The coalition government and Labour withdraw their support for a new runway at Heathrow, an airport that is already running at 98% capacity. As the Economist sees it.
The language both politicians used shows how keen they are to move the focus of British aviation policy away from Heathrow’s third runway. But I fear they are too optimistic, especially given the absence of viable, fundable alternatives. The reasons for not building a runway are valid, but for the time being a politician has to embrace them when discussing improvements at Heathrow.
The third runway remains the elephant in the aviation-policy room. So while in her speech Ms Greening also referred to other efforts her department would be making at Heathrow, these sounded like so much window-dressing. Talk of improving “resilience”—so that the next time bad weather comes, the airport responds more effectively—is unlikely to impress British business. The easiest way to improve resilience at an airport operating at 98% capacity would be to build some slack into the system. The creation of another runway would certainly help achieve this, as Ms Greening is no doubt fully aware, while also helping boost the British economy (according to a new report). The debate, therefore, remains very much alive.
The question is will more and more air travel start looking for a hub that is easier to get in and out of.