Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 21 January 2009

Opposing the expansion of Heathrow

The government's decision to give the go ahead for a third runway at Heathrow has dominated headlines in London. The expansion will raise the number of Heathrow flights from 480,000 a year to 700,000 according to government figures.

Neil Cafferky

The big businesses backing the project are adamant that it is vital to the competitiveness of Heathrow, and to the economy of London and so to the UK as a whole. At present Heathrow operates at 99% capacity, meaning that the slightest difficulty can cause severe delays. In contrast European competitors operate at 75% capacity.

Also, New Labour, and some trade unions, have argued that expansion will generate much needed jobs, and that the government will enforce anti-pollution measures to lessen its environmental impact.

So do their arguments stack up? On closer examination the answer has to be a resounding no.

Wildly optimistic

Firstly, New Labour has refused to acknowledge that the economic downturn has made their projected figure of 700,000 extra flights by 2030 look wildly optimistic. Added to this, the evidence that increasing the number of flights will benefit the UK economy is weak. The majority of the increased flights will be connecting flights to other destinations meaning the amount of money actually spent in the UK will be 'no more than the price of a cup of coffee in the departure lounge' as a former head of British Airways put it.

As air travel is one of the most heavily subsidised forms of transport in Britain (eg domestic aviation does not pay any fuel duty or VAT), there would be minimal return for the UK taxpayer.

Many victims of Heathrow delays would welcome an end to them. However, they are as much a result of privatisation of the airport authority (and British Airways) as they are of lack of capacity.

The environmental evidence is even more damning. Aviation already accounts for 13% of overall UK climate change impact. By 2050, if expansion continues, it will account for half of the UK's 'carbon budget'. Added to this is the fact that aviation emissions have two to four times the impact in the upper atmosphere as emissions produced on the ground.

Also, the European Commission has warned that the UK will exceed recommended emissions of nitrogen dioxide in the area if the expansion goes ahead.

The prospect of greater air and noise pollution, not to mention the planned destruction of the village of Sipson, has ignited a storm of protest to the Heathrow proposals. The government is still acutely vulnerable to electoral and political pressure on the expansion, so it is far from a foregone conclusion.

A broad constellation of forces, including environmentalists, trade unionists, local residents, the Conservative Party and several rebel Labour MPs, will continue to oppose the project.

It would be wrong to single out air travel as the greatest obstacle to cutting carbon emissions, but measures such as giving workers longer holidays could allow people to take more leisurely and less polluting forms of transport.

However the reality is that capitalism cannot provide an integrated, properly planned transport system that is a vital component of any strategy to reduce carbon emissions. Under a socialist plan of production, air, sea, rail and road travel could be integrated, and sufficient investment put into non-polluting forms of travel to ensure a better and cleaner planet.

  • See the next issue of Socialism Today for a longer article by Neil on this issue.
  • Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

    In The Socialist 21 January 2009:

    No more bailouts for bosses!

    Fast news: My Lords, Ladies and cash dispenser

    War and occupation

    Gaza war paves way for further conflict

    Protesting against Gaza attacks

    Egypt: Gaza conflict fuels anti-Mubarak opposition

    Readers' comment: media reporting on Gaza

    Socialist Party campaigns

    Hands off Royal Mail

    Wirral anti-cuts campaign

    Save jobs - nationalise JCB

    Fighting the cuts in Greenwich

    Shop workers need a fighting trade union leadership

    Campaigning in Exeter

    Hoover workers march in protest at job losses

    Amicus election

    Glasgow Unison

    Socialist Party feature

    Obama takes power: What change will the Democrats bring?

    International socialist news and analysis

    Refugees and repression in war ravaged Sri Lanka

    Exiled Zimbabweans demand Brown acts

    Capitalism kills, concludes study of privatisation era

    Lawyer assassinated

    Environment and socialism

    Opposing the expansion of Heathrow

    Waltham Forest anti-incinerator campaign: Residents get results

    Campaigners fight attacks on education and the environment

    Socialist Students

    Students fight academy status

    Socialist Party review

    What's going on? The meanderings of a comic mind in confusion, by Mark Steel


    Home   |   The Socialist 21 January 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

    Subscribe   |   Donate  

    Related links:


    triangle47,000 kids exposed to illegal toxic air

    triangleUN climate change summit: more hot air from Marrakech

    triangleHinkley Point C: wasteful, dangerous and polluting

    triangleClimate chaos

    Heathrow airport:

    triangleWorkers warned boss of tech failure danger

    triangleBook review: Spy drama gives insight into capitalist coup plot

    triangleSupport BA cabin crews' strike for fair pay

    triangleHeathrow expansion exposes Tory divisions


    triangleTravel chaos for Ryanair customers as airline cancels thousands of flights

    triangleLondon Buses safety campaign

    triangleBus safety: we won't be distracted from public ownership


    triangleSheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

    triangleHundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

    British Airways:

    triangleBA poverty pay dispute enters new phase of action

    Climate change:

    triangleExtreme weather events and global warming

    Reports and campaigns

    Reports and campaigns



    'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future


    Democratic rights

    Conference on state spies and sabotage: who's watching who?



    Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison


    South West Wales

    Hundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP



    Uprising to save the NHS!



    Can you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?


    East London

    No cuts - hands off King George A&E!


    North London

    North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses



    Striking back against the sackers' charter at Leeds University



    Nationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems


    Royal Mail

    Workers' anger increases after Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers



    Schools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now



    PCS ballots members to send message to government: scrap the pay cap



    Socialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea


    Local government

    Unite local government sector plans strike ballot

    triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

    Join the Socialist Party
    Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
    Donate to the Socialist Party

    triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

    triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

    triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

    triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

    triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

    triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

    triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

    More ...

    triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

    triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

    triangle18 Oct Tower Hamlets Socialist Party: Capitalism in Crisis - is Corbyn the answer?

    triangle19 Oct Waltham Forest Young Socialists: Deaths in police custody

    More ...

    Socialist Party Facebook page
    Socialist Party on Twitter
    Visit us on Youtube



    October 2017

    September 2017

    August 2017

    July 2017

    June 2017

    May 2017

    April 2017

    March 2017

    February 2017

    January 2017




















    SP RSS feed RSS

    Platform setting: = No platform choice