It is incredible how hapless the political decision making is. Years and years of consultations, reports and reviews, debates and lobbying. No action, no solution in sight for years to come. The lack of responsibility is appalling.
I praise Mr Darling for his courageous, pragmatic and logic stance on the issue. Heathrow is the only serious airport in London properly connected via road, tube and train. The M4/A4 is the only semi-decent motorway servicing London. It should be easy, fast and cheap to get from any zone 1 or 2 to the largest London airport, say below 1h on the tube and around 30 mins and £35 in a minicab. Next time you go to Madrid, Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Copenhagen make a comparison.
Has any of you been into any other G8 country where the trip to a 33 million passenger airport takes you through road bumps, mini roundabouts and 30mph speed limits? If you haven't experienced that yet, take the easybus to Gatwick (please don't mention the Gatwick Express, it costs half the airfare).
Access to M1 or M11 from central London are a joke (trains are equally inconvenient and outrageously expensive), and Luton or Stansted are and will remain just regional, marginal airports.
Common sense tells anyone the only real options are Heathrow and Gatwick, and unless M23 goes into Southwark, and Victoria line through Croydon to Gatwick, and a massive terminal be built, Gatwick cannot rival Heathrow.
Why not ask the Londoners what option do they favour? They are the main losers from the government shambles and have the right to be offered an urgent solution.
Alistair Darling, the former chancellor, has made the urgent case for the coalition government to approve a third runway at Heathrow airport, arguing that hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk.
Mr Darling told the Financial Times that the coalition’s aviation policy was a mess and ministers were “back to where we were 10 years ago” when he served as transport secretary in the Labour government.
He is the most senior politician to come out in favour of building a third runway at Heathrow, the UK’s capacity-constrained hub airport, since the general election.
“Heathrow is one of the few airports in the world that’s achieved a critical mass of connections – once people think you’ve lost that they might want to go elsewhere,” said Mr Darling, highlighting the risk that increasing numbers of Britons will use hub airports in continental Europe rather than Heathrow, partly because it is struggling to support connections to emerging markets.
After ruling out new runways at London’s three main airports in the coalition’s founding agreement, ministers are struggling to find a way to solve the anticipated capacity crunch in the south-east of England.
George Osborne, the chancellor, signalled in November the government’s stance could be relaxed for Gatwick or Stansted – but not for Heathrow.
Some senior Tories have backed a proposal by Lord Foster, the architect, for a new airport in the Thames estuary which could eventually replace Heathrow – but might cost £50bn if related infrastructure such as rail links are included.
Mr Darling said the Thames estuary airport would never happen because of the “sheer cash” needed and related environmental issues.
“As far as I can see, the Thames estuary is a distraction; I don’t think it will ever be built,” he added.
Instead Mr Darling said the billions of pounds that a Thames estuary airport would cost should instead be spent on compensating people living around Heathrow – by mitigating air and noise pollution.
“No matter how painful, no matter how difficult, the logic takes you back to Heathrow,” he said.
“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs in one way or another. It’s important for the whole country, not just the south-east.”
BAA, Heathrow’s owner, said 77,000 people were employed inside the airport’s perimeter, with a further 59,000 jobs supported across London.
In a report commissioned by BAA, Oxford Economics, the consultancy, last month estimated the UK would forgo annual gross domestic product of £8.5bn by 2021 – along with 141,000 jobs – if Heathrow was confined to two runways. The loss would come in the form of reduced inward investment, tourism and trade.
As transport secretary in 2003, Mr Darling published a white paper that came out in favour of a third runway at Heathrow.
His stance is at odds with Ed Miliband, Labour leader, who as energy secretary in the previous government nearly resigned over its support for the third runway.
Mr Darling said that Gatwick and Stansted were worth considering for additional runways, but described Heathrow as the only serious option.
He revealed the previous government had studied the “Heathwick” idea” – linking Heathrow and Gatwick with a high-speed rail line – but decided it was unworkable.