Times letter: Heathrow decision inevitable following Brexit

Sir, Bad government begets bad government. Ironically it was David Cameron’s fatal decision to hold a referendum that has now forced the government to show “Britain is open for business” by agreeing to expand Heathrow irrespective of the financial cost, which makes the scheme unviable, and the environmental damage, which makes it unethical.

The proclaimed advantages of Heathrow over Gatwick are marginal — a bit of convenience for a few transit passengers that could easily be sorted by allocating regions of the world between the two airports. The fact that easyJet is to be the biggest new customer at Heathrow belies the notion that expansion is about being “open for business”, as does the envisaged expansion in domestic flights, sucking the lifeblood from regional airports. Point to point, not hub and spoke, is the future.

Moreover, despite the UK and Chinese governments recently agreeing to double the number of flights allowed to operate between the two countries, BA has just announced it is cutting flights to Chengdu — just the sort of destination that the third runway is supposed to serve.

The more fundamental, and unanswered, question is: if passengers had to pay for the full environmental damage wreaked by aviation, would there be any need for expansion at all? A start could be made by taxing aviation fuel, immediately relieving the pressure on airport capacity.

Christian Wolmar

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