Heathrow's third runway - Brockley's frequent fliers


As the government prepares to do a U-turn to allow a third runway at Heathrow, we can expect the debate about noise pollution over South East London to reignite. BC lurks under the same skies as everyone else, so we’re not indifferent to the noise. And we like big, shiny ambitious and innovative projects, so we have been tempted by Boris Island a few times.

However, we now don’t see any realistic alternative to expanding Heathrow. Here’s why:

1. People want to fly long-haul and there’s no low-carbon alternative. To cut carbon, we’ll have to find bigger savings elsewhere and force civil aviation to continue to improve fuel efficiency.

2. London’s long-term economic future depends on being a global hub for business and tourism. Failing to properly serve emerging markets like China and India will damage our competitiveness.

3. Not creating more capacity in London won’t cut CO2 – the Chinese will still fly to Europe, just not to London. They’ll go to Paris or Frankfurt (not Birmingham or Manchester).

4. If you were starting with a blank sheet of paper, you wouldn’t put our hub airport west of London. But we are not starting with a a blank sheet of paper.

5. The problem with the Thames Estuary alternative isn’t a technical one, it’s economic – the whole of the South Eastern economy revolves around Heathrow. Office developments from Hammersmith to Reading are where they are because of it. Northerners might grumble about having to travel to Heathrow, but they’d flip if they had to head to Kent. To finance a new hub airport, you’d have to close and redevelop Heathrow. Too many vested interests are stacked against it. We’d be locked in debate for another twenty years and the problem is too urgent.

6. So Heathrow it is. And we may as well just get on with it – and work out how to minimise noise pollution for those parts of London under the flightpath.

83 comments:

Anonymous said...

The third runway will fill up pretty quickly then we will back where we started. Boris Island is the way to go.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if a new runway did open up at Heathrow if the flight patterns would shift slightly and we would actually get less traffic flying directly over us?

max said...

To the arguments against the Thames Estuary option I'd add that it's environmentally very disruptive. The airport itself and all the associated infrastructure.

SamB_UK said...

I know we do get a good amount of traffic flying directly over us, but I rarely notice it. And the noise certainly doesn't bother me. It's no louder or more intrusive than the noise from all the cars on our roads or trains passing.

Anonymous said...

I live near Brockley station and the noise drives me crazy and it seems to be getting worse. Do we want this to eventually become constant?

If they start having the two runways operating at once it has been planned that the southern runway (where traffic would go over us) would fly 1000ft lower = much louder planes. Do we want this?

M said...

I grew up in south west London, where the planes are pretty much constantly overhead, and the only time I ever noticed the noise was when a visitor from outside of London pointed it out.
You do get used to it very quickly.

pip said...

I never notice it, though when I listen for it, the noise is almost constant - but low level.

On the plus side for those who are bothered by it, I heard a radio interview with a woman who has developed technology that makes aircraft almost silent. It'll take years, but it should happen one day....

Anonymous said...

I see the point you are making, but where do you stop? What's the plan into the future, just keep on expanding? Let's hope someone comes up with a new way of travelling long distance that doesn't involve run-ways and huge airports. I wish I had an answer but I just think this kind of expansion is not sustainable.
P.S. I don't hear the planes any more either, it's not the noise that concerns me.

Lou Baker said...

Boris Island - or something similar - is, unquestionably the way forward.

Flying is not green. But it's getting greener and it's our responsibility to make it as green as it can be.

A proper hub airport - out to sea - could produce much of its own power. You'd avoid the scandal of planes having to circle for hours on end and of having to spend ages on the taxi way.

You'd end noise pollution for millions. You'd create a vast number of jobs. You could build a properly designed airport rather than the mess we've got. Plus, of course, building it wouldn't take much longer than it would to expand Heathrow.

While I understand your arguments about office developments Nick, that can largely be overcome with proper transport links. With a proper high speed rail network getting to an estuary airport would be no less convenient for northerners than getting to Heathrow.

