The good, bad and ugly or Heathrow expansion

Here is a brief five minute guide to the good, bad and the ugly of the decision to build a new runway at Heathrow. It isn’t, I hope, biased, but should give food for thought on whether this is beneficial not only for UK PLC as a whole, but for us as human beings.

Economic

Good – It proposes to create 110,000 new jobs in and around London and the South East of England – boosting GDP and the economy.

Bad – When the housing bubble in London is already ridiculous and the rest of the country is crying out for a public sector economic stimulus of jobs and house price rises,  investing yet more government cash in and around the bit doing the best is the economics of the mad house.  The whole point of public sector investment is to boost areas of a country, trade or activity that is for the public and overall economic good, not to simply give business a bigger runway.

There is also the post Brexit question of just how many people will need to be coming in and out of the country. Brit holiday makers won’t be able to afford to leave. Foreign business people won’t come here as the UK won’t be an attractive place to do business from. Foreign workers won’t need to fly in and British business people, especially bankers and traders who make up most of the business flyers from Heathrow, will have emigrated to Europe or the Far East to carry on doing business.

Ugly – If 110,000 jobs are created they will be almost exclusively menial. Baggage throwers, check-in staff, rent-a-car cleaners, parking attendants, sandwich makers, plane fuel filler uppers. By the time the runway and the capacity is on stream many of these jobs will be automated. Those that aren’t will, as they are already, be done by migrants and immigrants. Yet how Brexit will affect whether people will want to come, or be allowed to come, to the UK to do jobs where the value of the money they earn is so piddly, is unknown. Especially as housing costs in and around Heathrow will increase.

Transport

Good – Crossrail, the £18bn biggest infrastructure project in western Europe, will connect London to the airport. This will alleviate people driving and compared to Gatwick, reduce the carbon emissions and gridlock. Heathrow will ensure that it remains a global hub airport for Britain compared to say, Gatwick, which does nice package holidays.

Bad – Quite how the Heathrow Express fits into this is perplexing. Yet it still remains to this day the most expensive mile to cost train journey on the planet. The M25 will need to undergo a decade or so of engineering and roadworks and anyone who has ever got a car round that bit of the motorway knows it is absolute carnage. Most middle class people and businessmen baulk at getting trains and so will come into London via car causing more pollution and more problems.

Ugly – No one has addressed why Britain needs a hub airport. All it means is that people fly from the USA, touchdown in Heathrow, hang round in a transfer area before buggering off to Dubai or some such place. The net benefit to the UK is naff all.

Environmental

Good – The Airports Commission final report found that once the changes in noise and engine improvements were taken into account, Heathrow would meet the emissions and decibel rules laid out for it.

Bad – Any aircraft noise has dreadful effects on the health of people. It causes hypertension, loss of sleep, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, heart attacks, stress and depression. The emissions from planes are even more harmful as they both emit finer particles than car engines causing lung disease and heart attacks and pump the stuff out into the higher echelons of the atmosphere causing greater, yet still not fully understood, global warming emissions than those pollutants released at ground level. When the world has just hit the highest levels of CO2 emissions in five million years should we really be encouraging more?

Ugly – Just one person taking one return flight to New York from London emits the same amount of carbon dioxide as an entire European family does in a year. The new runway will mean 740,000 flights are done every year from Heathrow alone. That’s a lot of crap pumped into an already messy atmosphere.

Political

Good – Zac Goldsmith has said he will resign. Boris Johnson has also mooted that delicious possibility. It also signals that Britain still wants to be a main player in world business and trade.

Heathrow has also said that after this it will never ever ever need to build any more – cross its heart and hope to die.

Bad – The people who will suffer the noise and pollution and disruption the most are the people who didn’t vote Brexit. They believed David Cameron, who had said not on my watch, would stop Heathrow coming to pass. But he got kicked out prematurely and the party the locals voted for has now done a seismic u-turn. Not a great ad for democracy whatever way you look at it.

If the Tories do go ‘hard Brexit’ then the building of Heathrow may be a white elephant as passenger numbers for business people slumps and the capacity forecasts become fag packet overestimates.

Heathrow said it would never ever ever need to expand after the third terminal was built. And the fourth. And the fifth. They just lie to get the next one done. And they will do so again in ten years time.

Ugly – Zac Goldsmith may stand as an independent candidate and we get to see the nasty little turd clogging up the airwaves again.

Technological

Good – Building Heathrow future proofs Britain and delivers the inevitable extra passenger capacity needed with an ever interdependent world being created. Planes are becoming ever quieter and ever more efficient and, even with oil running out, less polluting biofuels are already being tried and tested to take their place.

Bad – The world is changing with virtual reality becoming a, well, err, reality. Will it be economically beneficial for those trips to be taken anymore when Skype or whatever equivalent gets going? 15 years ago we would never have imagined drones or commercial space flight or ever present wifi or smartphones or being able to bypass travel agents and just book online. By the time Heathrow is built what will the world of technology and business be like?

Hub airports are also starting to be seen as a thing of the past since the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet changed the flying business model forever. Who would have thought ten years ago that you could fly from Gatwick to New York, return, today, for £400 with a Norwegian low cost airline?

Ugly – Biofuels are a pipe dream and oil is running out. That means prices will rise. And with the pound set to remain  at terrible rates for a very very long time against the dollar and euro – will many people fly?

 

People smarter than I have looked at this issue, but the driving factor, once again, seems to be the premise that economic prosperity overrides the health, happiness and overall needs of the whole of the UK. Sure, building the next bit of Heathrow will boost GDP, but it will mean the rest of the UK becomes even more subservient to London, many more people will be subject to poorer health and any jobs that are created will be those that people have to do rather than want to do.

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