British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has slammed the Tory party over its plans for a rail link to replace a third runway at Heathrow.
He accused the Conservatives of being -¬---all over the place-¬~ on aviation, claiming that some in the party were opposed to expansion, others want to build a new national hub in the Thames Estuary and a third group back Heathrow.
-¬---The latest idea that a rail link from Leeds and Manchester to Heathrow would be an adequate substitute for a third runway beggars belief,-¬~ he told an audience in the City of London.
-¬---Flights to Manchester and Leeds are less than 3% of Heathrow-¬™s current operation. The runway capacity this would free up would be swallowed almost immediately by natural growth.
-¬---And even this tiny and temporary benefit would not be forthcoming until 2027.
-¬---So the Conservatives apparently want to undermine the UK-¬™s efforts to succeed in a global economy - and condemn Heathrow to permanent status as the most delay-prone airport in Europe.
-¬---Without extra runway capacity, Heathrow will never have any slack in the system -" and the tiniest disruption will cause knock-on delays all day.
-¬---Don-¬™t just take my word for it. Two weeks ago, 100 leading companies and business organisations launched a public declaration of support for a third runway.
-¬---A third runway at our national hub airport is essential for jobs, wealth creation and the future economic success of this country in a globalised economy.
-¬---The Conservatives may have an election to win. But they must not forget that if they are successful, they will have a country to govern.
-¬---High-speed rail should be seen as complementary to air travel, not a substitute for it.
-¬---That is why Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt airports already have high-speed rail links. And by 2011, they will also have four runways each - while Heathrow struggles on with two.
-¬---Only a third runway, providing a capacity increase of about 40%, can give Heathrow the room it needs to grow and improve operational performance on a permanent basis."
He said the extra capacity was essential:
- to reverse the 20% decline in Heathrow-¬™s route network since 1990
- to make room for economically vital new connections to Asia and South America
- to create firebreaks for operational recovery, so that Heathrow can lose its -¬---extreme vulnerability-¬~ to knock-on delays -" and lose its label as the most delay-prone airport in Europe.
-¬---The third runway proposal has been subject to continual public scrutiny since the Government-¬™s consultation paper first outlined it six years ago. On the existing timetable, the runway would not open before 2020. The last thing we need is further delay. -¬---
By Bev Fearis
Thursday, October 2, 2008