?

However, despite the constant pressure, and Richard Branson is joining in today in asking more more capacity, there seems no prospect of success.

This is a bad failure for the UK that its politicians no longer have the strength to lead the Country to make long-term decisions on infrastructure. You can't worry about a market here, when planning is needed then it is under the Government control no matter what the private sector might want.

In the future though the UK is going to struggle unless as way of politicians to gain some leadership ability is found. No new airports, power stations or other key infrastructure will get built - anything controversial that takes longer than a Parliament is likely to be sidelined.

Does this type of development need to be removed from political process in the same way as we now have an OBR to stop politicians recklessly spending money like the last Labour Government?


Budgie said...

I did see a suggestion that the three existing airports around London should be rail linked directly with each other, possibly via central London. And that this would obviate the need for a third Heathrow runway. Is this correct?

Sean said...

First thing Labour would do is change the terms of reference for the OBR to suit their "outlook"

What we need is a more modern constitution with a constitutional court, pretty much like Germany has.

Nick Drew said...

are the forecasts of endlessly growing air travel really correct?

I have no special knowledge on this but it just seems improbable; or at least there is a very plausible downside scenario

a permanent reduction in tourism must surely be on the cards ?

i'm all for smoothing the path of business travel, particularly to sustain the pre-eminence of London as a service centre etc etc, but that isn't beyond the wit of man

Mark Wadsworth said...

An airline pilot pointed out that as the prevailing wind over England is west to east, siting a major airport due west or due east of the city is asking for trouble.

Which leaves us with due south (Gatwick) or north-ish (Luton or Stansted). Bearing in mind that people from the rest of the country might want to use the airports, or take connecting flights from elsewhere in the UK, having the major airport north of London seems to be the best bet, so enlarging Luton or Stansted it is.

And we can get rid of APD and have an annual auction of landing slots (like LVT for the air), problems solved. It's all in the manifesto.

Anonymous said...

Agree wirh M W re siting North of London is most sensible, when has that ever been a reason the politicians choose.
A friend who used to work in import export told me recently that the 'Sheds' round Heathrow handling cargo would cost billions to resite anywhere else and of course they are private companies and by far and away the biggest employers linked to Heathrow.
Basically it will never be possible to shut Heathrow, so the great and the good of Richmond and Kingston will have to keep buying earplugs.

CityUnslicker said...

ND - I agree that the ever increasing air passenger numbers are not to be trusted. However, Heathrow is operating every day at 99.9%+ capacity - so doing nothing can't be the answer.

Maybe the Government think APD is the way to cut travel - as they have with the trains....

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Speaking as a former employee of Crab Air, I have to observe that the Thames Estuary/Boris Island proposal is utterly f***ing bonkers. Apart from the prevailing wind problem, which means all the planes will be taking off towards central London, there are at least 3 other issues. The first is you'd be sharing the airspace with Schipol (not a good idea), the second is the nasty thick fogs you get in the area which will reduce the operating capacity, and the third is the gazillions of birds that love the estuary habitats. You don't want those flying into engines you know. Oh, it'll cost quite a lot as well.

We should concrete over most of South Essex & turn Stansted into a 5 runway behemoth. Then we should close Heathrow & Gatwick.

Bill Quango MP said...

O/T But just to show that the Osborne and Cameron do read the blog.



hatfield girl said...

Mr Weetabix has it. Last time I saw that orwellesque sign "Welcome to Newham' was after waiting hours for the fog to clear enough to let the flight from Florence land and then, thank heavens, take me away to the rinascimento city.

Stansted is the answer - though the connections to London King's Cross and to the west and the Midlands need improving.

Anonymous said...

CU 2.15pm

In that case APD should be charged on people transiting the UK. Why is it cheaper to fly BA from Amsterdam-London-Asia than direct from London, even including the cost of the Eurostar (or a short-haul flight)?

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one to notice that the DfT passenger forecasts are based on oil price predictions from DECC in 2007 which are hopelessly out of date and unrealistic.

Amongst other things, does anyone else on the globe think that the price of oil will not change between 2030 and 2080 ?

Garbage in , garbage out.

alan said...

If the UK reduces its CO2 levels by 80% in 2050 then there will be no need for airports.

It is going to take monumental technical breakthroughs to even entertain the notion of a battery (or hydrogen) plane. The only form of viable flight technology is re-inventing the Zeppelin.

Even assuming a battery could be invented every airport will have to have a nuclear power plant next door. To fast charge the equivalent of one battery powered 747 in 10 minutes would take roughly 2GW (~2 nuclear power stations).

Heathrow airport would require ~16 nuclear power stations running 100% during 07:00 -> 23:00

You can reduce that number if you trickle charge the planes overnight!

Hydrogen works out slightly higher (conversion losses).

To fully fuel one 747 with biofuel would take 180 hectares of land (assuming 1 grow season). If all UK farm land was converted to produce rapeseed oil (and had optimum growth) it would fully re-fuel 92,000 747's per year. Heathrow has 480,000 flights per year.

Or 5 times the current UK offshore wind generation and a battery bigger than a nuclear power plant just for Heathrow.

Demetrius said...

How far North of London? Try expanding Doncaster at the old Finningley airstrip. Rail links all over the place that could be beefed up to link in with any other airport you care to mention.

rwendland said...

I know little about airports, and this is probably naive, but if relocating the cargo 'Sheds' and jobs round Heathrow is a big obstacle, why cannot cargo be left at Heathrow, and passangers go elsewhere?

Does much cargo go on passanger planes, making cargo-only airports impractical?