IAG head questions UK's will to solve airport crunch - report

LONDON Thu Mar 1, 2012 1:30am GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's leadership lacks the political will to allow a third runway at Heathrow airport, the head of International Airlines Group Willie Walsh said in a newspaper interview published on Thursday.

Walsh told the Financial Times that expanding Heathrow, which serves as Britain's main hub, with a third runway offered the quickest solution to the UK's airport capacity crunch.

"I'll bet you that in 2050, British Airways will be flying from a two-runway airport at Heathrow," Walsh is quoted as saying.

"It is not that I lack ambition. It is that the people who we need to address these issues lack ambition, and lack the balls to take tough decisions in the interests of the long-term economic development of the UK."

IAG is the owner of British Airways and Iberia.

Expansion at Heathrow, owned by Ferrovial's BAA and operating at about 98 percent capacity, has been ruled out by the Conservative party.

Walsh called on the government to reconsider their opposition to the expansion of Heathrow, which is falling further behind rival European airports in the battle for lucrative routes to emerging markets, according to a recent study.

He also said Britain needed a four-runway airport in the long-term, but acknowledged suburban Heathrow was unlikely to be the location.

Calls for a new international airport in south-east England at the Thames Estuary, often referred to as Boris Island, after its high-profile backer, London's mayor Boris Johnson, have gathered pace in recent months.

(Reporting by Stephen Mangan; Editing by Michael Urquhart)

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Comments (1)
hestonlad wrote:
The government’s sensible decision to reject further consideration of a third runway at Heathrow follows consideration of the extensive debate after the previous dodgy consultation and subsequent judicial review.

If BA can show a serious plan as to how the determining issues of local air quality, surface access and climate change can be resolved they may find government to be more recptive listeners.

The recent report on the work of government Chief Scientific Advisers mentioned the unfortunate lack of involvement of independent scientific advice in the development of the previous government’s policy:

“Another one
where I think there was a problem was the proposal for a third runway
at a London airport. As far as I was aware, in the Department for
Transport, the Chief Scientific Adviser was not involved in those
discussions. I raised that with the Permanent Secretary and I think
that is inappropriate. “

Mar 01, 2012 9:11am GMT  --  Report as abuse
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