London’s civil engineers are divided on whether a third runway at Heathrow should go ahead, a debate at the ICE revealed last week.
Airport operator BAA chief executive Colin Matthews faced director of campaigns for the WWF David Norman in front of an audience of ICE members and aviation experts. Head of environmental direction at Hounslow Council Rob Gibson and International Air Transport Association assistant director David Stewart also sat on the panel, chaired by NCE editor Antony Oliver.
The UK needs to face up to making a decision on this “crucial issue” according to Matthews, who admitted: “Heathrow needs to improve, BAA needs to change.” He also rejected the assumption that economic growth and environmental responsibility is a binary choice.
The WWF highlighted the burden on other industries, including construction, for reducing CO2 emissions in theface of what Norman described as the “uncontrolled expansion of the UK’s aviation sector”.
“The UK needs a competitive hub, but not at any cost“
Colin Matthews, chief executive, BAA
New technologies and changes to the way people communicate with colleagues, clients, friends and family could also render Heathrow a “white elephant”, according to Norman, who rejected Matthews’ assertion that increased capacity at Heathrow would reduce congestion and CO2 emissions. “We’re in a new CO2 constrainedworld,” he said. “Let’s wake up to that reality and invest in new technologies.”
However, Matthews argued that high speed rail cannot compete with air travel and will instead bring more passengers to an already stretched facility. Stewart agreed, arguing that if Heathrow’s capacity was not improved, passengers “won’t stop flying, they’ll just stop flying from Heathrow”.
Gibson revealed that 96% of local residents are against expansion of the airport and criticised both BAA and successive governments for “letting the community down” with their “broken promises”.
Matthews underlined BAA’s commitment to dialogue with environmental and local community groups: “The UK needs a competitive hub, but not at any cost.”
The debate was organised by Atkins graduate engineer Kiran Gowda, who is a member of the ICE London G&S Committee.