Third Heathrow runway would be bad for the whole UK | Letters

Taxpayers everywhere – including those living hundreds of miles away from the south-east – will all pay for the expansion, write local MPs, lords and council leaders

We are writing to you regarding Heathrow and the hidden costs that we believe need to be explored.

Lots of promises have been made to lots of people in different parts of the country about the extra domestic routes they can expect if a third Heathrow runway is built. It’s all part of a divide-and-rule strategy which glosses over the health impacts of worsening noise and air pollution in south and west London while cheerily talking up the prospects of improved internal connections from an expanded hub airport.

Wherever we live in the UK, we all have a stake in ensuring parliament makes the right decision on Heathrow expansion. We know from the government’s own forecasts that an additional runway can be delivered more quickly and at less cost at Gatwick. There will be a price to pay for Heathrow expansion – and not just in south-east England. The transport secretary has a duty to spell out the true costs for taxpayers – and to be realistic about the benefits.

But it’s the airlines that decide where aircraft fly – not the airport and not the government. You only have to look at BA’s recent decision to halve the number of flights between Heathrow and Leeds Bradford to see how fragile domestic services are. Which minister can guarantee in perpetuity the taxpayer subsidies that would be needed to keep “unprofitable” routes open?

It is far more likely that the eight domestic routes we have today will shrink. The Airports Commission saw these dropping to four by 2030. The only way existing routes can survive – and new routes can be made viable – is if they are subsidised by the government. They cannot be guaranteed.

Of course Heathrow will tell you that a hub airport is the key to better connections. But the official forecasts now say that Heathrow will be full within two years of a third runway opening. At this point the airlines can be expected to switch to more profitable point-to-point operations – squeezing out the remaining domestic routes.

None of today’s “promises” or assurances can be relied on. What is certain is that taxpayers everywhere – including those living hundreds of miles away from the south-east – will all be paying for the expansion.

Cllr Paul Hodgins Leader of Richmond council
Cllr Ravi Govindia Leader of Wandsworth council
Cllr Ray Puddifoot Leader of Hillingdon council
Cllr Simon Dudley Leader of Windsor and Maidenhead council
Zac Goldsmith MP Richmond Park and Kingston
Dr Vince Cable MP Twickenham
Andy Slaughter MP Hammersmith
Ruth Cadbury MP Brentford
Marsha de Cordova MP Battersea
Justine Greening MP Putney
Baroness Kramer
Lord True

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