Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Boris's New Airport

Reported in the Standard, Boris wants a new airport.

Fortunately, it's politically impossible to build new airports anywhere near London. They blight such a large area, the number of people affected results in well-organized protests on a massive scale that unite people from right across the political spectrum.

I thought we'd got beyond the 'predict and provide' approach to transport, whereby some 'business leaders' say jobs will be lost, companies will go abroad and the whole economy will go to hell in a handcart unless we build a new airport. With those magic words all considerations of climate change, pollution and the health and quality of life of Londoners are cast aside.

It rather makes a nonsense of the case for high-speed rail if it's not going to displace most domestic air travel onto the railways. More short-haul European flights will be displaced to rail as through services increase. Oil price increases may make flying less attractive. Legislation to reduce CO2 emissions may restrict flying. And crucially, technology will be displacing travel, as companies realise how much time and money they can save by making increased use of videoconferencing. In other words, the only way to make a case for a new London airport is to shut your eyes to many of the likely developments over the next ten years, and assume that demand for air travel will simply increase in a fairly linear, business-as-before fashion.

Building a new airport is a good way to damage the health and quality of life of a large section of the population. It's also a good way to lose an election.

1 comment:

  1. I find this all very confusing.

    AFAIR about 20% of air traffic is 'business'. That is directly affecting the economy. The huge growth of recent years has been low cost leisure travel and as much of this is outward as well as inward. That is what is squeezing the business carriers.

    Space can be made for these poor beleaguered contributors to the economy by either reducing or redistributing leisure travel. A darn easier exercise than building a new Thames airport.

    It is already happening as Ryanair/EasyJet have reached capacity at their core airports. The best deals are often from Birmingham, Bristol or Southampton. I live in London and can get to Birmingham Airport as quickly and more cheaply than Stansted.

    The real solution is creating a level playing field. A nice way of saying taxing aviation fuel. Funny how governments normally hungry for taxation don't seem to be able to get together to sought this. After all they fly to meetings with each other all the time ...