Heathrow Gets 3rd Runway
Britain on Thursday gave the go-ahead to building a third runway at London's Heathrow Airport.
By Reuters on 16 January 2009 in News
Britain on Thursday gave the go-ahead to building a £9 billion pound third runway at London's Heathrow Airport, delighting the aviation industry but enraging environmentalists.
Transport minister Geoff Hoon also told parliament he was approving the construction of an extra terminal at the congested airport, less than a year after it opened its fifth terminal after much delay due to opposition from campaigners.
Hoon said the airport was running at 99 percent capacity, and as such was losing business to international competitors.
"This makes the UK a less attractive place for mobile international business... the airport is critical to this country's long-term economic prosperity," he said.
He added that the government was setting up a new company to look at the potential for building a new high-speed rail link from London to Scotland, via a Heathrow hub station.
The third runway is backed by business and the aviation industry, which say it will help Britain's economic competitiveness, but fiercely opposed by environmental groups, opposition parties and some members of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's own Labour Party.
Supporters say the third runway is needed to enable Heathrow to run more efficiently and to cope with expanding air travel.
Heathrow, owned by Spain's Ferrovial, handles 65 million passengers a year.
Business leaders have often criticised the airport's congestion, long queues for security checks and delays.
Opponents argue that the development would increase noise and air pollution for local residents and push up carbon dioxide emissions, making it harder for the government to meet its climate change goals.
The opposition Conservative party say that, if they win the next general election, due by mid-2010, they would scrap a third runway and would instead build a more ambitious high-speed rail link linking London to northern cities.
"We will cancel these plans," Conservative transport spokeswoman Theresa Villiers told BBC radio earlier. "Today's announcement does not mean that a third runway is inevitable. This is just the start of the fight."
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