26th April, 2012
A significant speech was delivered by Transport Minister Theresa Villiers MP at a Transport Times event on 19th April considering ‘the case for new hub capacity’.
“The Chancellor announced in his Autumn statement that we would explore all the options for maintaining the UK’s aviation hub status with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow”, she told the conference. “The Coalition has always been clear that it does not support a third runway at Heathrow. One of its very first acts as a Government was to confirm this.”
She also took a swipe at the recent propaganda calling for Heathrow expansion: “Then there’s China… Like the rest of the Westminster village … I’ve read on the escalators at Westminster tube station that we’re lagging behind in this important market … lagging behind unless, that is, we include the 3000 flights every year to Hong Kong.”
Villiers did not, however, mention that the Coalition Statement also previously stated clearly that Government did not support new runways at Gatwick or Stansted.
Moving on to the forthcoming aviation strategy consultation, she said “I know some would like us to go faster but this decision is a crucial one which requires an objective, thorough and evidence based analysis of our connectivity needs and how best to meet them in a sustainable way.”
AEF concurs. We believe that convincing and logical arguments are needed to justify airport expansion, not spurious arguments and hype.
One example was provided at a meeting the same day held by the Independent Transport Commission, where BAA and London First argued for an expanded Heathrow hub airport, on the basis that good air links to rapidly growing economies such as China are necessary for British business people. This may be so, but it has very little to do with expanding Heathrow as a hub airport, a hub being, by definition, where people change planes; at Heathrow, most transfer passengers are not from the UK.
A British business person wants, ideally, a direct flight to their destination. But recognising that there can never be point-to-point services for a great majority of city pairs, travellers have to change planes. It is unimportant to travellers, and thus to the business community and the national economy, whether their interchange is at Heathrow or at any other airport.
Theresa Villiers’ full speech.