Heathrow can never expand as much as it needs to to be as big as it needs to. Starting again makes sense. The quicker we do it the better.

Heathrow could then be closed down and redeveloped as much needed housing.

NAT said...

To add to Max's point, Labour commisioned a report in 2003 when an airport at Cliffe marshes in North Kent was considered.
The report found that even after draining marshes, cutting down woodlands, planting artificial grass and culling birds that the location would remain Britains most dangerous, in terms of bird strike, by some margin.

max said...

Zac Goldsmith... Boris Johnson... Lou Baker. In the same sentence!

Anonymous said...

The main thing that annoys me is when I'm sitting out in my garden - it just seems like one after another going over my house, really spoils the relative quiet in Brockley. (maybe that's why I can hear it more?)

Tim said...

Lou makes a lot of sense indeed. Where is our Olympic Spirit and ambition

michael said...

Two runways for Gatwick or Stansted would be a much better solution. London deserves two hub airports, just like New York.

If this were really about creating a hub airport to complete with the rest of Europe why not choose Manchester or St Ives rather than close to London?

Anonymous said...

Not many other major cities build their airports so that noisey planes land over the residents at all hours of the day. Other cities (like Paris in the 60s/70s) sorted this out and built their airports away from population. (Paris does not allow aircraft to fly over central Paris exactly for this reason).

Sue said...

"1. People want to fly long-haul and there’s no low-carbon alternative. To cut carbon, we’ll have to find bigger savings elsewhere and force civil aviation to continue to improve fuel efficiency."

Nice aspiration, but not really going to happen, is it? We're not going to be able to save the carbon emissions required and expand airports. The government continues to bury it's head in the sand on climate change and hopes that we will all do the same. I despair.

Brockley Nick said...

@Sue - For sure, there is a limit to what can be done to cut emissions from planes that rely on burning fuel to stay in the air, but fuel efficiency has massively improved (and at this point I should disclose that Edelman works for Rolls-Royce) - modern planes and engines are far better than the previous generation and almost all R&D goes in to emission and noise reduction. So there is lots that can still be achieved.

Sue said...

@Nick I'm not denying that aviation is getting more fuel efficient, just questioning whether other sectors can realistically reduce carbon emissions enough to compensate for extra CO2 from a growing aviation sector, or whether the political will is there to make it happen.

Brockley Nick said...

@Sue - oh yes, well fair enough. That's the "we're all doomed" analysis.

Anonymous said...

Very nice to see Nick not taking a default 'Green' position - more of that sort of thing, please :-)

AliAliAfro said...

Nick,

Whilst you don't specifically say so, I think your argument against a Boris Island seems to suggest there can only be a single airport hub.

Why can't we keep Heathrow at current capacity and have a second large hub on an an artificial island shaped like Boris's head?

Northerner-wise they can choose which hub to use and it takes as long to get from the m1 around the M25 to heathrow as it does to get to the M2... by train they could use the vastly underused high speed Kent services out of st Pancakes.

Financewise the muted cost of the airport is similar (or less) than the proposed hs2 high speen brum train link - so surely there are ways and means of getting the money without shutting heathrow as you suggest...

Bird strike wise - well I'll leave that to the experts. It either viable or it isnt. Surely we can design bigger and better scarecrows ;-)

In summary - you may well be right and a single hub may be the only way but I haven't yet seen the facts laid out in a compelling way to support that case. my preference isn't on noise grounds - I just think it makes sense to spread the money around and we have an underused high speed rail link lying around that could be better utilised...

Anonymous said...

@Brockley Nick - oh yes, well fair enough. That's the "we're all doomed" analysis.

Perhaps, but this government has done nothing to convince me that it gives one iota of a shit about the environment. Therefore, it's very difficult for me to believe that they will put any pressure on the aviation industry to develop and operate cleaner aircraft.

It's no use either, to therefore support Heathrow expansion in the hope that the industry and government will eventually start caring about the environmental impact of flying.

Unknown said...

