Yes to a Third

A proposed third runway at Heathrow

Good evening toastmasters and fellow guests. Heathrow airport has come a long way since its origins as a small airfield outside London. The airport can now boast having of five terminals and is now the third busiest in the world. However, increased air travel has led to an ever increasing amount of choices for the consumer. This in turn has created a considerable amount of competition between airports across the world hence it’s vital for Heathrow to keep ahead of the game and remain a first class choice for the travelling public. Heathrow does not want to become the second or even third choice; it needs to stay one step ahead without falter. In some ways the latter has occurred with the construction of terminal 5 which has also seen an improvement in public transport links. One important factor remains, one which could prove to be its Achilles heel. We’ve all been hearing on the news about a much needed third runway which would allow for increased capacity of air traffic. This will also ease congestion whilst keeping its status as a major hub in Europe. There has been much opposition thus far but in my opinion expansion is necessary or we will start to lose our grip which will allow other major hubs such as Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris or Frankfurt airport in Germany to race ahead and leave us behind in the near future.

I firmly believe in the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. Air travel is expected to grow substantially within the next 10 years and Heathrow will not be able to keep up with the demand with the inevitable increase in aircraft movement and passenger numbers. The city of London is one of the most important capitals in the world both economically and culturally so it’s imperative to ensure that route networks that connect it to the rest of the world are as efficient and easy to reach as possible.

There are of course cons to building a third runway which must be taken into consideration including impact to the environment and loss of homes or businesses around the immediate area but overall, building would be a sound investment to secure a successful future for the airport. It’s a proven fact that the South East is already heavily congested airspace wise. With an increase in passenger numbers and competition to offer more routes, even if a third runway does go ahead, Heathrow will still eventually be running at full capacity but this congestion would ease significantly. The talk of building another airport in the London area will take a substantial amount of time to complete, not to mention the cost and effects on the local community. The effect of current congestion is already taking its toll on businesses in the South East. Baroness Valentine, chief executive of business group London First has said that firms are already losing business due to lack of air links with booming economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. Reference the latter, flights from its biggest city Chongquing do not fly directly into to any of London’s four main airports.

Each year that the third runway is delayed, millions if not billions of pounds have been estimated to have been lost in business and Heathrow is now resting at 5th position in terms of destinations served. It’s now losing out to European hubs such as Frankfurt and Schiphol which have 4 and 6 runways respectively. Heathrow’s runways are currently operating at 99 per cent capacity which in turn increases delays when flights are disrupted and it also means that these other European airports may be able gain valuable routes at Heathrow’s expense. If the runway does go ahead, it will of course increase connectivity around the globe which would boost the UK economy as a whole; in fact The British Chambers of Commerce estimates that benefits could be up to 30 billion over the next few decades. Domestic flights would also see an improvement or could be re-instated as some several cities have lost their connections to Heathrow to make way for the larger more profitable long-haul flights. A third runway would also increase Heathrow’s resilience to disruption and so reduce emissions from aircraft which are waiting to land. I’m sure many of you who have flown into Heathrow after a transatlantic flight have suffered the inconvenience of waiting in a stack.

Apart from a boost to the economy, the building of a third runway would be good for industry. Construction of the runway would create up to 60,000 jobs and with all the extra services including a new terminal, an estimated 8000 jobs would be created which would be benefit the West London area.

One of the main reasons for opposing the building of a third runway is impact on the environment by way of the CO2 emissions, noise and general air pollution. In regard to CO2 emissions, climate change is a global issue and is not just relevant to the transport industry. It’s a proven fact that aviation accounts for only 2 per cent of the global CO2 emissions. This year aviation will have signed up to the EU emissions trading scheme which will mean that if emissions go beyond a certain threshold then they will have to be balanced out elsewhere. Therefore any expansion at Heathrow will not increase the amount of emissions. As for noise and pollution, a few years ago this would have been more significant due to aging aircraft and technology but with the advent of newer aircraft such as the Airbus A380 or the new Boeing 787 will see improvements by way of improved fuel efficiency, use of environmentally friendly materials such as bio fuel and quieter engines. As the result of significant improvements in aircraft technology, the numbers of people affected by higher levels of noise is expected to fall even more significantly, a 68% reduction – more than 20,000 fewer people – affected by noise averaging 66 decibels and above.

Lastly, there is the issue of local residents or business that may have to be moved or demolished due to the building of the runway. While there is a requirement to make way for the expansion, BAA have ensured that that any listed buildings will remain intact and recently, a body named The Free Enterprise Group consisting of over 40 MP’s has stated that all residents will be fully compensated with added incentives such as free double glazing or money to help with relocation.

If you take a look at the amount of overseas business that has now established a base in the South East, it makes all the more sense to ensure that adequate flight connections and routes are upheld and improved. Without a third runway, these routes will gradually diminish to a point where these businesses may re-locate abroad which would have a great impact on the UK economy. Thousands of local jobs would be safe guarded if a third runway is to be built, the billions that would be spent building a hub elsewhere could be spent on reducing the noise at Heathrow or improving transport links to it. The new runways being built in other major European cities are already starting to take away business from the UK which is causing a knock on effect to jobs, skills and the economy of London. Good transport links are already in place at Heathrow, the new runway would be adjacent to the two used currently so the links would only require updating which will hopefully prove beneficial by way of reducing congestion even more and increasing public transport access for the both the worker and the traveller. Air congestion would reduce and Heathrow would be able to cope with the demands of future air travel. I think building a third runway is paramount to safeguard the future of the airport whilst keeping the UK economy one step ahead of its European counterparts.

Pete Rann


Toastmasters speech delivered circa 2013

© 2014 Pete Rann