Mayor warns regions over Heathrow expansion

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has written to leaders of cities and regions around the UK to warn them that half of the flights between Heathrow and the rest of the UK would be scrapped if a third runway was given the go ahead.

He also said that the government would need to be in a position to explain which of the UK cities currently served by Heathrow would be expected to retain a link to the airport were a third runway to be approved. The details of the potential decline in regional connectivity are "buried deep” in the Airports Commission report, he said.

"The hoax that it would be of benefit to our regions has been thoroughly exposed, and it is now clear that even the existing UK links to and from Heathrow are under threat" - Boris Johnson

“The final decision on where to provide new aviation capacity needs to be in the interest of the entire country and this astonishing admission makes clear that a third runway at Heathrow would fail that test on every count," Johnson said.

"The hoax that it would be of benefit to our regions has been thoroughly exposed, and it is now clear that even the existing UK links to and from Heathrow are under threat. The only long term solution to Britain’s aviation needs is a hub airport with the potential for multiple runways and the spare capacity to allow domestic routes to flourish. It is what our global rivals are doing, it is the right thing to do, and it is what must happen here.”

His comments came after business leaders last week called on government to make a "swift and positive response" to the Airports Commission report published in July.

The Commission’s report recommended that South East aviation capacity should be enhanced through a new northwest runway at Heathrow, but it warned that without specific measures to support domestic connectivity even an expanded Heathrow may accommodate fewer domestic routes that the seven currently served.

However it goes on to recommend that the government ensures regional connectivity is improved through the use of Public Service Orders (PSOs) supported financially by the government's Regional Air Connectivity Fund.

"In summary a new runway at Heathrow will enhance the domestic connectivity of the UK strongly benefitting the nations and regions outside London and the South East. In order to ensure these benefits are widely spread and a diverse network of domestic routes is supported at the expanded airport however additional measures may be required," states the report.

In a letter to the Times this weekend Heathrow airport corporate affairs director Clare Harbord pointed to evidence from the Airports Commission stating that 60% of the benefits of expansion at Heathrow would accrue outside London and the South East. She also pointed to measures proposed by Heathrow to grow the domestic network including a £10M privately financed fund aimed at creating up to five new domestic routes, and reduced fares for domestic passengers.

"Public service obligation routes can be at the heart of a long-term economic plan for UK-wide growth, delivering enhanced global connectivity from Cornwall to Inverness. Their likely cost is small compared with the estimated £100 billion of public money needed to build the mayor’s new airport in the Thames estuary and will be repaid many times over in the form of 180,000 new jobs and £211 billion in economic growth across the UK," she said in her letter.

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Moving many UK domestic flights away from Heathrow would likely move many travellers to taking the train internally, for much lower carbon emissions and pollution. The Crossrail 1 Heathrow connection is excellent foresight, as will as connecting HS2 to Heathrow in some fashion.