Boris Island is a 'political solution' i.e. build it out at sea away from everyone else at vast expense. A few problems for this, apart from cost, no ones actually consulted air traffic control on this an an estuary airport will interfere with Dutch airspace.

None of the airlines want to an estuary airport,

But the main problem is that it is on the wrong side of London. The ideal site for a new airport is on the NW side of London, providing easy access for the rest of the country and close to all those international companies that have settled on the West side of London.

Co incidently the Independent has got hold of plans of consortium of British companies plans to search for site either near the Great Western Main line or the New HS2 route. The group has backing from Chinese investment funds.

Anonymous said...

Tough luck Richmond...ha ha.

Reality check said...

Doesn't the fact that we are talking about aircraft noise being a problem over 20km from the airport mean we have a bit of an issue here?

Lou Baker said...

Greenie Sue living in cloudcukooland as usual.

Seriously. People fly. Persuading them not to fly hasn't worked and won't work. Pricing them out of flying just means poor people can't fly. And where does that sit with all the socialist claptrap which comes nowadays with being a Green sandal wearer?

The goal, surely, is to make flying as green as it can be. That means a new, modern airport with state of the art facilities, excellent public transport links and strict - and ever improving - fuel efficiency targets. And that means Boris Island.

Sure there are problems with an estuary airport. Dutch airspace is overcomable as is the risk of bird strike. The wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery is a favourite Daily Mail objection - but that needs to be dealt with soon anyway before it levels Southend.

A new airport is the only long term viable solution. While we've been debating this the Chinese have thought of a grand scheme and built it. It took them 18 months to build the Beijing - Shanghai high speed railway. That railway includes a bridge of almost 100 miles long. That's almost the same length as the proposed first stage of HS2 here. But we're not going to have that railway for at least another 14 years. And that's assuming the nimbys in the Chilterns don't get their way.

Our Victorian ancestors - who built our infrastructure - would be turning in their graves at our lack of ambition. Staggering. We've let people with sandals and cords run the debate - really all they should run is the muffin stall at the school fair.

Reality check said...

ie that the airport is in the wrong place...

AliAliAfro said...

Not sure the international companies are based in west is compelling enough to sway a decision those companies would still have heathrow if an estuary airport was built. The economic issues are capacity and number of routes. A boris island would take plenty of non-business passengers away from heathrow and this could even free up some space for additional business routes at heathrow.

the HS2 airport option is an interesting one but it looks difficult politically and involves plenty of risk - will HS2 ever even get built and if it does would those residents who have just lost the HS2 fight be happy to find out that as well as trains they now have planes blotting their landscape! IMHO it makes sense to get on with something sooner rather than later and I'm not sure thats realistic with the NW option...

thomas said...

@ Lou - "You'd end noise pollution for millions" ... "Heathrow could then be closed down and redeveloped as much needed housing."

What about all the wildlife out there whose habitats would be destroyed?

Danja said...

Build the third runway and you just cement Heathrow's position even more firmly, and the hub airport ambitions are not going to be satisfied with just three runways.

I am somewhat reluctantly with Boris on this one, albeit it would need an enthusiastic and determined government behind it, which we clearly do not have.

Anonymous said...

The wildlife at heathrow's habitats being destroyed?

What about the people out there who's habitats will be destroyed?

Lou Baker said...

@Thomas

New habitats can be built for the birds.

Birds you obviously care more about than the millions of people blighted by aircraft noise.

Anonymous said...

I moved here from north London about a year ago and you really do notice a big difference here (well, you actually notice the noise) ... I can't imagine what it's like to live further along the flight path.

Anonymous said...

I haven't noticed a plane since I've lived here other than if I'm looking up and one flies into my line of sight. Mountain out of a molehill - or a 'first world problem'!

Here we go - http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3qsdt4/

NAT said...

@ Lou 'Dutch airspace is overcomeable as is birdstrike'

How?

Lou Baker said...

@NAT

Bird habitats can be largely relocated.

