Archive for the ‘Heathrow’ Category

A runway too far.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Inside the giant human “No”. Photo Inel blog.

(Click to go to blog.)

After Tuesday’s Cabinet discussion, which failed to give Gordon Brown full backing for the third runway Heathrow runway, the Prime Minister scurried away to Germany to announce that he would be going ahead with the expansion of Heathrow. Today, Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, formally announced the decision to the House of Commons saying that MP’s would not be allowed to vote on the decision.

Hayes and Harlington MP, John McDonnell (Labour), echoed my own words, warning that the third runway would turn out to be Labour’s own poll tax, announcing: “The Government’s announcement is not the end of the battle against the third runway, it is just the beginning.”

With Tory leader, David Cameron, and London Mayor, Boris Johnson, both against the expansion – as well as some million plus affected residents and 24 local authorities – the plan is unlikely to survive the general election. All that protesters have to do is to delay the “point of no return” until after the election has been held.

Dyspozytor

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FOURTH runway for Heathrow???

Saturday, 15 November 2008

MPs debate Heathrow expansion.


charlesdegaulleairportaerial

Charles de Gaulle Airport, near Paris.
Photo Wikpedia Commons

(Click to see the photograph in its original context and details of licensing.)

Faced with overwhelming opposition from local residents, the London boroughs, other affected local authorities and the majority of MPs to the idea of building a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, what does Gordon Brown intend to do? Why build a third runway, that’s what!

During a Parliamentary debate that took place on Tuesday 11 November, the overwhelming majority of backbench MPs as well as the frontbench Conservative and Liberal speakers expressed themselves unreservedly against the idea of a building a third runway at Heathrow Airport. For those without the time to read the full transcript of the debate the following selection from the speeches of Geoff Hoon, (Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Labour), John Gummer (backbench Conservative), Norman Baker (Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Liberal Democrat), John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington, Labour) and George Young (North West Hampshire, Conservative).

Teresa Villiers MP, for Chipping Barnet and the Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, argued eloquently in favour of ditching plans for a third runway at Heathrow and linking Heathrow to a new UK high speed rail network. She maintained her composure in the face of many government sponsored interruptions. Serious students of the Heathrow expansion project are encouraged to read her arguments against the third runway and those of many other MPs in the full Hansard transcript of the debate.

John Gummer Suffolk Coastal, Conservative

What is wrong with Britain when we can never take any big decisions in a sensible manner? I happen to think that airport expansion is not—for reasons associated with climate change—the way forward. If it really is necessary to have more airport facilities, it would be sensible to do what every sensible nation has done, which is to put them somewhere where aircraft do not have to fly up and down over large numbers of people…

It is depressing in the extreme to see a former Minister laugh at the idea of doing something about high-speed rail, when he used to be in charge of the railways at a time when nobody was working for the railways, and then suggest that it is somehow inappropriate to demand what every other nation in Europe has done about similar problems…

I read carefully what the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said:

“Only if Britain plays its part will a global deal in Copenhagen to cut emissions be possible, so far from retreating from our objectives, we should reaffirm our resolve.”

What does he then do? He goes to Copenhagen and says, “What I want you to do is to follow the British route. We are going to build a new coal-fired power station in Kingsnorth without any kind of carbon capture or sequestration. We are going to expand the airport at Stansted. We have already increased the number of airplanes there. What is more, to show our commitment to the battle against climate change, we are going to have a third runway at Heathrow.” What kind of leadership is Britain going to be able to provide in Copenhagen if the Government fail to understand that joined-up thinking is a necessary part of fighting climate change?

The truth of the matter is that we have a real opportunity at this moment to set the world on the right course. It is no good wittering on about the fact that this or that country has not done it, so until they do, we are not going to do it. We did not win the battle of the industrial revolution by saying, “We are not going forward with industrialisation until they have.”

