Published on Thursday, November 20, 2008

'30 year' impact of failing to expand Heathrow - BA boss


The boss of British Airways has warned that the UK economy will be held back by inadequate air links for 30 years if plans for a third runway at Heathrow are rejected.

Chief executive Willie Walsh spoke out prior to an expected decision on the additional runway next month.

He claimed that rejection of the project would leave Britain without a hub airport to match the capacity of rivals in Europe and the Middle East for at least a generation.

Walsh said: “Since 1990, while the networks of Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle have increased, Heathrow’s has declined by 20%.

“The threat to Heathrow is not just from the Continent. In Dubai, construction is well under way of a six-runway, 24-hour hub which its planners want to become the key link between aviation’s biggest market, North America, and its fastest-growing, Asia. Flights would bypass Europe completely.”

Speaking to the annual conference of the Airport Operators’ Association in London, Walsh said: “We are not good at infrastructure planning in this country. Projects often take decades from conception to execution.

“We have already had six years of public scrutiny of a third runway – and we are not over the starting line.

“If we received approval tomorrow, it would be another 12 years before the runway opened. If the runway is turned down, it will be many years before the proposal is revived – and then the whole process would have to start from scratch.”

He hit out at London mayor Boris Johnson’s preferred option of a new airport to the east of London.

“Time wasted pursuing the unfundable fantasy of a Thames Estuary hub would slow progress further,” claimed Walsh.

“The probability is that if the current opportunity to expand our national hub is lost, the UK will suffer the consequences for at least 30 years.

“In the meantime, we would have condemned Heathrow, and the global connectivity of the UK economy, to further relative decline.”

He added: “If the financial turmoil of the last two months has taught us anything, it is that we live in a global economy. No region of the world is economically immune from developments in other regions.

“So it is clearer than ever that UK businesses must be provided with the kind of high-quality worldwide connectivity that is essential for success in a globalised economy.

“We have prevaricated about airport expansion for far too long. Meanwhile the other major European countries have raced ahead, investing in hub airport capacity to provide the geographic network businesses need as the global economy develops and intensifies.”

He added that the expansion of Heathrow “rightly lays down stringent environmental safeguards to reduce or neutralise the impacts on noise, local air quality and carbon emissions”.

Walsh said: “The time to move forward is now. This is a very serious decision of immense strategic importance for the future of the UK.

“It is not a decision to be taken for superficial or transient reasons. It is a big decision for the long-term, and it will be a statement about those who make it.”

by Phil Davies 

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  • British airports in general

    I see Mr Walsh's comments as a desperate plea. BA spent a fortune on the hash they made of Terminal 5 and now clearly can't get enough planes in to pay for it. Idiots. I have always held that regional airports are the way forward. Local flights reduce long distance driving for passengers, road traffic, stress prior to departure and are considerably greener too. I don't want a 3rd runway at Heathrow and I bet that those poor devils living in Hounslow, Greenford, Hayes etc don't either.

    By Alexander Carraro, Friday, November 21, 2008

  • Wille Walsh Heathrow Expansion

    Wille Walsh and Heathrow Expansion. Wille, you could not handle the opening of BA's T5 let alone Heathrow's expansion.

    By HARRY CICHY, Thursday, November 20, 2008

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