Those birds that do remain can be managed.

The issue the head of NATS raised about air traffic control is the triple whammy. A proposed estuary airport would overlap with approaches to Heathrow, City and Schipol.

This can be overcome. Approaches and routes can be changed. Heathrow might have to close. The Dutch - heaven forbid - may have to be spoken to.

I don't doubt there are obstacles to building a proper modern airport in the estuary. But I also don't doubt those obstacles can be overcome. Doing nothing is easy. That might be your favoured option. Maybe you like taking the easy road. I prefer doing the right thing - even if it's hard.

Hot Topic said...

@ NAT

I hear the birds have offered to relocate south each winter in return for better bread provision at ponds and an nationwide air gun ban.

max said...

Look at what Putin is doing with the Siberian Cranes, surely Lou can do the same here.

Lou Baker said...

We could send Max out in his Speedos.

That would scare anyone away.

Mb said...

Can't Say the aircraft noise is especially intrusive. Just background hum to add to the traffic etc, it's
London.

Other than that I dunno. Lou's childish namecalling makes the house of commons seem positively sane, not really a voice you'd want supporting your position.

Brockley Nick said...

@AAA

"Whilst you don't specifically say so, I think your argument against a Boris Island seems to suggest there can only be a single airport hub.

Why can't we keep Heathrow at current capacity and have a second large hub on an an artificial island shaped like Boris's head?"

I think there are two main reasons there can't be two hubs.

Firstly, to raise the money to pay for Boris island, the idea is that they would redevelop the land at Heathrow for residential and other commercial purposes, using the revenue from that to pay for the enormous cost of the island and all the other supporting infrastructure required. So on that basis alone, we can't have both.

Secondly, by definition, a hub is a hub. A place where people can catch connecting flights to access anywhere in the world. A place where business and tourist travellers mix, to make frequent flights to long-distance destinations viable. A place where business meetings take place and all kinds of specialist services are available. They are where passengers want to fly to and where airlines want to operate from. You can't split it and force people to travel over 50 miles between airports if you want to compete with Paris CDG or Schiphol. Nor do I understand why it would be desirable to add those extra journeys on to the transport system (CO2, congestion, cost).

Heathrow is a city, Gatwick and Stansted are sheds. They serve different purposes.

NAT said...

Lou, you don't seem to be aware of the scale of the problem.
Over 900,000 migratory birds pass over the Thames estuary annualy, so that 'while bird habitats can largely be relocated', getting the agreement of the origin and destination countries to move their migrators habitats might present a few issues dont you think?

@HighStreetBen said...

Having just flown out of Shanghai's Pudong airport (and got there in 11 mins on 400kph Mag-lev train), I am def with Lou on this one. Boris Island (which is loosely based on the Shanghai model I understand) can be done amazingly with the right ambition.. In the meantime expand capacity and links at Gatwick

AliAliAfro said...

Yeah, I take your points but

1) Shutting Heathrow is 1 way of funding Boris internationalbut it's not necessarily the only way. How about scrap the unpopular HS2 and spend the money on the airport instead. Simples. (I do realise it may not be so simples).

2) Heathrow is already a hub.
I agree that having to travel between hubs would be a shame and would be an undoubtable drawback of a 2 hub solution - but that has to be weighed against the positives of 2 hubs eg 2 separate areas of economic investment or infrastructure improvement, 1 of them on the eurostar line, biiger overall capacity etc

To summarise, would one super mega hub be better than 2 separate rather large hubs? possibly. Is there a counter argument that there are benefits to 2 smaller (but still very big) hubs - certainly.

Still haven't heard a killer argument either way and my gut says spread the wealth and the estuary option gives a clean sheet space with a greater combined capacity. With heathrow expansion you help businesses that are already there but dont do so much to encourage new and you piss off people who are already pissed off.

I still vote Boris but interesting debate.

AliAliAfro said...