In the new green revolution, we have to take these decisions for the economic future of our country. I remind the Secretary of State that the quality of life report was written by someone who did not have a constituency reason for writing it and he did so at the point at which the Conservative party took the ideas on board—not for short-term local constituency reasons, but for the longer-term reason that we cannot cut our emissions by 80 per cent. by 2050 and build a third runway at Heathrow at the same time. We simply cannot do that…

What is more, as Mr. Raynsford pointed out, the same arguments will emerge next time. I have been in the House for a long time, and I have heard them all before. I have heard it said that we must have a fourth terminal, we must have a fifth terminal and we must have more capacity, because otherwise Heathrow will collapse, the British economy will collapse, and the world will collapse. That is not true, and the figures have to be fiddled to make that argument appear true…

Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat

Heathrow will carry on as a major airport. Despite all the doom and gloom from the Government, it will not suddenly shut down if it does not get a third runway. It will carry on at, or near, capacity. We need to deal with the situation of passengers arriving at Heathrow who currently find it most convenient to transfer to another aircraft, so that in future they transfer to rail. That requires plugging in the high-speed network with Heathrow in a way that facilitates such journeys, so there is one more leg to go. That would be a sensible way forward.

The Secretary of State was keen to talk about the 2003 White Paper, but, as Mr. Gummer pointed out, so much has changed over the last five years. After all, the Government’s 2003 energy policy was against nuclear power, and we are now told that it is the best thing since sliced bread. They have managed to change on that in the past five years, but they have not changed on aviation. Why not?

Exactly so. A lot of things have changed since 2003, including that a much stronger case is now being put for high-speed rail by Network Rail and others, which means there is a capacity for modal shift that was not anticipated. I do not mind the Government being committed to a 30-year long-term air strategy—the Secretary of State said it would be long term—but why does the rail strategy run out in 2014? Why are there no plans beyond 2014 to improve our railways? We have some longer platforms and trains now, but there are no plans beyond 2014—no lines opening, no commitment yet to high-speed rail, no electrification. A lot of things have been talked about, but nothing has been delivered on beyond 2014. Why is it right for air to have a long-term strategy, but not railways? That shows the unbalanced way in which the Department for Transport has addressed transport policy over the years: it has been roads, good; air, good; rail, bad; bus, bad. That simplistic way of looking at matters accurately reflects how the Department has dealt with transport policy.

John McDonnell Hayes & Harlington, Labour

I am arguing for reaching some form of consensus across the House about the way we approach the issue. This is such a big decision that it needs to be taken out of the party political knockabout arena. We need to have a discussion. I dislike the tenor of the debate on both sides of the House, not only because of my constituency interests but because of the significance of the decision, which I mentioned. The onus is on us to treat the matter seriously and see whether we can find cross-party agreement.

The alternatives that have been put forward deserve better analysis. I actually think that the Marinair proposal that the Mayor [Boris Johnson ed.] has now taken up was dismissed too lightly in the assessment in the White Paper. I also believe that the Government dismissed too lightly the idea of developing a proper regional airport strategy linked to a high-speed rail system.

Let me briefly go through the arguments and look for a way forward, and let us see whether we can get some agreement. This is a major decision that will, as the Secretary of State said, affect the long-term interests of our economy. It will also make or break our climate change policy. It has immense economic consequences not only for London and the south-east, but for the country as a whole. If we are good Europeans, we should look to the overall implications for European economic and transport policy. The policy will cause immense social division within the country. Many people are disillusioned with the whole process of consultation, assessment and policy making that the Government have undertaken. They are angry, and the anger is building. I believe that it is building into a form of direct action the like of which neither the Government nor the country have ever seen. We saw what happened at the climate camp, but Heathrow is becoming the iconic battleground for the climate change campaign, not only in Britain but throughout Europe. Forging ahead with a decision to expand Heathrow will sow social division; it will divide our country and bring us into conflict in a way that we have not seen before.

We need to take the decision out of the political knockabout arena. We should accept that events have moved on since the 2003 White Paper. The Government have introduced a new Planning Bill. We were given assurances on the Floor of the House that if the Heathrow decision was taken under the procedures in that legislation, there would have to be a new national policy statement. If the decision is not taken under the new legislation, we will go back to the old planning inquiry system. The process for terminal 5 lasted five years, and on that basis the process for terminal 6 and a third runway will probably take seven years.

