Heathrow? Gatwick? No, we need a new airport

These letters appear in the Monday 19th October edition of the Independent

Independent Voices
Sunday 18 October 2015 17:35 BST

Stewart Wingate (letter, 17 October), chief executive of Gatwick Airport, says Gatwick has never breached legal air-quality limits, in contrast to Heathrow, and so should be allowed to expand without “fruitless debate”. And he says “a new runway at Heathrow will only generate millions of additional vehicle journeys”.

Will the additional vehicle journeys miraculously disappear if a new runway is built at Gatwick? Air pollution will simply be transferred from Heathrow to “the sparsely populated location” of Gatwick. Air pollution is air pollution, however many are affected.

The statement that “only a small fraction of the local population will be impacted by noise” from a new Gatwick runway is dismissive. Noise pollution for an individual with a thousand neighbours is as intolerable as it is for an individual with tens of thousands of neighbours.

Residents of the Weald already suffer intolerable noise pollution from low-flying, incoming aircraft made worse by “stacking”. The chief executive says “aircraft can ‘stack’ over the sea”. If that is the case, why doesn’t this happen now?

The only answer to the insanity of airport expansion in the South-east, is to build a new London airport as far out in the Thames estuary as possible, with a high-speed rail link to the capital.

Patricia and Nigel Evans, Heathfield, East Sussex

Stewart Wingate repeated why he believes the next new runway for London should be at Gatwick, – almost solely driven by issues of road traffic emissions, which can be resolved at Heathrow, despite his assertions.

Having worked in the air transport industry at senior level for airlines and consultancies for over 40 years, and as aviation adviser to the Commons Transport Select Committee for eight years, and adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Aviation until May, I have watched the saga of airports policy unfold.

The next new runway for the UK must be at Heathrow, where the economic benefits to the UK are twice those from Gatwick.

Mr Wingate fails to recognise the history of UK aviation policy that confirms the non-viability of split hubs and the crucial importance of airline economics which drive service location.

Gatwick second-hub status was brought about by Government regulation, banning British Caledonian as the then second-force airline from operating into the larger more lucrative Heathrow in the 1970s and 1980s, until the regulations changed and British Caledonian was taken over by BA.

When the Traffic Distribution Rules were rescinded in the early 1990s, 20 airlines and two million passengers moved from Gatwick to Heathrow.

When the EU-US Open Skies agreement was signed in the mid-2000s all the residual US transatlantic operations that had been forced to operate from Gatwick moved to Heathrow.

Gatwick is an important leisure-focused airport but it will never be a viable hub. The UK can afford only one hub, Heathrow, to compete with single-location continental hubs, eg Amsterdam Schiphol.

Gatwick does need another runway to improve operational integrity, provide resilience and room for growth of its local market, but not as a hub.

L N Price, Horsham, West Sussex

Hunt looks like the one being misleading

Jeremy Hunt insisted that the BMA was “misleading” junior doctors over the contract the Department of Health is seeking to impose upon them. This came just 24 hours after 3,500 junior doctors published a letter pointing out that Jeremy Hunt misled Parliament three times by stating that hospital deaths at weekends were “excess deaths”.

The authors of the report that Mr Hunt relied on to justify this statement said that “to assume they [“excess deaths”] are avoidable would be rash and misleading”.

Setting aside the obvious DoH smokescreen over the junior doctors’ accusation, the question, surely, is now whether or not Mr Hunt is merely “rash” or knowingly “misleading” with his statements about this matter to Parliament?

Dr James J H Rucker, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, Kings College London

To die or not to die should be free choice

I applaud the bravery of businessman Simon Binner, who posted details of his death and funeral online, before travelling to Switzerland to end his life today, but I despair that he had to go abroad to ensure a dignified and timely death.

He chose to die while still able to travel independently, thereby not compromising his loved ones, who could face up to 14 years in prison.

If we had legal assisted dying legislation in the UK, Mr Binner could have enjoyed more time with his family, knowing that when he felt it was the right time he could end his suffering. Let’s hope there will be legal change in the future.

I have a dear friend in her eighties who would not have been helped had the failed Assisted Dying Bill been passed in July. She does not have a terminal illness. However, she lives with post-polio syndrome, and after a productive and happy life, her physical health has deteriorated significantly.

She has been bedridden for two years, but until recently was still able to enjoy craft hobbies, online jigsaws and games, listening to music and researching things on the internet.

Unfortunately, in the past few months, her muscles have deteriorated, her breathing has become more difficult, and she is now incontinent and has increasingly less energy to do the things she once enjoyed.

The idea that this could go on for years, with her condition only worsening, makes her so frustrated. She argues that she has had a good life, and she is adamant that she should be able to decide when to end her own life.

She would like to celebrate her life with her family and friends, then depart from it before she is unable to do anything herself at all.

I ask those who oppose euthanasia, whether they could look this lovely lady in the eye and say she deserves to endure an unhappy, unpleasant and lingering degradation in her final years, when she is perfectly rational and able to express her wishes.

When she dies, I will miss her sense of humour, anecdotes, creativity, knowledge and human warmth. But however much I will grieve, as her friend, I respect that when she dies should be up to her.

Name and address supplied

Steel has a future... in banking

With the impending closure of so much of Britain’s steel-making capacity, I suggest turning steel plants into banks. £850bn was reportedly spent on propping up the banking sector during the last crash. The Bank of Redcar and Scunthorpe could do a sideline in steel-making with the knowledge it has full Government support.

Bob Jones, Stone, Staffordshire

Many landlords just plain greedy

MP Philip Davies’s opposition to a Bill making flats “fit for human occupation” is outrageous. Countless tenants are paying inflated rents for sub-standard accommodation.

My experience of several landlords is their sheer greed in expecting tenants to pay large sums to draw up simple contracts, aided and abetted by pushy, avaricious estate agents, in addition to utility bills, council tax and inflated rents. Many landlords have no concern for their tenants – apart from getting the next rental payment.

Dominic Shelmerdine, London SW3

How black cabs beat Uber

I assume that neither Simon Neville nor Russell Lynch (“Cab drivers thwarted as judge clears Uber app”, 17 October) is disabled, as they make no mention of Uber cabs being capable of carrying people in wheelchairs and assisting them – like the traditional black cabs do.

Susan Smith, Harrow, Greater London

First poppy of the year

Forget spotting the first cuckoo of spring. The new equivalent is what I call the Horatio Bottomley Award for False Patriotism, for the person who first wears a poppy on TV... way in advance of the event. I want to claim it for the Channel 4 News reporter on 16 October (for heaven’s sake!) who made me determined never to buy one again.

Dai Woosnam, Scartho, Grimsby

Were they really English writers?

I read Andrew Blake’s letter regarding F R Leavis (17 October) with interest. But I understand Joseph Conrad spoke Polish and French and that English was his third language. Although it could be argued that many of Henry James’s later novels appear to have been written by someone with only a passing acquaintance with the English language.

Andrew Lee-Hart, Birkenhead

The big question about QI

How much was Stephen Fry paid to be quiz master? How much will Sandi Toksvig be paid to be quiz mistress?

Henrietta Cubitt, Cambridge

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