This Tuesday, the British government announced plans to expand Heathrow Airport in London. The airport is going to get a third runway. An additional runway is necessary as the airport is currently operating at almost full capacity. The government had been putting off the decision for decades. Since an expansion of Heathrow Airport is very unpopular. The news provoked a strong response from those who would be affected by the expansion. That showed why so many politicians have avoided the issue altogether since the 1970s.
British Government Announces Plans for Heathrow Airport Expansion
Any plans to advance aviation planning in the southeast of England were obstructed by politics. Local representatives were wary of supporting plans that would be so unpopular with residents. But that has led to a situation where other airline hubs in Europe are getting more commercial traffic. Right now, Heathrow Airport is operating at nearly 98 percent capacity. Businesswise, it would have more room to grow. But it has reached the physical limitations of how many flights it can handle.
Chris Grayling, the Secretary for Transport, announced the decision this Tuesday. With the announcement starts a difficult and lengthy process that is going to involve strong opposition and even legal challenges. Politicians are going to have to choose one side of the debate. That is going to be difficult for them as they don’t want to lose support in their constituencies. One of the politicians that in the past has opposed an expansion to Heathrow is the current Prime Minister, Theresa May. She will now face the decision of either keeping her previous position or supporting progress in the field of aviation.
A parliamentary vote on the issue is going to take place next year. So the government has more time to gather support for the project. But prominent politicians, even from within the Cabinet, are against the Heathrow Airport expansion. One of them is Justine Greening, the Secretary for Education. The other one is Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, who called the project “undeliverable”.
Opposition in the House of Commons
From the House of Commons, politicians have spoken against the project. Zac Goldsmith is a member of the Conservative Party that is currently governing the country. He has a strong record on the environment and ran for mayor of London last year. He lost to the Labor candidate but still has the best interest of Londoners at heart. Zac Goldsmith said that he is going to resign his seat in parliament in order to protest the Heathrow Airport expansion project. With that, there would be a special election for his seat. Goldsmith plans to run again for his old seat as an independent. Without Zac Goldsmith, the slim majority that the Conservative Party has in the House of Commons would lose one more seat.
Secretary for Transport Chris Grayling acknowledged that there is a long consultation process ahead. With that in mind, the third runaway at Heathrow Airport would be operational in about nine years. But the government says that the expansion is important to Britain’s prosperity.
“A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the U.K. itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities.”
Said Secretary for Transport Chris Grayling.
Image source: Wikipedia