We should commence cross-party discussions about the development of a new national policy statement on aviation, and see how times have moved on and how Government climate change policy has changed. We should set up an independent—properly independent—review of aviation strategy and decide where the Heathrow decision fits into it. On that basis, we can at least attempt to seek consensus on this critical decision.

However, if the Secretary of State thinks that he can railroad the decision through the House without a Division, he is sorely mistaken. The least the Government can promise us is that any final decision will be taken democratically, by this House, in a Division, on the basis of the decisions that our electorates made to have us represent their interests in this matter.

Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Ashfield, Labour

Today, international travel is no longer the preserve of the wealthy, although it is fair to say that the better-off are taking advantage of far more flights than even they might have made in the past. However, the real point is that everyone is benefiting. The number of international flights taken by UK residents more than trebled between 1986 and 2006. That meant that in 2006, UK residents made on average one international flight a year, whereas in 1986 that figure was one flight between three people. In the past 12 months, more than half the population took at least two flights.

To illustrate what that means in practice for our constituents, let me take an example chosen not entirely at random. The latest census data show that the leafy north London seat of Chipping Barnet has a population of 103,000 people. Using those UK averages, we can calculate that more than 50,000 constituents of Mrs. Villiers took at least two flights in the past 12 months. Of course it is also important to bear in mind the fact that some 50 per cent. of the hon. Lady’s constituents are in managerial occupations and so tend to use air travel even more.

I hope that the hon. Lady will be explicit to her constituents about the implications of her party’s position: less frequent, less reliable and more expensive flights. Moreover, she will have to explain to her constituents that if she gets her way, instead of making the 25-mile journey to Heathrow, they will have to get used to flying to Paris or Schiphol for a connecting flight. The number of passengers passing through UK airports has also grown rapidly, from 32 million in 1970 to 241 million in 2007, a rise of around 650 per cent.

George Young North West Hampshire, Conservative

Is it not the case that the growth of low-cost flights has been in flights from airports other than Heathrow?

Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Ashfield, Labour

That is of course the case, but the reality is that there is enormous demand for flights from Heathrow that has not been satisfied in recent years. That is precisely why the right hon. Gentleman’s former colleague, the noble Lord Mawhinney, made the statement to which I referred earlier. The right hon. Gentleman’s Government—the Government whom he consistently supported—were looking at capacity in the south-east in the early 1990s. He knows that full well. Therefore, as a distinguished Member of the House, he ought to be able to explain rather more effectively than those now on his Front Bench why his party’s policy has changed so dramatically on the basis of a massive increase in the number of flights, albeit without any explanation of how that capacity will arise.

Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat

Our policy has not changed as a matter of fact, but may I draw the Secretary of State back to the 2003 White Paper, on which he has predicated so much of his speech today? Does he not accept that the world has moved on significantly since 2003, both for the reasons that Mr. Gummer gave and because of the potential for high-speed rail and the developments in transport elsewhere? It is simply unwise to rely on a 2003 White Paper to work out what should happen to aviation in 2008. Will he therefore revisit the major concerns, rather than concentrating this debate solely on the environmental consequences, important though they are, for the communities around Heathrow?

Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Ashfield, Labour

If the hon. Gentleman has studied the White Paper as carefully as I hope he has, he will have noticed that we are talking about the requirements for this country’s aviation to 2030. As I have referred to the previous Conservative Government looking into capacity in the early 1990s and concluding by 1995 that Heathrow was already full in a practical sense, let me make it clear that even if we decided to go ahead today, which clearly we will not, it would be at least 2020 until a further runway was available and a further terminal constructed. That means that some 30 years would have elapsed on a decision that was being considered by the previous Conservative Government in the early 1990s.

It is therefore wrong to suggest that the issue can be determined on the basis of this year’s or next year’s forecast. We are talking about a strategic decision. It is disappointing that the Conservative Opposition have, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying so, simply adopted the rather short-term approach that is characteristic of the Liberal Democrats.

