What the commentators said
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”.