32 4 mins 14 yrs

London is not my favourite European city. I find Paris, Rome and Amsterdam far more congenial. That said, it is the capital city of my country and the pre-eminent business, financial and aviation hub of the continent. That is a position I want to see maintained. For how ever much I prefer Paris as a city in-the-round, I would not like it to leapfrog London on any of the criteria I’ve listed above.  One of the ways to protect its status is the creation of a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris is Europe’s second-busiest.  It currently handles 59 million passengers a year compared to around 67 million for Heathrow.  The average passenger growth rate for CDG is around 1.5% per annum as against less than 0.5% for LHR.  It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out that, on these differing trajectories, CDG will be the biggest airport in Europe within two decades – with the fiscal and psychological benefits that will accrue for the French economy and nation respectively.

I appreciate CDG and LHR have very different histories.  The French were wise in locating their capital’s two airports (Orly was actually the first airport in Paris, not CDG) on the north and south sides of the city (many other world cities have also followed this example).  They had the foresight to acknowledge that the overwhelming number of flights occur on an east-west axis, as opposed to north-south.  Thus, by locating CDG on the north side of Paris and Orly on the south side, the noise from low-flying aircraft is considerably reduced in the Parisian suburbs.  Alas, the same cannot be said for Heathrow.  Lying almost directly to the west of London, planes into Heathrow have to fly in low over the city.  You cannot avoid it.

That was then, this is now.  Whatever the mistakes made in the nascent stage of airport planning in London, Heathrow is the principal gateway to the United Kingdom.  Allowing the birch twig brigade, Alistair McGowan, Emma Thompson and a few disgruntled residents of a nearby ‘village’  to hold sway over this vital addition to our transport infrastructure is the politics of the Luddite.  CDG already has five runways; Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport, has two.  Go figure.  No major transport project has ever taken place in this country without some opposition.  I’m sure the thousands of drivers who travel on the A34 Newbury by-pass every day en route from Southampton to the Midlands are relieved Swampy didn’t get his ‘green wishes’ granted back in the early 1990s.  You cannot allow the progress created by infrastructural evolution to be held in abeyance by the wishes of a local minority.  For example, had we done so, the pathetic North and South Circular roads would today be the only routes around London.

I can’t understand some Londoners.  They want to live in one of the world’s premier cities, yet simultaneously crave the peace and tranquillity of Lulworth Cove.  Forgive my sarcasm, but it doesn’t work like that.  London is stress; London is pollution; London is noise.  That’s what makes it what it is.  So get on and build the 3rd runway and let’s have Heathrow fit for purpose.

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32 thoughts on “Run, Run, Run, Run, Runway

  1. Great post, Andrew.

    London is my favourite large European city, although it is quickly being swallowed in a mountain of plastic and cheapness and all kinds of American junk in a way Paris never will.

  2. 67 million passengers a year going through Heathrow Airport alone yet the left claim that it would be beyond the UK’s resources to deport illegal immigrants (and the 2 – 4 million muslim invaders).

  3. Andrew,

    Never had you down as a NIMBY.

    The day one of those new super jumbos makes a landing at Hammersmith, then you may realise why an airport in such a place is the height of arrogant corporate stupidity. There is no ‘fail safe’ area for a plane in trouble to go to in an emergency, and there will be many of those, – unless you believe in the infallibilty of the system that controls the skies and the planes that use the airspace of SE England.

    The noise is absolutely nerve wracking, and has certainly been a factor in the ‘white flight from west London.

    I agree London is all about noise, crap and tat, it didn’t used to be, and it doesn’t have to be. All that talk of only a ‘minority’ being affected, is total rubbish. London has some seven million people living there, even the governments figures suggest that some four to five million are affected by noise from aircraft.

    London is not an airport, it is a city, do you really want to see it degenerate into a western version of a third world slum? a Bombay or Sao Paolo? – because that is the likely result of continuing to build at Heathrow.

    France had a much larger area to choose for CDG, we did not have the space for such a choice.

    Size alone does not make a city a ‘wonderful’ place.

    Until you have lived under or near the flight path around Heathrow, you really should give some thought before condenming those who do, and who say – enough is enough!

  4. ‘Until you have lived under or near the flight path around Heathrow.’

    I did. Lived in London for over ten years; underneath a flight path; got used to it; and accepted it as a part of life.

    My reason for leaving London had nothing to do with noise or stress.

    ‘France had a much larger area to choose for CDG, we did not have the space for such a choice.’

    Because CDG was built in the right place to begin with. Still, you cannot let Heathrow be trapped by history.

    ‘I agree London is all about noise, crap and tat, it didn’t used to be, and it doesn’t have to be.’

    When? In 1784? London is a hell of a lot about noise, crap and tat. It what makes it London.

  5. Andrew,

    "London is a hell of a lot about noise, crap and tat. It what makes it London."

    Spoken like true northerner!. Maybe it was when you were there, but until that time it didn’t used to be…!

  6. I heard on BBC TV that as part of a package deal to make this deal " Global Warming Friendly " they agreed to put in another high speed train from Heathrow to London.

    But why is there a need for that? There already is a good ( if expensive ) Heathrow Express to Paddington.

    Will the new train supplement the existing train or replace it?

