The masthead of the Stop Heathrow Expansion website
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Two UK national newspapers reported on Friday that the government go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow is imminent. Pro-runway groups, including: The British Airports Authority, British Airways, British Midland Airways, the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress, are holding a special meeting on Monday to publicise the case for building the third runway. Gordon Brown and Geoff Hoon have agreed to present the decision for the Cabinet’s approval on Tuesday and a decision may be announced later that day or on Wednesday.
The bad news, for the hundreds of thousands of people who will be affected, will be sweetened by so-called ‘binding assurances’ that strict limits on emissions and aircraft noise will be met. Also there will be an announcement that Heathrow will be linked to Britain’s High Speed railway network if the government decides to go ahead with the latter.
But if a decision is announced next week, the battle will not stop then. Local authorities and anti-runway community groups will seek to challenge the government’s decision and postpone the ‘point of no-return’ until a Conservative government is elected. Prime minister, Gordon Brown, must fight a general election by 2010 at the latest and opposition leader, David Cameron, has said that he opposes the third runway proposal.
BTWT’s position on the third runway is simple. Going ahead with a third runway at Heathrow is would be environmental madness. London, whose air quality is already below international standards, would be faced with an even more concentrated cocktail of polluting toxic chemicals. CO2 emissions from aeroplanes and motor traffic fumes would increase. We also believe that the Government’s case that Heathrow must have a third runway to remain a major international hub is seriously flawed. Heathrow’s role as a major international hub is already declining.
If you really want to run in the Eurohub race you need at least FOUR runways, AND to be plugged into Europe’s high speed railway network. Europe’s busiest airport, Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris has four runways, its own Ligne Grande Vitesse station and room for further expansion. Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport is planning its SEVENTH runway and has a station served by Thalys High Speed trains connecting to Antwerp, Brussels and Paris. Frankfurt Airport has excellent rail links (nearly one third of all passengers come by rail) is building its fourth runway and has room for even more. Even with a third runway, Heathrow – with its lack of fast main line rail services (Yes I do know about the rail link to Paddington!), rat infested passageways, and widely dispersed terminals – hasn’t a hope of remaining in the top league.
There is massive opposition to Heathrow, not only from the million plus residents who will face more noise and pollution, but also by the twenty odd local authorities that represent them. Mr Brown is an unelected Prime Minister, representing a party that received only 35% of the votes cast at the last election. If he tries to force the decision through, he will face a crisis similar to the one which brought down Mrs Thatcher in 1990.