As the British Government returns to Parliament after the summer break, Prime Minister David Cameron has begun the coalition’s first major reshuffle since it was formed after the UK’s general election in 2010.
Although there are enormous changes and significant shake-ups across all departments, the aviation industry has been most interested in how transport will be affected. As debates heat up surrounding a potential third runway for London Heathrow, many figures are now voicing their opinions as the government looks set to make its decision regarding the airport expansion.
Mr Cameron’s decision to remove Conservation Party member and Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening from her cabinet post, replacing her with Patrick McLoughlin, has suggested to many that the expansion will go ahead.
Ms Greening, who represents the London constituency of Putney, Roehampton and Southfields – which lie directly beneath Heathrow’s flight path – has steadfastly opposed the construction of an additional runway at Heathrow. Since her appointment as Transport Secretary in October 2011, Ms Greening has made it clear that she did not view a third Heathrow runway as a viable option for airport expansion, stating that it would not be “a long-term solution”.
It comes as no surprise then, that many have seen Ms Greening’s departure from transport as an indication of the government’s next move. Mayor of London Boris Johnson believes that the move proves the government wants to, “ditch its promises and send yet more planes over central London”.
He added: “There can be only one reason to move her [Greening] – and that is to expand Heathrow Airport.
“The third runway would mean more traffic, more noise, more pollution – and a serious reduction in the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people. We will fight this all the way. Even if a third runway was built, it would not do the job of meeting Britain’s needs.”
The new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has several options to consider when it comes to the UK’s airports. As well as a third runway for Heathrow, others have suggested a second runway for Stansted in north east London, or a brand-new airport build in the Thames Estuary, otherwise known as ‘Boris Island’.
As its nickname suggests, a new-build airport is strongly supported by the London Mayor, who stated: “If we are to remain Europe’s premier business hub, we need a new four-runway airport, preferably to the east of London, that addresses the problem of aviation capacity before it is too late, and business is driven into the arms of our European competitors.
“It is time for Patrick McLoughlin to look at all the options, including bolder solutions that would deliver massive benefits in jobs and growth.”
Mr Johnson concluded: “It is time for the government to level with Londoners. Are they in favour of a third runway at Heathrow or not?”