Opinion: The delay approving a new runway is appalling, we must expand Heathrow

Opinion: The delay approving a new runway is appalling, we must expand Heathrow

Let's make Heathrow the best airport in the world - the business case is overwhelming says Andrew Monk chief executive of VSA Capital

I don’t believe there is anyone who believes that we don’t need more runway capacity for London.

It is essential for the growth of London and the United Kingdom to remain a centre of international trade, it is essential for passengers who want more routes and more flights as well as less delays, it is essential to bring more employment to London, and most of all with Brexit it is essential to keep up with European competition and start a major infrastructure programme to boost the economy.

So why oh why hasn’t it be done? I’m afraid it is politicians putting their own personal positions ahead of the country and nimbyism at it’s worse.

No one was capable of making a “big decision” when the timing felt wrong, which is pretty appalling. But Theresa May appears to be someone who can and will make decisions. Once she has finished walking in Switzerland she must return and put this issue to the front of the queue.

Sir Howard Davies did a very thorough review and concluded that Heathrow should be expanded, I agree and it is time to stop debating and get on with it.

People want to fly to the main airport in any country, Heathrow is London’s airport. Many major cities around the world do have more than one airport, but the main airport is where the major focus is.

We shouldn’t buck this, but there are also many other good reasons why it has to be Heathrow and it's time the management of Gatwick Airport stopped trying to change a sensible decision and stop wasting time and money that could be better spent actually improving the passenger experience at Gatwick.

They may not like the decision but that's not an excuse to be a bad loser.

Heathrow is the business airport which business people want to fly from. It offers the majority of business routes but also a business experience when travelling through it. There is a major difference between a business airport and a leisure airport such as Gatwick.

This summer there have been many newspaper reports about poor customer treatment at Gatwick and you only have to travel through the airport to appreciate this. Check-in is tired and busy, they walk you through a maze of duty free shops in the hope you can’t find your way out and the concept of a decent lounge is just a dream.

Now, if you are flying on a low cost or tour operator airline this may not bother you, but if you are on a long-haul business trip with meetings as soon as you land, this isn’t the way to start.

Even when you land you are subjected to the mysteries of miss-management, you can actually be picked up outside Gatwick Airport in the same area as the drop off point. The area is full of signs saying “no pick up” but is also full of staff saying “ignore the signs”. My advice to the government is to ignore the pleas of Gatwick's management.

Gatwick will benefit from an additional runway at Heathrow as business traffic currently at Gatwick can move to Heathrow (Turkish Airlines would be leading the celebrations) and this would free up space at Gatwick.

Heathrow, with an additional runway, can expand its business offering with more new routes particularly to Asia where growth is so rapid and terminals are a pleasure to fly from.

I have one complaint about Heathrow, which I believe has a simple solution. A taxi to central London is absurdly expensive and can be up to £100. As a visiting businessman this would be a shock, there are no other major airports in the world where the cost is that much.

In Asia, where taxis are much cheaper, you can go from, as an example, Beijing Airport to the central business district for about £10 for the same distance. Your first experience of arriving in a foreign country should be a pleasant one, not a shock.

We know Uber has revolutionised the taxi industry, Heathrow should consider a system with a fixed charge which could be offset by some mechanism so that a taxi to Central London is significantly lower.

Maybe a new company with a fleet of new, possibly electric, cars called Heathrow Taxi’s could be created and they would also be able to take you back to the airport and you could get them to come to your departure point using a mobile app.

It is worth also not forgetting Stansted, Luton and London City. These airports are also important, help provide vital capacity and should be encouraged to grow and maximise their runway capacity.

Likewise regional airports should also be encouraged. Manchester Airport can be the airport for the north and become its own major hub. Airports like Birmingham can be used even by people living in West London, it's almost as close as Gatwick and you will find parking much easier.

The UK has always been at the forefront of aviation for many reasons, and we have some of the best aviation companies in the world, be they manufacturers, airlines and tour operators and also training facilities.

Let’s really ensure we also have the best airport in the world - make it Heathrow.


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