In the strange way that Parliamentary democracy is practised at Westminster, the house did not divide on whether or not the third runway should actually be built, but on the procedural motion, That this House has considered the matter of adding capacity to Heathrow. Any BTWT readers who believe the Government’s argument that Heathrow needs a third runway to remain competitive with other European ‘hub’ airports should reflect on the fact that Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris is about to start construction of its fourth runway, and is already on the TGV high speed rail network.

MPs’ plot to stop Heathrow runway

Monday, 3 November 2008

The proposed third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport,
map Daily Telegraph

(Click map to read the original Daily Telegraph March 2008 article in which it originally appeared.)

The Daily Mail published an article last Tuesday which claimed that Ministers were helping to stir up a rebellion among Labour MPs in a bid to sink the plan to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.

John Grogan, MP for Selby in North Yorkshire, said that some senior Government figures, including Cabinet members, have privately urged him to launch a parliamentary revolt against the controversial airport expansion. Mr Grogan has sponsored an early day motion (a parliamentary device to signal MPs’ concern) urging the Government to rethink its Heathrow plans. According to Mr Grogan, there was ‘mounting nervousness’ among ministers that the runway plan could cost Labour a string of marginal seats around the West London airport at a General Election. ‘Given that airline traffic is now falling significantly, the Government surely cannot continue to base its policy on a White Paper on airports dating back to 2003.’

The motion urged the Government to rethink its plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport and to give full consideration to alternative solutions; regrets the Government’s heavy reliance on data supplied by the BAA in assessing the case for expansion and notes the likely forthcoming break up of BAA’s ownership of three of London’s airports following the investigation by the Competition Committee; believes that the consultation paper Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport was deeply flawed, as it paid insufficient regard to the costs of air and noise pollution in the surrounding areas and the commitment to curb carbon dioxide emissions to tackle climate change; regrets the fact that provisions to improve high speed rail lines from Heathrow to major cities have not been fully explored, along with the potential of other UK airports to handle more long haul flights; and urges the Government to initiate a consultation on a new national planning policy statement on the theme of airports and high speed rail.

The criticism of BAA supplied data is a shot across the bows to the tripartite alliance between the Government, civil servants and BAA which a year ago looked unstoppable. In March this year, The Times revealed how data on the impact of a third runway were repeatedly altered, giving the impression that its effect on noise and pollution would be negligible. Figures for carbon emissions were massaged down by the crude device of excluding incoming international flights from the calculations. BAA was effectively given a veto on the contents of the consultation document, being allowed to rewrite it. On Wednesday the new Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon told MPs on Wednesday he would make a decision after studying a summary of the 70,000 responses to the consultation. By Thursday the BBC had picked up the story as opposition leaders urged the government to to think again. By today 105 MPs had already signed Mr Grogan’s motion. Importantly, this includes some 40 Labour MPs, including former ministers Michael Meacher and Frank Dobson.

The pollution shadow from Heathrow, is generated not only by 2,612 plane movements daily (combined landings and take offs), but also by two incinerators which disperse radioactive particles and dioxins all over London and the South East. So if you live in Britain and feel that enough is enough, why not write to your local MP and urge him to sign John Grogan’s motion.

Tom won’t, but Terry will

Monday, 28 July 2008

Terry Hill, chairman of Arup

While Britain’s Rail Minister, Tom Harris, has been busy telling MPs that the UK is too crowded for high speed rail, and that high speed trains are not very ‘green’. Terry Hill, the chairman of Arup has been progressing his plans to build Britain’s next high speed line. Here’s an extract from an interview with him published in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

Hill and his fellow Arupites are old hands at the big politics that go with big projects. They were the behind-the-scenes movers and shakers on decisions that shaped the face of Britain over the past two decades.

Remember Margaret Thatcher’s mid-1980s plan to build three orbital roads for London, Ringways 1, 2 and 3? Thought not. Hill helped kill it. Remember the British Rail scheme to bring the high-speed rail line from the Channel tunnel carving through the south London suburbs? No? Hill and his merry men killed that too.

