• Global Connectivity

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    04 November 2016

    Last week the government announced its decision in favour of the building of a new third runway at London, Heathrow – the first full-length runway to be constructed in the South East of England since the 1940s. The decision is an acceptance of the recommendations of the independent Airports Commission, which looked into various alternatives and concluded that on balance, taking in account the benefits to passengers and the wider UK economy (estimated at £61 billion), the restrictions that will be applied around pollution and noise along with the compensation package for local residents, Heathrow was the strongest option. Its recommendation was unanimous. The UK is already big on the aviation scene with an the world’s second largest aerospace sector powering £26 billion in exports every year. And over 250 million passengers and 2.3 million tonnes of freight were handled by UK airports last year – up 5.5% on 2014. Our airports contribute £22 billion to the UK economy but at the current rate of growth the London airport system will be entirely full by 2030. An expanded Heathrow will provide the long term capacity to connect people and businesses to both domestic and long haul destinations, resulting in increased connectivity to global markets. The development will create thousands of jobs, free up capacity and ensure that we are far better connected for world trade including to major and growing markets such as China. Increased capacity will bring greater competition and this in turn will drive down ticket prices and favour the consumer. The South West will benefit directly. By 2040 compared to no expansion an estimated additional 1.5 million passengers will make one-way trips to or from the South West using direct international connections offered by an expanded Heathrow with around 160,000 of these new trips to long haul destinations and about 340,000 of these for business rather than leisure. At a time when, post Brexit, there is real uncertainty around UK business and the UK economy it is also important that we make clear commitments to major infrastructure investments and telegraph to the world that we are serious about expanding trade and to continue to grow our economy through strong inward investment and international trade and business. This does not mean that we should neglect smaller scale yet vital investment in local infrastructure though and I welcome the already announced investment of over £7 billion in road and rail infrastructure in the South West including electrifying the great western mainline from Paddington to Bristol and £2 billion to improved key roads in the south west including an improved strategic corridor along the A303/A358. My key concern remains the northern option for a rail link around the north of Dartmoor to take in Okehampton and provide a much needed link for thousands who are many miles from a station. Whilst welcoming more airport and local infrastructure spend I will continue to press hard on this issue which is vital to many constituents.