PS Perhaps Boris Island should be designed for future expansion so that in time it could become the super mega hub eliminating the transfer issue. this could be done as a gradual and phased withdrawl from Heathrow giving the international companies time to relocate as necessary.

In the short term Heathrow seems to be the neat solution as far as being a single hub but in the long long term it wont be big enough and then people will look to the east...

max said...

I tell you what's the killer argument against another airport, it's that you destroy another natural environment.
That's not a brownfield! It's the Thames estuary, I'd rather keep that and expand Heathrow.
And the argument that air traffic will increase so much that you'd need a whole new airport may very easily just an overblown projection put forward by people with vested interests.
Fuel price will only go up and flying will remain largely a luxury for the many.

thomas said...

@Lou

"Birds you obviously care more about than the millions of people blighted by aircraft noise."

I would imagine more than birds live out there. Anyway, what would we do in 10/20 years then when this new airport is full and overrun? Move over to another habitat? Why don't we just pave over the whole of the UK, it's the way it's going.

Also what gives people greater rights over animals? We've shown as a creature that us human beings are pretty great at slowly destroying the planet for selfish motives.

Lou Baker said...

Crikey.

I've angered swampy.

There's a great blog by Mark Easton hidden away on the BBC website about how much of the UK is paved over. Take a guess at how much it is?

50%? 20? 10?

No - it's actually less than 3%. 97% of the UK is free for birds.

max said...

Paved is not the opposite of natural.

Arable land is not natural, just as parks and gardens are not natural environments either.

Anonymous said...

Let Hilly Fields grow wild and free in that case. You people in the conservation area with your gardens sicken me. No to genetically modified green areas!

Danja said...

The worms in the mud will thank us that the birds are gone.

max said...

"Let Hilly Fields grow wild and free in that case."

Well, there is in fact that bit between Adelaide Avenue and the playground called "the meadow" that's been purposely allowed to grow just like that to help biodiversity in the park.

Anonymous said...

No-one has logically explained why a new runway will help the economy in any shape or form.

It will however destroy at least two villages some historic barns and woodland and increase air pollution (both noise and carbon).

How will allowing for more people to go on holiday abroad improve the economy???

Would a new runway encourage more people to come here? Of course not.

The whole scheme is bad economics and bad for the environment.

Enough of this nonsense please.

J

Anonymous said...

Something that would help the economy and the environment I reckon would be for each of the top 10 largest cities in the UK to have a tube and/or tram system.

J

Anonymous said...

A new tube system for Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Bristol etc

Now that would in the long run help both the economy and the environment.

Makes the idea of a runway for Heathrow pale in comparison.

Anonymous said...

Heathrow is NOT full to capacity. If you cut out the unnecessary internal UK flights there would be plenty of capacity.

Anonymous said...

Let's have a look at you points:

BC says: 1. People want to fly long-haul and there’s no low-carbon alternative. To cut carbon, we’ll have to find bigger savings elsewhere and force civil aviation to continue to improve fuel efficiency.

I say we need to cut down on flights as they are increasing global warming. You can see fly using Heathrow but we should all fly less often.


BC says: 2. London’s long-term economic future depends on being a global hub for business and tourism. Failing to properly serve emerging markets like China and India will damage our competitiveness.


I say what does this actually mean? Do people not fly here because there isn't a 4th runway? That doesn't make sense. People come for the heritage, the culture and the countryside. They will come whether there is another runway or not.
Also what do you mean by a 'hub'? Do you mean a transport interchange? If so then that would lose us tourists and business. We need to be a terminus, a stopping point for travellers.
A new runway will not increase business or tourism and may increase people leaving the country as tourists abroad which will be bad for the economy.

BC says: 3. Not creating more capacity in London won’t cut CO2 – the Chinese will still fly to Europe, just not to London. They’ll go to Paris or Frankfurt (not Birmingham or Manchester).

I say cutting CO2 needs to be tackled globally. The above appears to be giving up on any attempt to do so. Why would people not fly to London if there wasn't another runway? That doesn't make sense. There are already 3 runways at Heathrow plus Stanstead, Gatwick, London City Airport and Luton. That's plenty of runways for people to arrive in on. Not to mention the other city airports.

