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Weak politicians will send Heathrow into decline

Heathrow airport will slide down a list of the world’s leading hub airports if a third runway is not built at Heathrow, International Airlines boss Willie Walsh told a conference last week.

Walsh is chief executive of International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways and Iberia. He was speaking at a world travel and tourism conference in Abu Dhabi.

He said Britain faced “tragic” consequences because politicians in at least 70 constituencies near Heathrow are under pressure to vote against a third runway.

“Instead of being the busiest hub, 10 years from now Heathrow will be outside the top five; 20 years from now it won’t be in the top 30,” said Walsh. The world moves on and the UK will get left behind. It is political and you don’t have politicians who are brave enough to grasp this.”

The government’s Davies Commission is studying options for UK airport expansion. Heathrow is being examined along with Stansted and two offshore options.

Liberal think tank Centre Forum and its Conservative counterpart Policy Exchange say Heathrow can be expanded by shifting its runways to the west.

Centre Forum associate economic policy advisor Tom Papworth told NCE this week that Heathrow should remain as the UK’s main hub airport.

“Gatwick and Stansted are too far away from London and the Thames Estuary hub airport would involve compulsorily closing Heathrow, meaning the moving of over 100,000 jobs,” he said. “This would be a huge task and is not really feasible for a free economy.”

The two think tanks propose closing Heathrow’s two existing runways, retaining its terminals and building four new runways to the west, above the M25 and Wraysbury Reservoir.

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