Now Arup has another cunning plan, a £4.2 billion extension of the high-speed line. It would run west of the capital to a new mega station near Heathrow, kick-starting new rail lines to the north, and perhaps removing the need for the airport’s third runway. Hill went to see transport secretary Ruth Kelly about it last week.

Click here for the complete article.

Arup were responsible for designing the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, now rebranded as HS1. They were also involved in the Sydney Opera House, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and in most of the new venues built for the Beijing Olympics.

In January Arup announced that it was working on a feasibility study for HS2, a new high speed line from London to the North. The company had first suggested building such a line 18 years earlier. Observing the distinctly chilly welcome that Greengauge’s plans for high speed rail received from the UK Treasury and Department for Transport, Arup repacked their plans and in May launched a proposal to build a new transport hub at Heathrow Airport, one that could in the future be served by high speed rail. Now Arup are advocating extending HS1 from Central London to the proposed Heathrow hub.

Perhaps, their slowly, slowly catchee monkey approach may just turn out to be successful.

Councils give Ruth Kelly £30bn high speed rail alternative to Heathrow runway 3.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP, Secretary of State for Transport
photo The Guardian

(click to see original context)

The 2M Group is an alliance of local authorities concerned at the environmental impact of Heathrow expansion on their communities. The membership comprises the London Boroughs of Brent, Camden, Ealing, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Kingston, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Richmond, Southwark, Sutton and Wandsworth, and the boroughs of Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead and South Bucks District Council. The group, which took its name from the 2 million residents of the original 12 authorities, now represents a combined population of 4 million people.

In January the 2M group of councils sent 20 key questions to transport secretary Ruth Kelly who announced her backing for a new runway at the airport before the start of the Government’s consultation on the plan. The 2M Group of councils drew up the list after residents complained that the Department for Transport’s consultation document had been made deliberately complicated and one-sided.

A spokesperson said: “Many people have said they find the 238-page consultation document and the eight-page questionnaire bewildering. Yet for all the great mass of detail so much of the vital information on environmental impact and economic benefits is missing. We hope residents will find it useful to include some of the 2M questions in their own response to the minister. We are not saying these are the only questions but they do cover the main concerns people have expressed so far. The Government has made this consultation as difficult as possible – our aim is to simplify matters so that residents can test the minister on the key assumptions that lie behind her support for expansion.”

Now in the next major development of their campaign the Group are about to launch a plan for a new £30 billion high-speed rail line linking Liverpool and Manchester to Heathrow. The proposal envisages a single England-Scotland spine route and several spurs that would reach out to major cities including Liverpool and Manchester. It would run alongside the M1 and use the disused Woodhead line to Manchester, including the rail tunnel.

Edwards Lister, leader of Wandsworth Council said: “We are delighted to publish these proposals because we want a debate. We have a Government that can’t see further than the next runway. “It’s time for some imagination in UK transport planning. We don’t pretend for one minute we have all the answers but at least we’re asking the right questions.”

Richmond Council leader Serge Lourie added: “The country’s roads are grinding to a halt and all ministers want to do is put more planes in the sky and more cars on the ground. Even expanding just the existing Heathrow runways would bring another million road journeys. The real demand is for sustainable transport options that actually help people and businesses move around the country.”

If you are disturbed at the way the UK Government is trying to push through the case for the 3rd Heathrow runway why not drop a note to your MP. You find all the details you need to know here. You can use the e-mail link provided on the site, or if you would rather send a real letter, once you have the name of your MP you should address it to:

The House of Commons
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

The old joined-up thinking test

Saturday, 29 March 2008

third runway take off corridors

Heathrow third runway take off corridors


1896 – CO2 and global warming link proposed

The link between increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and global warming was first proposed by a Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius, who warned in 1896, that the rapidly increasing consumption of fossil fuel caused by industrialisation would lead to increases in average temperature.

For FIFTY YEARS scientists have known about global warming. This excerpt is from the well known educational documentary

A British scientist, G. S. Calendar, calculated in 1938 that mankind had produced 150 billion tons of CO2 over the last 50 years. In the 1950s, American scientists Plass and Revelle warned that global warming could become a problem in the near future.