    The Underground service to Heathrow is slow as molasses. If there was a way to speed it up, that would be good. But at least you guys can take the subway all the way to the airport, a choice many big cities don’t give you.

    Could never understand why so many London bound passengers prefer Heathrow. ( Am not talking about BA passengers who may want to transfer for onward travel) To me, Gatwick is just as good if not better.

    And if they still had transatlantic flights into Stansted ( which Continental and American had for a time ) I would choose it, on the premise that a smaller airport is easier to get in or out of.

    That was a great post, by the way. Informative and well written.

  7. >>When? In 1784? London is a hell of a lot about noise, crap and tat.<<

    Apparently not even then.
    The noise, crap and tat drove Keats out back in 1817!

    "Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vexed and tired,
    Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
    Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude,
    Or fed too much with cloying melody,
    Go sit ye near some cavern’s mouth and brood.."

  8. Ernest Young –

    London is a hell of a lot about noise, crap and tat.

    And those are its better features.

    But anyway, where are they going to put all these extra planes? Not on the ground, but in the air? Even if the economic case can be made for expansion, has anyone seen the skies over South East England?

    After dark it’s forever Christmas, lights blinking everywhere.

    Close Heathrow, close Gatwick, stick it all in the Thames Estuary and stack the planes over Europe.

  9. Phantom –

    IIRC, Continental Airlines went belly up 24 hours after the Stansted route began – well planned lads.

    If anyone is flying into London they should use Stansted if they can, it’s by far the superior airport of the lot.

    Best not expand it though, I live in the area and like my peace and quiet.

    Yes, I’m a NIMBY.

  10. The noise and visual pollution is an issue for you guys, but…those airports provide huge numbers of jobs, directly and indirectly.

    And I think that individual planes are much quieter than they were 25 years ago. Of course now you have many more of them.

  11. ‘That was a great post, by the way. Informative and well written.’

    Thank you. Just being consistent.

    ‘Spoken like true northerner!.’

    Not really. A lot of northerners have a disdain for London. They’re quite happy for the city to sustain an economy which keeps their public sector jobs afloat. Other than that they’re racked by petty spite and jealousy.

    I’m not, which is why I want London to succeed……which is why I want a third runway.

  12. If I recall correctly

    The Continental Stansted service began just before the September 11 attacks


    The American Stansted service began just before the immense runup in oil prices in 2008

    Stansted’s jinxed.

    Continental ended the Stansted service, but did not go belly up. They’re the best of the big US airlines in my opinion, and I fly them whenever I can.

  13. You should hear the noise pollution from planes if you live or visit s.e Queens in NY. Jesus wept! And noone there complains.

    Nice one Andrew. Like the photo too.

  14. Ernest

    I agree with you. This is an outrageous decision.

    Of course the Tories say they will reverse it after they win the next election, but I’m certain they will succomb to the ferocious lobbying of the airlines and trade unions in favour of this monstrosity, just like Labour have done.

    This runway has always been a done deal and it will stay that way. And if air traffic continues to grow as expected, they will be back demanding another runway around 2025, and they’ll get that too.

  15. Peter –

    It won’t be built. Even with Hoon’s (illegal) decision it won’t be built.

    In short, there are no airports anymore. What we have are vast shopping centres with ancillary runways attracting tens of thousands of people a day – which is the proposal here.

    For that to happen, hundreds of miles of M25 and M4 motorway must be widened to cope with the extra traffic. That alone will take years.

    Also a new, high speed rail link from central London must be built. How long do you think it will take to design, get planning consent, arrange the funding and build that? It will take decades.

    With even an unbroken stream of pro-expansion governments this would be a 30 year project. But there won’t be that stream of governments.

    A government will come to its senses and build a new mega-airport in the Thames Estuary first.

  16. Only 6% of the UK population fly each year.
    Over 90% of our world trade is carried by ships.
    So, who is in favour of more aircraft?
    Businessmen & politicians.

    Well, fancy that.

  17. Change of subject. A question for the older amongst you….Is the guy holding in the above photo, the actor who played Elliot Gold [?] in the Untouchables.??

  18. In my eagerness to post, I left a couple of words out of the above……after the word ‘holding’, it should read: ‘the microphone’.

    My apologies.

  19. I love Airplane. Absolutely daft film been on TV a thousand times, but still the best spoof film of all.

  20. "I hate airports and flying.

    Give me a yacht any day of the week."

    Don’t worry Daphne. New York seems to have combined the two.

  21. Colm, it will basically collocks up Boris Johnson’s plan. He wanted, instead of a new Third Runway, to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary. The major reason that they don’t want to build a new Airport in the Thames Estuary is that there is a good chance of a bird strike. Well, there is a 1 in 1,000 chance of a Bird Strike taking out an Engine, so this event in New York is a 1 in 1,000,000 event but will be argued by the pro-Heathrow people as proof of their claims.

  22. Why is there a plan to build a high speed rail link to Heathrow? There already is one. I’ve taken it, and it’s a very good service.

  23. Seamus, pro-Heathrow has won it’s aguement it seems.

    Phantom, the Heathrow Express to Paddington is great, I wonder if they plan something further into town?

  24. The tube is great if you’re flying with carry on, but if you have a couple of suitcases you’re a dead duck!

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