Tories say no to third Heathrow runway

A Tory government led by David Cameron would veto a third runway at Heathrow in favour of a high-speed rail link from London.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers told the Conservative Party conference today: “A Conservative government would say no to a third runway at Heathrow.”

Instead, Villiers outlined plans for a £20-billion high-speed rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. She claimed the line would cut 66,000 flights a year at Heathrow.

The line would be new, freeing existing inter-city lines for commuter trains, and cut the London-Manchester rail journey to 80 minutes. Heathrow would also get a high-speed rail link to St Pancras, said Villiers.

The announcment drew a furious response from the aviation industry, with UK Board of Airline Representatives’ chief executive Mike Carrivick calling it “a disaster”

Carrivick said: “The Tory rationale does not match the facts and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the airport. Airlines will welcome high-speed rail links at Heathrow – preferably ones that avoid London all together. However, the share of domestic services they will replace is small and does not impinge on the need to expand the airport.”

A spokesman for airport operator BAA described the rail scheme as “a false choice”, saying: “The lack of airport capacity must be addressed.”

Outgoing transport secretary Ruth Kelly was expected to give the go-ahead for a third runway this autumn, with airlines and business groups solidly in support. However, Kelly announced her resignation last week – a move likely to delay the decision. In any case, the final go-ahead will depend on the next government.

Share article

View Comments

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.