Saturday, August 18, 2007

Does Heathrow need another runway?

Secret plans showing how Britain’s biggest airport is set for a massive expansion have been leaked to the Mirror.

Thousands of houses will be bulldozed to make way for another terminal and runway at Heathrow, the document reveals.

Detailed drawings never previously published show the land earmarked for the expansion.


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It would mean the demolition of 700 homes, a primary school and a 900-year-old church.

The revelation comes in the midst of a series of public protests against the West London airport's fifth terminal, now being built.

The secret plans are for a mammoth sixth terminal and a third runway to be the same size as the two strips already there.

Does Heathrow really need another terminal and runway? I don’t believe it does. This is not just about climate change. It is also about safety. The more planes you have in the sky the more likely planes are likely to crash into each other. The Civil Aviation Authority wrote a report which can be read here. On page 90 you can see that near misses for civilian aircraft stood at 109 in 2004. The year before the number was at 87. Unfortunately the report only goes up to 2004. This means for the numbers in 2006 I have to look elsewhere. According to The Times there were 566 incidents where passengers’ lives were put at risk in 2006.

Our skies are already the most overcrowded in Europe and the government wants to double the number in our skies by 2030 which is madness. We should be reducing the number of flights in this country and I have a solution which I have already laid out here but I will go through it again.

In 2004 there were 3,670,000 flights (see page 93 of report). My proposal would be put a cap on the number of flights each year. The first time we could cap the amount of flights at 3.5 million which isn’t decreasing it much and it would be putting it to around 1999 levels. After that we would decrease it by around 1% each year.

Once the cap has been put on it you then auction off these journeys in 5%s putting a cap at around 15% so as not to create a monopoly. The bidders would of course be aeroplane companies. Once 85% of them have been auctioned off another 10% would be auctioned off to the smaller aeroplane companies in 2%s. The last 5% would not be auctioned off at first until the year started. When it did the 5% would be traded per journey and sold for the market price (whatever the average price was for each journey at the auction). After 1 month the other companies can sell off the journeys that they had bid on in a journey trading scheme.

Reducing the number of journeys would decrease CO2 and it wouldn’t harm the airlines because they would decide on their own tax which would be what they could afford.

The treasury would get a lot of money from this. Consider that each journey was sold for £5,000 (which isn’t much especially when there are about 300 seats on a plane which would mean £16.66 ‘tax’ on a plane ticket) and that there were 3.5 million journeys. This would mean that £17.5 billion would be taken in tax revenue which is a lot of money. This wouldn’t count the VAT on journey trading.

Clean aircraft that contributed less CO2 would be given a tax rebate but most of the money would still be taxed. Companies that based themselves in this country (which would create jobs) would also get a rebate. This would encourage innovation in the plane industry to either develop greener aircraft or develop aircraft that were bigger to get more passengers on.

This would also be beneficial to other industries too. If the price became high then it might become cheaper for Brits to holiday in this country meaning that our leisure industry would see more money flowing into it and more jobs created.

The ship building industry might see the benefit too. The plane industry has a limit of journeys but the shipping industry won’t meaning that there might the ships might be used more to take people to close European countries like France and Spain.

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