EDITOR'S BLOG: There's no alternative to a third and fourth Heathrow runway

I must be mad. But I cannot see how we can avoid agreeing to allow Heathrow airport to expand.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 05 Jul 2013

Barmy because I live directly under the wretched final approach into London’s premier airport. If I’m unlucky  - certainly when my kids were babies -  the first plane into Heathrow at just past half past four in the morning was bound to thunder over just as I was trying to get back to sleep. It’s a deeply anti-social business for hundreds of thousands of people. 
The Heathrow problem has been left to fester for far too long. We all know it was built in the wrong place to the West of a huge metropolis where the prevailing winds come mostly from the West. But it’s too late to do anything about that. Heathrow can deal with an absolute maximum of 480,000 flights each year and has been operating more than 470,000 for the last ten years. The fact that Heathrow has more direct flights to Hong Kong than to all the other Chinese cities put together shows how bad the problem has become. We are already losing vast amounts of business to European rivals because we cannot get Brits out to the right places where the action is. 
Our existing hub is an uncivilised mess, although Terminal 5 is quite pleasant. What happens when the planes try to move in or out makes the Mumbai rush hour look well-ordered. I noticed yesterday that the saintly Evan Davies – once of this parish – Tweeted that on his Sunday flight back from Boston a full 7% of the transatlantic hop was taken up circling around aimlessly in stacks above Kent and Surrey waiting to land at Heathrow. This simply cannot go on. It’s just as bad taking off. My record is nearly 55 minutes between push back and actually getting into the air – belching out carbon dioxide and other noxious gases from stop-starting jet engines all the while.
MT’s columnist Howard Davies is currently spending his every waking moment, like a Solomon of the air corridors, trying to work out what the best way forward might be. He isn’t expected to report until 2015 but last week’s Transport Select Committee report took the 747 by the winglets. Heathrow has to be allowed to grow despite the screams of protest from most Londoners who live West of Tower Bridge and the end of many London MPs of whichever government gives it the final go-ahead.
Splutter and declaim all he might but Boris and his island are non-starters. Quite apart from the effect in the plashy fens of the Medway estuary on the Great Crested Grebes,       it can’t really have escaped the mayor of London’s attention that we’re currently skint.  Also what on earth is anyone living in the noble boroughs of Hounslow, Southall and Brentford going to do for a job if Heathrow is closed down?
The most sensible solution I’ve seen so far is to drain the Queen Mother reservoir just to the West of the M25 then dig a huge tunnel under the motorway and let the lumbering beasts take off and land on two new East/West runways in parallel.  
So a bigger Heathrow it should be. And I’ll start praying that global warming leads to a change in the UK’s prevailing winds from the South West to the East so the planes come in to land over Windsor Castle rather than my sleeping head. 

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