Tuesday 17 June 2003

Airport expansion

It's no great surprise to read that British Airways is calling for further development at Britain's airports.

BA expressed support for:

* an additional runway in the Midlands at Birmingham airport - no case for a new airport in the Midlands
* new terminals at Manchester airport -no case for additional runways at this stage
* towards the end of the 30 years, likely to need an additional runway at either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports - no new airport in central Scotland
* new short runway at Heathrow for between 30 and 60 take-offs and landings each day reserved for extra flights to more UK regional airports

I think that this makes a lot of sense, but BA have ran away from saying whether the new Scottish capacity should be at Edinburgh or Glasgow. Clearly, Edinburgh airport is more suitably located to serve most of central Scotland. We should recognise that now and start making appropriate plans as soon as possible.

Incidentally, no one ever seems to ask why so much airport expansion needs to be in the southeast of England. Writing about the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (based in Dorset), John Blundell observes:

What would happen if the RNLI was nationalised and run by the civil service? My guess is its budgets would increase tenfold and its HQ would move to central London.
Mr Blundell is correct; a nationalised RNLI almost certainly would be headquartered in London. Britain has probably the most centralised government in the developed world - even with devolution. The result is chaotic overcrowding around London. If we were to reduce the size of the state or - second best - move much of it well away from the capital, many of the environmental problems of over-development could be overcome.