Airport round-up

The Future of Heathrow, The NewsEditor

The Party Conference season has been and gone, and air capacity was much-debated throughout. The Lib Dems voted at their conference for no extra expansion at Heathrow, and called for an end of talk about 'Boris Island'. Meanwhile, the Conservatives continued to show their division on the subject.

New Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, has said that 'all options are on the table'  for capacity expansion in a pre-Conference interview, while the Mayor runs his own campaign for an option to be chosen, and soon. His new line is that this could be either based at Stansted, or in the Thames estuary. Unsurprisingly, there are objections to these plans. Dubai airport chief, Paul Griffiths, calls 'Boris island' "unfindable" in the Standard, while campaigners have called Stansted plans "bonkers."

Away from politics with a capital P, The Telegraph reports that of 100 FTSE100 chairmen, 68% back Heathrow expansion. But a new study by scientists from MIT and Cambridge University states that expansion there would lead to serious human health problem for local residents. Helpfully, the Standard runs the story with the headline, "Heathrow third runway would triple pollution-linked deaths, say leading academics."

Despite this, in-favour think-tank Policy Exchange has published Bigger and Quieter: the right answer for UK aviation (pdf download), which argues for a four-runway solution directly west from Heathrow's existing site. Other proposals include:

  • A complete ban on the noisiest aircraft at all times, rather than just at night. Airlines would have to ensure their fleet complied with new decibel measures by the time the new runways were ready for use
  • Imposing a complete ban on night flights. The increase in the number of slots available would mean no planes would arrive or depart between 11pm and 6:15am
  • Landing narrow bodied planes at a steeper angle as they already do at London City airport. This again means they are higher over any part of West London on their descent. For example, a plane would be 925m rather than 260m above Hounslow
  • In addition, moving the airport west means planes will be higher over London than at present
All interesting as Policy Exchange tends to be very close to Government, or at least Conservative, thinking.
So, still much noise. One thing is clear, however - whatever option is settled on, not everyone will be happy.