Anonymous said...

Brockley Nick says: "Secondly, by definition, a hub is a hub. A place where people can catch connecting flights to access anywhere in the world."

So if these people are just using Heathrow as a transport interchange they are not staying at all but merely passing through.

That is bad for business, bad for tourism and bad for the economy.

We need to be a destination, a transport terminus, not an interchange.

Anonymous said...

If a transport 'hub' means people are passing through onto somewhere else then they wont be spending money in the UK nor doing business here.

A hub sounds like a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

How about a tenth runway?

New runways could literally go on forever...

Anonymous said...

I say fifteen runways...no lets make it a nice round figure 20...

Anonymous said...

Is there any proof that cities with more runways get visited more?

Or are they just providing a service which only the airport and the airlines profit from?

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon0048

Let's have a look at you points:

"I say we need to cut down on flights as they are increasing global warming. You can see fly using Heathrow but we should all fly less often."

Yes, that's your opinion, but it is not shared by the vast majority of the population, who want the right to fly. I was writing about reality.

"I say what does this actually mean? Do people not fly here because there isn't a 4th runway? That doesn't make sense. People come for the heritage, the culture and the countryside. They will come whether there is another runway or not."

People do not go where they cannot fly to. There are large and emerging markets that are not well served by routes to the UK. Germany, for example, has many more flights to China than we do.

If you are a Chinese company thinking about where to put your European HQ, do you put it in London, which you can only get to via a connection in Frankfurt, or do you put it in Frankfurt?

"I say cutting CO2 needs to be tackled globally. The above appears to be giving up on any attempt to do so."

No, as with point number one, it's an acknowledgement of reality.

"Why would people not fly to London if there wasn't another runway? That doesn't make sense. There are already 3 runways at Heathrow plus Stanstead, Gatwick, London City Airport and Luton. That's plenty of runways for people to arrive in on. Not to mention the other city airports."

Everyone in this debate, including opponents of the third runway, recognises that there is a capacity constraint. Apart from you. Perhaps the industry experts know something you don't?

Anonymous said...

In Chiswick where they have relativately low flying planes overhead every 1 - 2 minutes, property prices are 2-3 times those in Lewisham.

If someone has moved to the Heathrow and doesn't know there's an airport nearby...shouldn't be allowed out on their own.

Anonymous said...

I've got to say, I agree with Lou. The Chinese are putting things in while we're dilly-dallying over the health and safety mission statement...

The Victorians would be ashamed - to think they put the tube network down when we can't even get it air conditioned properly, preferring instead to wring our hands and hand out bonuses to union bullies.

Jerusalem? More like Jerusal-mung.

max said...

Only that in China they have built entire ghost towns that have no purpose and in Spain they just closed a brand new airport because after all it wasn't needed at all.

Brockley Nick said...

What Max said.

The Chinese are not a model to be followed in terms of grand projects. I think we do alright, actually, despite our self-flagellation.

The Olympics showed we are good at delivering big stuff. Yes, we spend a lot of time debating what should be done and negotiating with stakeholders, but it means that we don't destroy entire communities to build unsustainable white elephants.

Lou Baker said...

@nick

The Chinese have no regard for anything other than development - that indeed is a bad thing. But their ability to get things done is to be admired.

A better example would be the French. They want a high speed railway - they get on and build it. We let every local half wit object - all of who can delay the project and add to the cost.

With HS2 - for example - a government backed scheme, supported by Labour as well - local councils along the route are using taxpayers money to object. This is wrong. Taxpayers are paying local taxes to object to something their national taxes are backing. We clearly need a new railway - let's just get on and build it.

We spent 30 years talking about Crossrail. The Thameslink upgrade will be finished in around 2019 - remember it was originally named Thameslink 2000?
Then there's the East London Line extension - so staggeringly unambitious that it'll be running at capacity in a handful of years.

