UK Politicians Clash On Airports Policy

AIRPORTS POLICY is unlikely to be a major General Election issue in the UK on May 6, but it was certainly the subject of a clash between the parties at a London conference held in March.
Stephen Hammond told delegates to the conference, on Transport Priorities for the UK, that the Conservatives would put rail at the heart of Britain’s transport system and cancel Heathrow’s third runway.  But Labour’s Angela Smith called for the next government to expand the role of aviation, while the Liberal Democrats’ Norman Baker said Britain was “over-reliant” on domestic flights.
According to Hammond, the government’s “misguided approach” to the third runway has distorted its attitude to the airport’s role as a key element of national transport infrastructure.  He called for a more “carbon friendly” approach with less emphasis on short-haul flights, which account for around 63,000 of the airport’s total.  “The potential for switching from air to rail is growing all the time,” Hammond insisted.
Slot priority should be given to long-haul flights at Heathrow, but Hammond accepted that passengers from the UK regions flying direct to continental airports like Amsterdam for connections to long-haul services does not encourage “a modal shift”.
Smith, a member of the all-party House of Commons Transport Select Committee, claimed that “it’s crucial that aviation is properly considered” in the light of what she called the “relentless shift towards a global economy.”  This means that “seven out of ten business routes have Heathrow at one end.”  (Bruce Hales-Dutton)