An expansion of London’s Heathrow Airport, which would mean a third runway and demolition of many homes in the process, is to be debated in Parliament today. The Tories have put on a three-line whip, but Labour has allowed its MPs to have a free vote. Many have put their names to a letter urging their colleagues to back the project, believing that it will bring jobs and connectivity to their areas. In this they are utterly deluded.
Heathrow - pointless expansion plans
Claiming that Heathrow is “Britain’s hub airport” - some serious PR Kool-Aid has been consumed by someone - the letter tells “It’ll create up to 180,000 new jobs across the country, delivering growth and connectivity for our constituents … We believe Heathrow can meet the Labour Party’s four tests for expansion … the decision in principle is right: we urge our Labour colleagues to back Heathrow in Parliament”.
Well, the only way it’s going to deliver “growth and connectivity” is if flights are introduced, on the back of greater Heathrow capacity, to regions of the UK that don’t have them. Now colour me sceptical, because I am sceptical, but as a commercial organisation, Heathrow is going to give any new slots to carriers that deliver the big international payloads - not (inevitably) smaller loads of punters from places elsewhere in the UK.
Luciana Berger - believing the spin
And that is where Labour MPs have been conned. Take Rachel Reeves, who represents Leeds West. Does she believe Leeds Bradford Airport will automatically get more Heathrow flights? Not a chance. Expansion of flights would not be worth the candle for any operator, with Manchester so close by.
Likewise Kevin Barron in Rother Valley. Is he thinking Doncaster Sheffield Airport will get a Heathrow connection on the back of this expansion? No chance. With so many locations in South and West Yorkshire already enjoying good rail links to London, and slated to be connected via HS2, there would be so few takers as to make it unviable.
Liverpool Airport - no planes to Heathrow
Then we come to two hopeful MPs in Liverpool, Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger. Ms Berger has told “Liverpool city region - 1.5m people - is the largest region in the UK without a hub airport link. Liverpool is the largest city in Europe without connection to a hub. As per my long held view, I’ll be voting tomorrow for extra capacity at Heathrow to get us connected”. But it does have “connection to a hub” - just not one in the UK.
Liverpool Airport has a regular service to Schiphol. But this does not satisfy the hub enthusiasts because it is not a “proper” service, an advertised connection. But Liverpool is also 30 miles from Manchester, and that airport has good transport links to the Liverpool city region as well as “proper” connections to Heathrow. What is the problem?
Rotterdam does not have “connection to a hub”, but is hardly impoverished as a result - it’s easy to get to Schiphol from there. That is the commercial imperative of commercial air travel. So when Ms Berger claims “Liverpool and Newquay were specifically mentioned as part of the 15% of slots for regional connection”, she should know that when push comes to shove, the only protection for slots will be for those that bring the biggest bucks.
Labour MPs believing the “hub connection” spin have been conned. So have all the alleged “experts” egging them on. This is a totally false prospectus.
Point of Order - Leeds Bradford already has a LHR service.
We don't need an expanded Heathrow. It only passes pollution tests by writing off all the gains from cleaner quieter planes. The only reason it is proposed, rather than say investment in Manchester is because the political classes seem incapable of seeing anything beyond London. Improved connections across the North building HSRail links from Liverpool and across to Hull and Newcastle plus investment in Liverpool and Manchester airports and links between would deliver more for less money than Heathrow expansion and HS2.
The difference between LHR investment and non-London airport investment is that LHR expansion is being paid for by Heathrow Airport Limited and its shareholders, not by government.
That doesn't make it a ~good~ thing, but there's a very obvious difference between "allowing a private company planning permission to spend GBP15bn on a thing" and "spending GBP15bn on a thing".
Corollary of that is that Heathrow will want to secure a decent return on that expenditure, and so will prioritise traffic that generates more income - which won't be to and from Liverpool and Newquay.
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