What the com­men­ta­tors said

The Week Middle East - - News -

At last the Govern­ment has reached the “right an­swer”, said Julian Glover in the FT. Only Heathrow has the trans­port links needed to serve London, and the rest of the coun­try. (Gatwick, be­ing di­rectly south of London, is harder to reach from the North, and the ex­pan­sion of the UK’s hub was backed by a group of MPs from Wales, Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land.) But our lead­ers can take no pride in their han­dling of the is­sue. Since the 1970s, they have re­peat­edly al­lowed their po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests to stand in the way of much-needed air­port ex­pan­sion. Only a few years ago, David Cameron wooed London vot­ers with the pledge that there would be no third run­way at Heathrow – “no if, no buts”. Liv­ing un­der the Heathrow flight path my­self, I have good rea­son to op­pose any ex­pan­sion, said Alex Brum­mer in the Daily Mail. Yet I’m a “pas­sion­ate” sup­porter. It’s not just that a new run­way will cre­ate 70,000 new jobs: it will also lift a ma­jor threat to Bri­tish busi­ness. Con­ges­tion has al­ready seen flights reg­u­larly di­verted to for­eign airports with greater ca­pac­ity; Frank­furt has four run­ways, Schiphol in the Nether­lands has six. If the de­lays con­tinue, “le­gions” of busi­ness peo­ple will choose to go else­where – with “dev­as­tat­ing” con­se­quences for Bri­tain. Ac­tu­ally, the “hys­te­ria” about ca­pac­ity is bo­gus, said Leo Mur­ray in The In­de­pen­dent. There’s plenty to spare around London – run­way slots at Stansted are “half empty”. But in any case the in­crease in air traf­fic is largely due to lav­ish breaks on fuel duty and VAT, which have kept fares ar­ti­fi­cially low. Rather than build­ing new run­ways, we should fo­cus on curb­ing de­mand and re­duc­ing flights. That is the only way to cut our con­sump­tion of avi­a­tion fuel, now the fastest-grow­ing source of green­house gas emis­sions. Dream on, said Si­mon Jenk­ins in The Guardian. Theresa May is never go­ing to dump the Heathrow pro­ject be­cause it fits in with her “mus­cu­lar ap­proach to in­fra­struc­ture”. Like HS2 and Hink­ley Point, she sees it as a vi­tal “em­bod­i­ment of Bri­tain’s in­dus­trial great­ness”. Re­sult: we are now “sad­dled with three of the worst and most ex­trav­a­gant pro­jects in­flicted on Bri­tish tax­pay­ers in a gen­er­a­tion”.

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