WITH reference to the letter by Philip Taylor 'Rail idea is good for the UK', Chronicle, October 9, I would like to take the opportunity to clarify a number of facts concerning the future development of Heathrow.
BAA believes this country needs both a third runway at Heathrow and high-speed rail. To prioritise one over the other is a false choice and will put Britain's future competitiveness at risk.
The total number of flights to Manchester and Leeds/Bradford is less than three per cent of Heathrow's total flights. There are no flights operating from Heathrow to Birmingham. Even if every flight from Manchester and Leeds/Bradford were replaced by a new high-speed rail line, then the three per cent of capacity theoretically freed up would be filled by other demand not currently being met. But in fact such a network does not exist and will take decades to deliver.
Other countries are investing in high-speed rail and new airport capacity and we should do the same.
The current economic downturn and its impact on Heathrow's future growth is a red herring. Historically, air traffic growth recovers from short-term problems such as those currently being played out in the financial markets, as evidenced by the growth in traffic after the Gulf wars, 9/11 and the Asian economic problems in the late 1990s. Most aviation industry forecasts predict a four and a half per cent growth rate in air traffic demand over the next five to 20 years, driven by global GDP growth.
That is why the decision over the third runway is a long-term decision, not just one about the future of Heathrow, or indeed BAA, but a fundamental, strategic decision that will impact on the economic future of the country as a whole.
DAMON HUNT Head of media, BAA.