UK Government to support third runway at Heathrow

Hello readers, welcome to my blog! For my first post I will be discussing the recent announcement of the Heathrow expansion and will be considering both the positive and negative impacts that this is likely to have on the UK. Please give it a read if you have a few extra minutes spare, and post any comments below, or email them to me at rajveersira@gmail.com .Any feedback is greatly appreciated. I’ve tried to make it short and to the point as well as summarise the key arguments.

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On 25th October Theresa May finally ended around 20 years of delays and gave the green light to back Heathrow as opposed to other alternatives such as Gatwick or Stansted. The long awaited decision has caused much controversy and been debated a numerous number of times over the years but a decision on the location of this runway has finally been reached. The new runway will be the first full-length runway to be built in the southeast of England since the Second World War. The next stage of planning and development of the runway is to be consulted over the next year, and for now the most pressing issue in the UK, BREXIT is the number one priority for Theresa May. The news of the intention to build a new runway at the UK’s leading airport, signals the commitment of the government to its tourism and trade industry, and the idea of creating an economy which will benefit all through new jobs and investment which will lead to a positive multiplier, which will in turn lead to economic growth.

Heathrow is the sixth busiest airport in the world, with one flight taking of every 45 seconds. By the time you finish reading this post, about 5 flights will have taken off each carrying around 200-300 Passengers and taking them to the far-flung corners of the world. So why on earth would we need to expand it? Aren’t there enough planes flying around above our heads already? Ultimately the answer is no. Heathrow is already at 99% of its full capacity and without further expansion the tourism and export industry would struggle to grow and expand with the rest of the world. As we are living in a more globalised society, the need to increase connections with every corner of the world is much greater.

Surely an expansion would just create more air and noise pollution and if the government is supposed to be cutting down on Carbon emissions to reach certain limits how does this help? The counter-argument to this is that the benefits of a new runway (which are outlined below) simply outweigh the costs to the environment and all the negative externalities associated with the addition of another runway. Furthermore with the ever-increasing demand to produce more sustainable and alternative energy solutions e.g. the electric car industry or solar/hydrogen power cells, it is highly likely that the aviation industry will follow in the same footsteps and will become more efficient. Already new planes with lower emissions have been put into action.

Here are just a few quick and easy to understand benefits which analysts have predicted, and what it all means for the UK:

• Economic benefits to the economy worth up to £61 billion
• Up to 77,000 additional local jobs are expected to be created over the next 14 years and    5,000 new apprenticeships over the same period
• A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the UK itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports and trade
• Passengers will also benefit from access to more airlines, destinations and flights that will ultimately lead to more competition and thus lower prices.
• A world-class package of compensation and mitigation worth up to £2.6 billion, including community support, insulation, and noise reduction.
• Heathrow accounts for 31% of the UK’s non-EU trade, and its expansion will create even more opportunities for UK business to get their goods to new markets
• Heathrow is to propose that a six-and-a-half hour ban on scheduled night flights will be introduced which will significantly reduce the noise pollution. The timing of this ban will be determined through consultation

Facts and figures as of Heathrow website on 30th October 2016

Cons

• Estate agents eMoov think the decision could lead to a 20 per cent drop in house prices in the area due the noise and air pollution that the project will bring. Bad for landlords and homeowners, but great for first time buyers.
• There will still be large amounts of air and noise pollution despite the number of proposed schemes to reduce this.
• Around £5bn required from the taxpayer.
• Major disruption to people who live near Heathrow and to people who are being forced to relocate.
• Likely to lead to further North/South divide and focus growth mainly in London and the Southeast, rather than other areas in the UK. That being said the Heathrow expansion will increase the number of domestic flights and connections with other UK airports like Birmingham and Manchester.

What about Gatwick?

Many people in favour of the expansion argue that a new runway should have been built at Gatwick instead. One of their main points is that Gatwick is actually achievable since it costs £7.8 billion, which is all privately funded, whereas Heathrow they say is unaffordable at £18.6bn plus at least £5bn from the taxpayer. The Gatwick proposal also complied with legal air quality limits, is a relatively straightforward and simple construction, and ultimately is the fastest option. Gatwick say that planes could take off from the new runway by 2025 as opposed to Heathrow’s complex, high risk and “undeliverable expansion” as stated by the foreign secretary Boris Johnson, which has failed repeatedly. Despite this the government has made the decision to back Heathrow simply because the investment is likely to give the biggest return, create the most jobs and trade opportunities with the rest of the world. Upgrading Gatwick, as some people may put it, is like doing renovations in your second home when actually your first home is in need of renovations and you will get more use out of it.
Likewise although Gatwick is a major airport it is not the main one, so is unlikely to have the greatest economic return.

What do I think?

I believe along with many others that a new runway should have been built at both Heathrow and Gatwick. If Gatwick is all privately funded and is a straightforward procedure, why not build it anyway? Yes it will undoubtedly lead to even more air and noise pollution but as stated above the focus to employ more sustainable methods is increasing. The last runway built in the UK was just after the Second World War and so the UK is strongly overdue a new one or two perhaps. With international shipping and trade so much greater than it was 70 years ago it would make sense to have two runways and increase the whole aviation industry in the UK. Also having two runways would increase competition even more, with greater choice of airline and lower fares benefiting the average person. With oil prices already on the rise because of a cut in supply form OPEC and Russia as well as 17% fall in the value of Sterling since the EU referendum, fares are already starting to rise and so more competition could help reduce this.

The image below gives an impression of what Heathrow could look like with its new expansion plan:

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