The Heathrow debate takes off

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In what has been a turbulent few months, the debate on whether or not Heathrow Airport should have a third runway has hit an all-time high.

At the heart of this growing and continuously complex debate is a simple inevitability failure to deal with the capacity issue will mean the UK missing out on crucial trade links with major developing economies around the world.

This is not in dispute, what is though is which project should get the green light to meet the countrys needs.

Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered an independent commission to investigate the options over capacity, but this may take some time.

I believe that expanding Heathrow is an absurd proposal. As Boris Johnson has stated in the past, Heathrow has always been a planning mistake. It started life in 1929 as a small airfield (Great West Aerodrome) on land southeast of the hamlet of Heathrow and continued to grow from then on into what we have today.

While the idea of a new airport in the Thames Estuary appeals to many (Boris in particular), in my opinion there are more viable and perhaps more shovel-ready projects that offer a less controversial alternative. For example, directing more international flights to one of Londons other airports such as Gatwick (currently operating at 78 per cent) or London City (56 per cent). Stansted Airport, located just 30 miles northeast of Heathrow, is another contender. A development here could utilise another great British project that is already under way. An extension to the Crossrail projects scope could see Stansted passengers transported to and from Heathrow and to central London in just 40 minutes. The Tory Reform Groups Steve Norris wrote in The Times recently that such a project could be delivered for 5bn.

Of course there are still negatives there will be with any project that gets the go ahead but surely 5bn is better than 40bn (the proposed budget for Boris Thames Hub). There simply isnt a decision that will please all stakeholders, but in any case, continued reluctance to push ahead with any of the proposed projects further risks our ability to compete against other European hub airports.

As always, when the decision is eventually made, it is you that will deliver the change and help to take Britain forward. For now we will have to play the waiting game.

We are keen to know your thoughts on the Heathrow debate. Please get in touch by emailing me, or by taking part in one of or online polls (on LinkedIn and Facebook).

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Posted by Andrew Hubbard on 9th Oct 2012

About the Author
Andrew is the editor of Project magazine. He began his career working as a freelance journalist. At the time his clients included Northcliffe and BSkyB. He became editor of Project at the end of June 2012.

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