Despite a record breaking start to the year at London's Heathrow Airport, latest figures show that EU competitor, Paris Charles de Gaulle, is growing at twice the rate and is set to overtake as Europe’s leading hub airport within the next 2 years.
Image - courtesy of Heathrow Airport
Over 6 million passengers travelled through the Heathrow in January (up 2.9%). UK routes led passenger growth, increasing by 10.2% as more passengers travelled to Newquay and Guernsey. Other top performing markets were the Middle East (+7.6%) and North America (+ 4.7%).
Over 115,000 metric tonnes of cargo travelled through the UK’s largest port by value, with the UK standing out as the top market for cargo growth (+60.6%).
The UK Sustainable Aviation coalition has committed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, setting out a roadmap which will cut carbon, whilst accommodating a 70% growth in passenger numbers.
Heathrow’s Chief Executive, John Holland-Kaye, said:
“If we are to be a truly global Britain, we need to be better connected to global markets than our rivals in Europe. It would be an economic disaster for the country to fall behind, just as we leave the EU. Heathrow’s new runway will make the UK a winner, connecting all of Britain to global growth and that’s why we need to get on with delivering it!”
Above: Heathrow's control tower (Heathrow Airport)
KJM Today Opinion
Heathrow Airport has been something of a controversial piece of infrastructure since construction began over seventy years ago.
It has been said by its critics that it is in the wrong place. Perhaps a reference to Kevan James' book, Heathrow Airport 70 Years and Counting may be in order. In the book, the author points out that the airport's originator, Harold Balfour (then the minister responsible for civil aviation) spent considerable time examining various areas and sites within reasonable distance of London that would be suitable for the building of a big, new civil airport to serve the UK's capital city. He found just one. That occupied today by Heathrow.
Put simply, there was no other suitable place to build it - hence it was indeed built. Since 1946 Heathrow Airport has connected London and the UK to the rest of the world. It has served the country admirably and whether one likes it or not, it cannot be un-invented. It cannot be taken away.
There are two questions however: the first is why Heathrow is now, and always has been, bursting at the seams - why is it so busy? It is so because it is too small. It is too small (in terms of its physical size) because successive governments have been too cowardly to grasp this particular nettle and deal with it, either by building decades ago a replacement - if a site could be found - or by expanding Heathrow itself to handle the demands made on it.
Those demands come from the attractiveness of the country the airport serves. The UK has, since a time beyond the lifespan of almost all its current citizens, been a centre for the world, to do business, to visit for leisure, to come and live and work in. This is something the country should be proud of and something that can, and undoubtedly will, sustain it as time passes beyond Brexit.
Seen on the left is the location for the new runway (Heathrow Airport)
The second question concerns that of pollution and noise. That air travel has been a consistent contributor to the degradation of the air we breathe is beyond dispute. But so have many other things. Aviation has become an easy target for the venting of various spleens but again, it cannot be un-invented. If, as some appear to want, aviation were to come to an end, the results on society at all levels would be catastrophic. The answer is to continue to make aircraft engines (along with the engines of everything else) quieter and cleaner. That is the demand that people need to be making.
As to Heathrow itself, that it needs to expand is not really questionable. But merely making the airport geographically bigger is not the only answer. In addition to this, those areas affected by their proximity to the airport need to be free of housing. That people are entitled to live in reasonable comfort with regard noise and pollution is not in question. But it is surely time to, as said already, grasp a difficult nettle and build houses away from the vicinity of airports. And for those who have moved to an area close to Heathrow since 1946, perhaps you should ask yourselves what was there before you.
If the will is there, practical solutions can be found. Shutting down air transport is not one of them however.
To find out the truth behind Heathrow and the political games played by countless governments since it was first conceived, read Kevan James' book, Heathrow Airport 70 years and Counting.
Details are on the home page.