Three years, £20m and one 342-page report later, Sir Howard Davies and the Airports Commission have released their recommendations for boosting airport capacity in the southeast. While there is a desperate need Heathrow handles 74 million passengers a year compared to 15 million in 1975 their vote for a third runway at Heathrow is unworkable, says The Times. The location makes it ill-suited to expansion, and more importantly, Sir Howard's strategy is "hedged with half a dozen caveats that render it at best impractical and more likely doomed". These include banning a fourth runway, which will inevitably be needed at some point, and a need "to meet emissions standards that most experts say cannot be met".
Quite, agrees Liam Halligan in The Daily Telegraph. Britain's Supreme Court has ruled that air pollution around Heathrow breaches legal limits. Adding 250,000 flights a year to today's 470,000, will "make a nonsense" of our legislation. The case for Heathrow apparently "hinges" on consolidating its reputation as a hub for global business, yet more than 80% of those flying in are not transferring, and almost 70% of Heathrow's existing passengers are tourists. So much for Davies' "heroes of the growth economy", says Simon Jenkins in The Times. London's citizens, their environment, or balanced growth in Britain were not Davies' concern either. He was given a specific brief in 2012: "how to allow Britain to maintain its position as Europe's most important aviation hub". The question is too limited. What Britain needs is a comprehensive transport plan. Our jammed roads are surely the "biggest obstacle" to growth. How is a £24bn new runway for the leisure travel industry going to help?
With his "tiny 12-seat majority", David Cameron would lose any Commons vote on the issue, says Halligan. "That could spark a vote of no confidence and bring down his government." Labour's current support for Heathrow is designed to "stoke up tension within Tory ranks", not least between Boris Johnson and Cameron. Given that he's opposed by five members of his cabinet and his current and possible future mayor of London, Zac Goldsmith, a third runway simply isn't going to happen.
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