Heathrow airport business does not represent all British business

June 18, 2008 at 11:18 pm | Posted in Heathrow, Heathrow airport, Heathrow expansion | Leave a comment
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That the FT should take this stance on ‘business’ concerns me.  There is a clear distinction between the needs of UK business as a whole and the specific needs of businesses whose success hinges directly on the number of aircraft and passengers using Heathrow airport.  Yet the FT ignores this differentiation, preferring to present the benefits for the aviation industry operating out of LHR as being generally beneficial for national business, ignoring alternatives such as:

  • high-speed national rail network (see Rail hub plan for Heathrow)
  • improved national communications infrastructure
  • redirecting non-business passengers to other London airports

Update: since you are curious, here are a few of the many questions that article raised for me:

  • Where’s the natural scepticism amongst business chiefs who were quoted in the FT article as being in favour of Heathrow expansion for the benefit of “UK plc”?
  • What’s wrong with being a bit more specific about distinct business needs and goals?
  • Why can’t Heathrow increase its competitiveness by becoming better without getting bigger?
  • Where is the demand for more flights going to come from with oil prices rising (and no end to high prices in sight)?
  • How will potential passengers be able to afford more flights—and food at their destinations—if millions more British households are heading into fuel poverty as the cost of affordable energy servicces becomes prohibitive at home?
  • Are the government banking on pensioners flying to warmer climes for the colder months, thus avoiding the repetitive costs of supplementary Winter Fuel Payments, which are an energy-inefficient and climate-harmful waste of precious funds?  (Are we expected to keep warm by migrating, just like swallows do?!)

Certainly, Future Heathrow expanders would love us to continue using their homegrown local arguments on behalf of all UK businesses, but their arguments do not hold water in a wider context.

Look at the use of business in these excerpts from today’s FT In Depth report:

Financial Times

Tories risk rift after runway opposed

By Jean Eaglesham, Chief Political Correspondent
Published: June 18 2008 23:30 | Last updated: June 18 2008 23:30

The national blueprint for airport expansion should be sent “back to the drawing board”, the Tories have declared, in a significant hardening of the party’s position that threatens a serious rift between David Cameron and business.

This uncompromising stance will dismay business, as well as many Tory MPs. Ministers have backed the business argument that an expansion of Heathrow is vital for competitiveness.

But Mr Cameron will have the final say on whether a third Heathrow runway is built, should he win the next general election. The issue is set to be the first serious flashpoint between a Conservative government and business. A “national policy statement” to fast-track Heathrow’s expansion under new planning laws will not be approved by parliament before June 2010, the last possible date for the general election. The incoming government will have an effective veto over the scheme.

The Tories may use this power to review the case for airport expansion – a move that would put back any construction of new runways or terminals by several years. Ms Villiers said there was a need to reconsider “a lot of the data they’ve looked at, including emissions and alternative ways of dealing with capacity”.

also see a few of the FT EDITOR’S CHOICEs, with my reactions:

Opponents ‘do not know how hub works’ – Jun-19
Future Heathrow and airline trade propaganda—this is a silly, dated misplaced argument

Cameron queries Heathrow expansion – Jun-17
Good for him!  So do all sensible informed persons I know, and so should they be sceptical about current Department for Transport proposals for ‘Adding capacity at Heathrow airport’ …

Watchdog queries UK airports expansion – May-20
The Sustainable Development Commission (with the Institute for Public Policy and Research) raised concerns over the reliability of data used in the government’s aviation strategy, as well as the lack of aviation policy coherence amongst departments.  They recommend plans for Heathrow expansion be halted until a new commission has studied and reported on “the true benefits and impact of aviation”.  There’s not much point in having a watchdog if nobody listens to its whine, growl or bark!

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