Heathrow fantasy

Just about a full house of commentators opposing the “decision” to build a third runway for Heathrow. I can’t remember when a major government decision was not just opposed but so roundly dismissed as living in cloud cuckoo land. In the Commons announcement, all that greenness was guff.

There will be possibly hundreds of thousands more flights a year when, or if the runway, is built. Instead Hoon talked of “green slots… green planes… toughest green targets” as if he was describing an extension to Kew Gardens. As the Conservative spokeswoman Theresa Villers pointed out, some of this is a fantasy. Airlines are exploring the potential for green technology and there has been progress, but where are all these green planes?.

The Independent is most dismissive, business editor Jeremy Warner on economic grounds and Steve Richards making the political calculation of how the massively long timescale will erode the decision. The Guardian’s Simon Hoggart in his Common sketch concludes:

“Even if Labour miraculously hold power after the next election, they will probably need the Lib Dems, and the third runway would be a deal-breaker.”

The Daily Telegraph’s Iain Martin spells out why the whole thing is based on a false assumption.

The latest figures confirm that demand for air travel is falling; those saying that Heathrow is operating at 99 per cent capacity are out of date. The number of passengers using Heathrow was down 1.4 per cent last year and at Gatwick demand declined by 2.4 per cent. At Stansted, the fall was 6 per cent.

Myself I go with the Independent’s Jeremy Warner, in the belief that air travel should and will expand but can be taken up by extending runways elsewhere, although government rejects this as too fragmented and insufficient.

BTW being on a Heathrow mixed mode flight path myself, I have to say the noise pollution factor isn’t quite the nightmare it’s made out to be unless you’re over Hounslow. And on greenness, aviation will have to be gently treated until Scotties can beam me up, or get me there some other way.

Meanwhile at Heathrow and all other ports of entry I doubt whether the exemption for NI won by unionists from the erosion of the Common Travel Area amounts to much more than spin, as I say over at NI Crunchtalk. As ever have your British or Irish passport on you on the plane. And from now one take it with as you cross the border (You too Slab )!

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London