Unchained Goddess
Bell Labs documentary

1962

In 1962, the Russian climate expert Mikhail Budyko issued a stronger warning. He calculated that the exponential growth of industrial civilization would cause a drastic global warming within the next century. In 1965, a group of leading scientists issued a joint statement that “By the year 2000 the increase in atmospheric CO2 … may be sufficient to produce measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate.”

1972

bp_mag_cover_front_100.jpgIn 1972, The Ecologist published A Blueprint for Survival in advance of the first Environment Summit in Stockholm. Authored by Edward Goldsmith and Robert Allen, it put forward the case for adopting a more sustainable lifestyle. Many of their ideas, which seemed radical at the time, are now part of EU policy. As regards UK transport they argued that,

270. No-one can contemplate with equanimity the doubling of roads within this decade necessary to maintain the status quo, and we must therefore seek sensible transportation alternatives. It is clear that broadly-speaking the only alternative is public transport-a mix of rapid mass-transit by road and rail. Rail especially should never have been allowed to run down to the extent that it has. The power requirements for transporting freight by road are five to six times greater than by rail and the pollution is correspondingly higher. The energy outlay for the cement and steel required to build a motorway is three to four times greater than that required to build a railway and the land area necessary for the former is estimated to be four times more than for the latter. Public transport whether by road or rail is much more efficient in terms of per capita use of materials and energy than any private alternative. It can also be as flexible, provided it is encouraged at the expense of private transport.

1985

In 1985 a French-Soviet drilling team at Vostok Station in central Antarctica produced an ice core two kilometers long that carried a 150,000-year record, a complete ice age cycle of warmth, cold and warmth. They found that the level of atmospheric CO2 had gone up and down in remarkably close step with temperature.

reconstruction of atmospheric temperature from measurements of the isotope Deuterium. Both are plotted against age (thousands of years Before Present, with the present at the far left).

By the time they stopped drilling a dozen years later, the team had recovered ice going back 400,000 years, across four glacial cycles. The CO2 levels in their record got as low as 180 parts per million in the cold periods and reached 280 in the warm periods, never higher. But in the air above the researchers, the level of the gas had reached 350 — far above anything seen in this geological era and still climbing.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. In 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development more than 150 nations signed a declaration committing themselves to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in their countries. In 1994, the IPCC stated that nations needed to make drastic changes in order to negate the effects of global warming. This announcement led to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to fight global warming. The protocol called for countries to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases and was to take effect in 2005.

2005

The treaty was signed and ratified by 125 countries. However, the United States, which is estimated to be the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, refused to sign the treaty. In 2007 the IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former USA Vice President Al Gore.

At the end of 2007 the IPCC released its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) which provided irrefutable evidence how mankind’s activities are driving climate change. Since 2007, scientists have observed rapidly shrinking polar ice caps and have warned that as polar ice cover decreases so it will reflect back less and less solar radiation leading to an acceleration of global warming.

(Arctic summer ice 1997 – 2007, You Tube video)


UK contribution to reducing CO2 emissions

And what of the UK’s contribution to reducing CO2 emissions? Since 1961 the UK has axed 2/3 of its railway network (pdf). In 1997, the UK Labour was elected on a manifesto that promised, inter alia, We will put concern for the environment at the heart of policy-making, so that it is not an add-on extra, but informs the whole of government, from housing and energy policy through to global warming and international agreements. Emissions of CO2, from power stations, motor vehicles and homes, amounted to 560.6 million tonnes in 2006, 6.4 million tonnes higher than the 2005 figure. The increase of 1.15 per cent means that Britain’s emissions are now at the highest level since Labour came to power a decade ago, nearly 3 per cent above 1997. (source The Independent)

UK traffic levels have risen some 11 per cent since Labour came to power in 1997. The three successive Labour administrations – the 2002 renationalisation of Railtrack notwithstanding – have done nothing to reform the dysfunctional management of Britain’s railways that they had inherited from John Major’s inept privatisation. Instead – after a brief pause – the government renewed the Tories road-building programme. Road transport is responsible for around 20% of total UK emissions of carbon dioxide. (Source: FOE press release) Emissions are rising because traffic is growing faster than fuel efficiency is improving. Aviation emissions have grown fastest of all. Since 1990, domestic aviation has seen emissions growth of nearly 100%, while international air travel emissions have grown by 123%.

