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There is no alternative, says ASM chief

[ June 11, 2013   //   ]

Procrastination and “ludicrous alternatives” are delaying the inevitable decision to expand Heathrow as the country’s main hub airport, says Peter MacSwiney, chairman of freight industry software, ASM.

Expansion of the country’s largest airport has become a fraught political issue and Heathrow is living on the reputation of ‘what it once was’ but the alternatives offer no real solution, he says. It is possible to make a case, particularly as London Gateway seaport gets closer to opening for ‘Boris Island’ to become the UK’s freight hub but it could take 25 years at least for the project to migrate from political pipe-dream to workable reality.

MacSwiney continues: “Occasionally, Gatwick is put forward as an option but brief consultation shows the freight industry doesn’t want to use Gatwick.

“Stansted suffers from a limited labour pool, evidenced by the Border Force finding it hard to get staff, and Southend is too small and too far away. If you had a plain sheet of paper you’d probably locate a major hub airport in Birmingham; however despite its political unpopularity, Heathrow remains the prime contender.”

To address the UK’s long-term aviation capacity needs, the Airports Commission, set up by the government in November 2012, created a panel of leading experts to examine the full range of relevant issues,including economic, social, environmental and operational factors.

MacSwiney points out that in the 1970s, Heathrow had more connections across the UK and Europe than any other European airport. But, “unfortunately, that is no longer true as repeated government indecision has allowed it to happen. The UK is no longer regarded as an international hub and many European airports have expanded ahead of any UK airport. For examplethere are now more flights into UK destinations from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam than there are from London.”

He accuses politicians of being “petrified” at the prospect of demolishing homes around Heathrow to build another runway. However, in Hounslow and Hillingdon, there are few families not working in some shape or form with the airport. To offer them the potential for increased job opportunities while supporting them with beneficial compensation and relocation options has to be a sensible solution. Yet local councils continue to campaign against a third runway.”

“Unless we end up with some half-baked decision, the question must be: ‘Do we want Heathrow to be the hub it used to be?’ The answer for UK business must be yes.”

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