Traffic jams in the skies over Heathrow aren’t just a pain for passengers whose flights take longer than they ought to, they’re a major environmental problem, too. The chief executive of National Air Traffic Control, Richard Deakin, recently explained why in the Daily Mail:
The single biggest thing we could do to reduce CO2 in the UK is to build a third runway at Heathrow.
Heathrow holding is not about airspace - it's about lack of tarmac. I'm very confident that (a third runway) would eliminate all the holding patterns in one go.
But the lack of a third runway is not just a major environmental problem that must be solved if the Government wants to reduce wasteful emissions of CO2 that aren’t contributing to people’s holidays or business travels. The constraints on air travel in London are also a big problem for the capital’s continued prosperity, as recently re-elected Mayor of London Boris Johnson recently acknowledged in his transport manifesto:
London is a top-ranking global city that thrives on its trade and connections with the rest of world. As the capital city of an island-nation, London’s people and businesses depend on air travel to get to where they need to be and for their suppliers and customers to be able to get here easily. But London’s main airport, Heathrow, is full.
London needs to continue to attract tourists, investment and job creators – this will not happen if, as is increasingly the case, visitors find it easier to get to Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt than they do London. All these cities have invested in better air links to growing overseas markets than we have.
Heathrow, along with the thousands of people who work there, does a magnificent job in very constrained circumstances. It directly employs 76,000 people at the airport and supports another 180,000 jobs and I will do all I can to safeguard those jobs and the prosperity that comes with them.
Sadly, Boris did not back the TaxPayers’ Alliance manifesto call for a third runway at Heathrow and instead opposed any expansion in favour of an entirely new airport to the east of the city.
There are very powerful arguments in favour of a brand new, purpose-built airport that the Mayor espouses. But it’s hard to see how an entirely new airport could be built within 15 years at the very least. The fast growing businesses and emerging markets in China, India and South America simply aren’t going to wait that long for London to play catch-up with Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt’s multi-runway airports. They’ll just take their business there, instead. But laying another runway at Heathrow could be done much more quickly.
London has a chronic air capacity problem now and the answer to that problem is clear. London needs a third runway at Heathrow, it needs it badly and it needs it now.