Aware but not connected

The government is well aware of global warming and rising sea levels and the government controlled quango, English Nature, has just proposed allowing the sea to engulf the northern Norfolk Broads! Meanwhile Department for Transport declares that it is ‘modally agnostic‘ while actively promoting a third runway – mainly to handle internal UK – flights at London’s Heathrow Airport.

Terminal failure

At London’s Heathrow Airport, the opening of the new Terminal 5 (T5) to fare paying passengers on 28 March (there was an official opening by the Queen a fortnight earlier) was a shambles. Press reports highlighted cancelled flights, 15,000 – 20,000 piled up items of luggage and irate passengers. There was no mention that, when the T5 planning enquiry was held, local residents were promised that that the construction of the new terminal would not be be followed by the building of a third runway. However, even before Terminal 5 greeted its first passengers, The Guardian and The Independent were already drawing attention to the some of the continuing problems that travellers would face at Heathrow. This week as T5 passengers suffer cancelled flights and baggage chaos, its time to pause and reflect that more and more of the UK’s European neighbours are deserting the hassles of airport check-in, and the dubious facilities of toxic aeroplanes, for the safety, comfort and convenience of high speed rail. In its Saturday leader Terminal Failure, The Guardian injected a timely breath of fresh air into the third runway debate:

But above all else it should lead to a rethink of Heathrow, and the campaign by its monopolistic owner BAA to build a third runway in order to fill Terminals 5 and 6 with ever more passengers.

Unfortunately the prime minister and the transport secretary seem convinced of the case. It would be better if they shook their heads after this week’s disaster and instead backed at least one new high-speed rail line from London to the north, which could serve Heathrow too. This is what has happened in the rest of Europe, where fast rail links from Madrid to Barcelona or Paris to Lyon easily trump flying. Not many of the passengers struggling to board short-haul flights from Terminal 5 yesterday really wanted to travel to or from London by plane. They were doing so either because British Airways has abandoned direct flights from regional airports or because, absurdly, it is cheaper to travel by air than by train.

Even without short-haul flights Heathrow will still be packed. Many places can only be reached by flying. But there should be no need for BA to run 14 daily flights from London to Manchester. It will keep on doing so while the government tries to cap rail use. This week the Department for Transport delayed plans to lengthen Virgin Trains services to Manchester from nine coaches to 11. The government should change its mind on that, block a third runway and recognise that Heathrow has reached its limit. Terminal 5 will work in the end. But it is the new station at St Pancras which offers a real 21st-century gateway to London.

Now as Terminal 5 chaos continues some MP’s are beginning to question the wisdom of building a third runway at Heathrow.

Gordon Brown and Ruth Kelly, please note.


Further reading

Climate Change

How Mankind Is Sleepwalking… , The Ecologist
Climate Change, Friends of the Earth
Climate Change: facts and figures, Christian Aid
The 4 Stages of Global Warming Denial, M.G.R. Gatineau

Sustainable Living

How to use green transport, Campaign for Better Transport
Shifting Gear, The Ecologist
30 Steps to an oil free world, The Ecologist
Get Cycling, Sustrans
UK motor industry failing to tackle climate change, FOE

Heathrow Third Runway

MPs criticise Terminal 5 ‘Fiasco’, Financial Times
Britain stealing US crown of No 1 climate villain, The Guardian
‘Secret pact’ over Heathrow’s third runway, Times
Hemmed in at Heathrow, The Economist
Heathrow analysis ‘seriously flawed’, Financial Times
The Economics of Heathrow Expansion, CE DElft
No Third Runway Action Group, NTRAG

Airport Problems

No end in sight for disruption at Terminal 5, Scotsman
The showcase with not a lot to show for it, Daily Mail
What did go wrong at Terminal 5, This is Longford Blog
Other airports’ rocky starts, BBC News
United axes Denver baggage system, Computerworld