Is a third runway at Heathrow essential for ensuring the UK’s future economic growth?

Simon Walker

Day by day, the clamour for airport expansion in the UK is growing. Recent interventions by the likes of Sir Richard Branson, urging the Government to ditch their “farcical” outright refusal to consider a third runway at Heathrow, are just the latest in a long line of prominent and expert voices to join the crowd. The future of Britain’s air links to the rest of the world is not an academic question which will bear sluggish contemplation. It is of vital importance, given the potential for every flight to bring inward investment and new trading opportunities. The government must realise that large numbers of prominent organisations, companies and individuals are not exerting so much effort to push for greater airport capacity for trivial reasons – they are doing so for the good of the entire British economy.

Simon Walker is director general of the Institute of Directors.

Rob Burton

Although some argue that the UK’s future prosperity is dependent upon allowing the expansion of Heathrow, achieving sustainable economic growth requires the development of a nationwide transport infrastructure – fit-for-purpose, fully integrated and with a clearly-defined investment strategy. Future options for expanding Heathrow should not be ruled out, but a credible evaluation of costs and benefits, combined with other implementation challenges, point to the fact that these options are not deliverable in the near future. Equally important in advertising the fact that the UK is open for business is the need to focus on short-term solutions. These should include making better use of runway capacity at other major airports, and building resilience into connecting surface access links to avoid dependency on individual road and rail links.

Rob Burton is director of Roscarrek Consulting, a transport consultancy.