We need more airport capacity in the south east. I suspect we will end up with an expanded Heathrow. Which will be full again within a few decades and we'll be back to square one. Let's be bold and ambitious now. Accept Heathrow is a mistake - that it's in the wrong place and let's build a state of the art hub out to sea. It is what our Victorian ancestors would have done. Their ambition was boundless.

NAT said...

Depends which Victorian ancestors you chose Lou. H.G. Wells would certainly be delighted with the air gondolas having their own island...are you something of a steampunk by any chance?

Tamsin said...

France is bigger and less densely populated so mega projects like high speed railways are easier to implement - not so many objectors per 1000 acres. Also the Pas de Calais is hardly the Loire Valley - the scenery (as far as being of heritage and natural beauty importance) is just not the equivalent of Kent or Buckinghamshire.

You don't notice aircraft noise unduly at present - but, like banging your head against a wall, it is lovely when it stops. Any way we can get that Icelandic volcano to blow again?

The estuary option is presumably approachable from Essex as well as Kent - so something close to the end of the M11 - and, of course, th regenerated area that is now all Olymically - should be a good thing for points north. The M4 corridor is rather last century.

Lou Baker said...

@tamsin

Have you ever driven along France's A75 motorway?

I'd recommend it. A beautiful, scenic road - fantastic engineering and - with the Millau Viaduct - a stunning structure, an incredible feat, which adds to the beauty, does not detract from it.

With respect to the Chilterns, they are not a patch on the Tarn Valley. Well designed infrastructure does not have to be an eyesore. And most of the objections to HS2 are from complete Nimbys. Nimbys who mostly wouldn't even be affected by the new line. The rest of the world ignores people like that. We let them dominate the agenda.

And so it is with airports. We are allowing the RSPB and a handful of bearded whingers to set an aviation policy which will last til our grandchildren's days.

david said...

Surely the whole argument as to where to build additional flight capacity is like trying to decide whether to use a coat or an umbrella when it's raining molten lava!

It will be impossible to meet carbon targets if we increase flight capacity. The argument that we can reduce carbon levels by cutting in other areas is simply false. Air travel causes greater levels of pollution and carbon use than anything else.

Yes, Nick's argument that we need expanded capacity to compete in the capatalist future, but what use is a (hopefully again) growing economy if the planet's broken?

Lou, you said you (and the Victorians) were up for doing the right thing even though it's hard. Well that thing isn't building a floating airport. It's changing habits to flying in terms of shorthaul journeys (including pretty much all of Europe) and looking for ways to make lumps of metal packed with people fly efficiently without dragging all closer to extinction everytime whilst setting a good example for others to follow. Now, that's hard.

Maybe that's not recognising reality, but reality is going to get pretty horrible if we don't seek to change.

(Slightly over the top langauge, sorry, but the point stands)

Brockley Nick said...

"Air travel causes greater levels of pollution and carbon use than anything else."

Civil aviation contributes 2% of global CO2 emissions, according to estimates. Cars make 3%. Building use contributes approx 50% of UK emissions.

Lou Baker said...

@david

You will not stop people flying - because people want to fly.

So the next best thing is to make flying as green as it can possibly be. That means airports where planes don't have to spend half an hour on the taxi way or an hour circling to get a landing slot. It means increasingly tough fuel efficiency targets - aiming to a point where flying is carbon free within a handful of decades.

It is the same with roads. You can encourage people not to drive but sometimes they just have to. So put the infrastructure in place to make driving as green as it can be.

But if you're really serious about climate change then you should not worry about transport - a minor contributor - but other things. Housing, farming - these are areas where individuals can have much more of an impact.

In fact, the best things everyone could do are to get their houses insulated, install a new boiler, triple glazing and solar panels. Then give up meat, cycle to work and recycle - and your impact on the environment is negligible.

Then treat yourself to a couple of foreign holidays a year and don't feel guilty about it. The so called Greens will not tell you any of this because if they did the truth would come out - that they are really not very green at all.

david said...

