Heathrow expansion ‘would cut flights to Edinburgh’

Heathrow Airport. Picture: Contributed
Heathrow Airport. Picture: Contributed
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LONDON mayor Boris Johnson today warned a new runway at Heathrow will mean fewer flights to and from Edinburgh, not more.

He claimed the extra capacity created by a third runway would be used for long-haul international destinations rather than domestic flights. He said Scotland faced the prospect of losing vital aviation routes.

The Airports Commission, appointed by the UK government three years ago, published its final report in July, recommending a third runway at Heathrow should go ahead.

The government has not responded yet, but has said it will do so before Christmas.

The debate about airport expansion around London has been causing controversy since the 1970s.

Owners of Gatwick are arguing it would a better choice – and the commission did describe it as a “credible” option.

Mr Johnson backs another idea – a new, floating airport in the Thames Estuary, nicknamed Boris Island.

He has written to 11 regions and more than 480 key businesses around the UK saying the commission itself forecast that an expanded Heathrow would accommodate even fewer domestic routes, reducing the number of British airports connected to a UK hub from seven to four.

He said the number of British cities served by Heathrow had already plummeted by more than 60 per cent from 18 routes in 1990 to just seven today.

Since 1996 the number of daily flights from Glasgow, Inverness and Edinburgh to Heathrow had dropped by more than half from 53 to just 21.

And he pointed out that just last month, Scotland lost nine daily flights from Heathrow with the closure of Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red short haul terminal 2
service to Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Mr Johnson said: “Having connections with the UK hub airport is hugely important for Scotland. Those connections allow businesses to trade and secure investment across the globe.

“But the truth is that Heathrow has been failing our regions for well over a quarter of a century and quite staggeringly the Airports Commission’s own analysis shows that the construction of a third runway only worsens the situation.

“That is not how you rebalance the economy and spread prosperity across the UK.

“The only long-term solution that would enable British businesses to compete on a level playing field with our European competitors is to build a four-runway hub airport, and the only logical location for that airport is to the east of London.”

Mr Johnson argued Britain needs a hub airport with four runways in order to compete with the four-runway airports in Europe, such as Frankfurt and Paris Charles De Gaulle and further afield.

His intervention comes hot on the heels of a warning from former first minister Alex Salmond that the SNP group at Westminster would refuse to back any airport’s expansion plan unless Scotland receives a share of the investment under the Barnett formula and there is a guarantee of extra Scottish flights.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com