THE UK’s new coalition government has shown its intentions not to allow any additional runways to be built at London’s three main airports – Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. This effectively constrains any chance of capacity expansion at these airports for the foreseeable future.
While there had been much local opposition to such expansion, business leaders had widely supported the plans claiming that limiting growth would be harmful to the UK economy in the long term and risked much traffic and business migrating to mainland Europe. However, for a limited period, airport operator BAA which runs Heathrow and Stansted is to continue to buy up properties where the runways were expected to be built.
BAA’s chief executive Colin Matthews commenting on the announcement made in May said: “We recognise the importance of government policy in a matter as significant and controversial as runway capacity. But we continue to believe that new capacity would strengthen the UK’s trading links with the global markets on which our economy and our competitiveness depend.”
Government policy now favours new high speed rail links between London and several English cities, and later possibly to Scotland. However, given the very small percentage of domestic flights operating from Heathrow these would be of limited benefit since the vast majority of Heathrow’s traffic is long-haul.