Reach For The Skies

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Seems to me that we want our cake and to eat it.

Dungeness Lighthouse
Dungeness Lighthouse

The largest in England, or indeed the whole UK, is in the South East; London and the .

There are more of us in that part of the nation, so that is where the demand for air transport is highest; it’s also because of population density, the part of the nation that is most affected by any expansion of existing airports.

Nimbyism is alive and well of course, and we’re almost all guilty of it. A friend of mine once stated that he’d like to live in a , with a and pub, as long as there was a large supermarket out of sight, but very close, down the lane.

Those of us that ravel overseas, on business or vacation, like to have easy access to the airport. Indeed, many of those that live in the Midlands and the North complain that southerners get the best deal, as the airports are, relatively speaking, on their doorsteps.

To be honest, I am surprised that the option of the third runway at Heathrow has so far been rejected. Logistically, it would make the most sense, as the is already in place, unlike the case of building a brand new airport on the , or on a man-made island in the . Of course, , the current , gets brownie points for favoring the Estuary idea, as most voters in West London would say no to any expansion of Heathrow.

Gatwick cannot be expanded until 2019. , however, is operating under capacity.

North Kent Marshes
Once Proposed Site for Third London Airport

Projections generally show increasing, but it is by no means a certainty. In fact reached a peak of around 240 million in 2007, and have dropped back to 211 million in 2011. This is party due to the economic climate, and partly due to air fares being raised as fuel costs climb to well over $100 barrel.

BAA claim that Heathrow is always hit hard by any weather issues, because it’s already operating at 99% capacity, and they also complain that other airports in mainland Europe are in a better position to take airlines and possibly business, away from London and the UK, because of this capacity problem. However, they would say that wouldn’t they? Their standpoint is hardly impartial for obvious reasons – they want to grow their business.

Southend airport is expanding, and hoping to carry 2 million a year; Manston airport has applied to start night flights; and a Saudi owned consortium, LAA (London Ashford Airport), has submitted plans to massively increase the capacity of little Lydd Airport that’s situated in the remote, barren but strangely beautiful Romney Marshes near Dungeness, that is already home to two life-expired nuclear power stations, that are in the process of being decommissioned in the next half a dozen years.

Would the expansion of all these airports solve all the air transport problems in South East England? Would it create many more jobs? If oil prices continue to rise, forcing up air fares, will the predicted increases in passenger journeys actually happen? If they don’t do we ruin large parts of the countryside or suburban London, to end up with white elephants?

It’s anyone’s guess.