Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Mice keep their word, men break their promises

This is the counter-ethical world of Tim Yeo, who has called on the coalition to renege on its promise not to build a third runway at London Heathrow. (There is more in the Daily Telegraph.) Guido Fawkes here and here has drawn attention to the links between Yeo's public statements and his business interests. One wonders whether other proponents of London airport expansion (Grant Shapps,  Sajid Javid & Matthew Hancock, Alistair Darling and most of the last Labour cabinet) also have vested interests. Large construction companies contribute to the Conservative Party. Investment banks would make a turn on providing the capital funds, and we have seen how close leading Labour figures have been to bankers.

There has to be a very good reason for tearing up more of the British countryside, including at least one long-established village community. The current chant is that it would be good for business. But it would not address what has been the major obstacle to business for the last five years: the lack of investment. There is no point in increasing the landing slots in the London area if there is no increase in commerce or industry which could benefit from them.

Another argument is that Britain needs a hub airport on the lines of Paris Charles de Gaulle, Amsterdam  Schiphol and Frankfurt. One wonders how much the increased opportunity for changing planes has given to those cities. By that yardstick Clapham Junction should be the richest area of London and Crewe that of north-west England.

If it is essential for national pride to host the largest number of aircraft movements in Europe, it would make more sense to expand a British airport where there is room to do so with minimum impact on nearby towns and villages. Easy connection to major road and rail routes is clearly important (thus ruling out merging St Athan into Cardiff Airport ;-)). The obvious candidate is Birmingham.

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