LETTER: Expansion case is fantasy

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The case for airport expansion is built on sand; the vote to leave the EU must bring it crumbling down.

The Transport Secretary’s announcement to delay the controversial decision on how to move forward with airport expansion in the South East is political manoeuvring at its most cowardly by a government in disarray.

More than that, however, passing the buck on this call demonstrates the Conservatives fundamentally miss the point. It is time to recognise that the case for expansion is fantasy.

It is, and always has been, a myth that the UK faces an airport capacity crisis; we already fly more than any other country, yet the huge budgets of the airport and pro-expansion lobbies are busy trying to convince us otherwise. All but one UK airport is under-capacity and demand is likely to fall, rather than rise, following Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Nine of the ten most popular destinations from Britain’s busiest airport are short haul flights. Existing rail services could offer workable alternatives on most of these routes, thus freeing up landing slots for longer haul flights. As trains are ten times less polluting than planes, this would also be better for the environment.

We cannot hope to meet vital climate change targets while building major new runways – the two policies are wholly incompatible.

Furthermore, the economic case cited by the Airports Commission when recommending expansion was based on implausibly optimistic assumptions. These assumptions cannot claim any credibility, especially in light of the current economic uncertainty.

With the economic case for expansion no longer tenable and environmental case never adding up, it is clear that it’s time for the government, whatever shape it might take, to be bold and dismiss these proposals out of hand.

Keith Taylor

Green Party MEP for the South East, European Parliament, ASP-4F136, Rue Wiertz, B-1047, Brussels, Belgium

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