Nick, that stat sounds familair (phone not ideal for checking such things)- civil aviation does contribute approx 2% of global CO2. However, from memory, that goes up to something between 5 and 10% for the UK, richer countries flying more than poorer ones.

I also intended to be more specific -phone not ideal for contributing to blogs either ;)

Air travel has a more intense carbon impact than other actions or industries. A six hour flight has a greater impact, I think, than running a building site for six hours.

The UK has pledged to cut CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. I don't think that there's a credible plan for doing this which doesn't include reducing flights - or producing greener planes.

Lou, just because people want to do something doesn't make it right or the only option. Whilst I agree that reducing flight numbers is only part of the puzzle and greener infrastructure, better diet, better insulated housing, more recycling and alternative local transport are all important these are all about changing people's habits. Encouraging a reduction in flights where alternatives exist is just another habit change and part of a complex shift in attitudes and lifestyles that we need to consider.

Personally, I already cycle to work (unless I've left my bike in town after a beer the night before), recycle everything possible, compost foodwaste, choose energy suppliers partially based on their environmental policy and if we owned our flat the boiler, glazing, insulation, solar panels etc would be on the list. I've also only flown 3 times in the past 5 years, but have managed to go Holland, Germany, France, Hungary, Poland, Italy and India.

I agree with many of the counter points and am certainly not advocating a blanket flight ban - no-one wants to go to New Zealand by boat - but also don't feel that ”where” is the only debate we should be having.

Anonymous said...

If internal UK flights were banned on environmental grounds there would definitely be no capacity problems at Heathrow.


Global warming is far too serious for the luxury of having internal UK flights.

Anonymous said...

You can go directly from London to Beijing or London to Shanghai via Heathrow.

And to get from London to Guangzhou (China) you can go via Gatwick.

So no problem there.

What other countries are you worried about connections to?

Anonymous said...

There are very few such flights though, and as such cost an arm and a leg. Many change via Europe or Dubai to reduce the price by 50% or so. Hence the point being made here. It's just just routes that are needed, but competition so that everyone can take part.

Manor Club Tim said...

We need a hub airport bigger than Heathrow. Why?

Norway doesn't have a Schiphol-sized hub airport, nor Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Switzerland, Austria... Or Australia, or Canada, or Japan.

What about the BRICS: Russia doesn't have one, nor does Brazil, nor India. China's airports are largely domestic hubs. Seoul airport is very nice but its route network is limited.

It's about a combination of testosterone ("man or mouse"), and somethingmustbedonery.

Meanwhile the Arctic ice slips away, species continue to become extinct and nobody gives a damn.

But if something really must be done Boris Island would be way better for Brockley's economy than a half-length third runway at Heathrow.

Nancy Jimison Sarre said...


I've never minded the air traffic overhead and I was really surprised by the complaints. It was so much worse when I lived in West London. The environmental concerns are serious but to me they are national concerns, not just local.

Anonymous said...

Nancy, people here will complain about everything. A taxi company's sign, a Sky dish on a house, the colour of a restaurant... don't give the NIMBYs too much attention, take a lead from the council and ignore them.

amandee said...

Don't buy into the hype BCNick..

"There is nothing to stop Heathrow serving more business destinations if BAA and BA wanted. Instead they are addicted to outbound leisure travel, as is glaringly obvious from any Heathrow departure board. As for inbound tourists, far more harm is done by Cameron's clampdown on their visas than might be done by directing them to Stansted or Gatwick.

BA prefers to work out of Heathrow, while Spanish-owned BAA has sold both Gatwick and Stansted and has no interest in their growth, let alone in a new Thames airport. These are two companies with a commercial interest in Heathrow, pure and simple."

bias: yes - but rings true to me

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/28/heathrow-third-runway-big-willy-politics

Anonymous said...

Pollution from aircraft is too serious to be ignored much longer. People will just have to get used to not flying.

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