Airport International News - June 2008

Third Heathrow Runway Not Needed: David Cameron

Posted by Mark Broadbent on 17/06/2008 - 12:05:51

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The Conservatives are against the Heathrow Airport expansion plans.

David Cameron, the party's leader, indicated in a speech on Monday that if his party were to form the next government, they would block the present plans to expand the UK's busiest airport.

Cameron said a third Heathrow runway is not needed, adding that "the most important priority for Heathrow is making it better, not bigger".

The Conservative leader came down firmly down on the side of those opposed to Heathrow's expansion.

Rejecting the argument that expanding Heathrow to include a third runway and sixth terminal by 2030 is needed in order to retain the UK's economic competitiveness, Cameron said: "There are now increasing grounds to believe that the economic case [for expansion] is flawed".

He argued: "The case for a third runway is based on Heathrow as an even bigger hub airport with a massive increase in the number of transfer passengers. The economic value of transfer passengers is hotly disputed. And there are so many examples of the hub model going wrong".

As reported extensively by Airport International in recent months, the government, BAA and the airline and business communities are all very much in favour of expanding the airport, on the premise that Heathrow is an important contributor to the UK's economic performance.

Heathrow Anti-Expansion Campaign

The Heathrow anti-expansion campaign has received a clear boost from the Conservatives' rejection of the expansion plans. Cameron is the first major politician to publically announce opposition to the proposals, which were outlined by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly last November.

Cameron accused the government of using the Heathrow expansion to "prove a political point", rather than actually being interested in improving the passenger experience at the airport.

A three-month consultation was held into the proposals, which saw fierce debate from those on either side of the debate for expansion.

Some analysts say Cameron's scepticism over Heathrow's expansion could possibly drive a wedge between the party and representatives of the UK business community such as the CBI and British Chambers of Commerce, who have strongly supported the expansion plans.

Indeed, David Frost, the Chambers of Commerce director-general, told the Financial Times: "If we don't continue to expand [Heathrow] to meet rising demand, we're going to lose out as UK plc".

The CBI said that Cameron's speech did not provide "an answer to what you do with an airport that's at 99% capacity".

Source - Airport International's London Reporter

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