Forgive the gloom and doom, but this issue is too important to ignore.
Britain is in the midst of the worst recession for a generation. Unemployment is the highest it has been for years. The UK’s position as one of leading financial services hubs is under pressure from rival economies. Growth has stagnated to levels hardly seen since World War Two. Austerity is the nation’s favourite word.
How can the UK keep pace with other leading countries? Economists vary in their views as to the economic benefits of expanding airport capacity, but a conservative estimate puts the figure at over £30 billion between now and 2060. There is a well-established link between infrastructure investment and economic growth.
Increasing the UK’s airport capacity would provide better access to key emerging and developing markets, provide access to a larger labour pool, improve connectivity between and within businesses and provide domestic economic stimulus. These benefits are hard to ignore.
If the Coalition and the Labour Party are serious about turning around our fortunes, then expanding the UK’s aviation capacity should be a priority. This is too important an issue to be held-back by petty “Nimby-ism” or political self-interest. You can be certain that our rivals are not holding back. Charles-de Gaulle in Paris, Schipol in Amsterdam, Dubai and Abu Dhabi all covet Heathrow’s position as the world’s busiest hub airport and will take market share if we do not act. An efficient and enjoyable airport experience is a massive selling point for an economy, and currently, we are falling badly short. And it is getting worse.
There are a myriad of options: Boris’s Thames Estuary, additional runways in the South-East and boosting regional transport links. However, what is missing is the political will to agree on, and drive through, the best solution. Government must take the lead, but industry must also shoulder the responsibly. They need to come to an agreement, build the economic arguments and communicate them effectively.
Marc Cohen is Senior Vice President, FTI Consulting Strategic Communications (formerly Financial Dynamics)