Today, after years of delay, we’ll finally learn what the Government’s answer is to the airport question. Both supporters and opponents of it expect the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to announce that the Government is backing a third runway at Heathrow. However, it is also likely that the Government will make encouraging noises about further expansion at Britain’s regional airports.
A Heathrow third runway isn’t the only option on the table though. Here’s the Spectator’s guide to Theresa May’s choices:
A third runway?
The Airport Commission threw its weight behind the option of building a new runway at Heathrow last year. After publishing its review into the airport question, the Commission said Heathrow was its ‘clear and unanimous’ choice and that building a third runway at Heathrow was the ‘best answer’ to the airport question. It said adding a third runway at London’s hub airport would create up to 77,000 new jobs and up Britain’s GDP by 0.65-0.75 per cent by 2050.
The Commission also said Heathrow’s importance to freight and business flights made it the best bet and said that its status as a hub to long-haul destinations (70 per cent of long-haul flights from Britain land at Heathrow, compared to 11 per cent of the UK’s scheduled long-haul flights to Gatwick) made it the right choice.
So that’s the good news, but what about the downsides? More than 700 homes would need to be knocked down to make way for the new runway and long-suffering residents would face more noise and air pollution. What’s more, at a cost of £18.6bn, it’s the most expensive of the options on the table. And Theresa May appears to be bracing herself for some dissent within her own cabinet. Number Ten said that Ministers would be allowed to speak freely on the matter, giving the likes of Boris Johnson – who said Heathrow expansion was a ‘fantasy’ and vowed to lie down in front of the diggers to halt construction – some breathing space to criticise the decision.