Outlook The Airports Commission is back, this time with an assessment of the costs of the three shortlisted bids for expansion in London: a third runaway at Heathrow, a second at Gatwick, and the expansion and split of the northern runway at Heathrow. Guess what? They’re going to be much more expensive than their backers’ estimates. That, sadly, is in the nature of these big infrastructure projects, particularly in this country.
What the commission’s assessment doesn’t change is the necessity of settling on one of them. Every day of delay heaps more economic damage on Britain. Sir Howard Davies, who heads the commission, more or less made that point, warning of “quite unpleasant things happening” if nothing is done, with classic British understatement.
So it might help matters if he and his commission get on with it and make a decision. He might also like to care to be a little more blunt with those Eurosceptic Conservatives who claim that Britain will enjoy a surge in trade with the Asian tiger if it would only quit the EU. It isn’t going to happen if business people can’t get flights out there. Yes, expanding Heathrow is unpalatable, politically and environmentally. But it’s much like a vaccination. The initial injection might be painful, and leave a sore patch. But compared with the alternative, it’s infinitely preferable.