In the first it is being claimed that the British taxpayer will end up paying the £9bn cost of Heathrow's third runway because of the "precarious" state of BAA (Heathrow's owners) finances. Labour MP John McDonnell, whose Hayes and Harlington constituency includes the airport, is quoted as saying
We now believe there will be direct subsidy as a result of BAA's precarious financial position and the precarious financial position of Grupo Ferrovial globally (BAA's parent company) and that we will have to actually subsidise the development itself, the construction of the runway and the terminal.
And a junior Transport Minister is also quoted as saying
It [Runway 3] is absolutely vital in terms of our international gateway, vital to our economy, connecting us to growth markets of the future, that has not changed.
Wrong! The third runway is neither necessary nor affordable. It is not necessary because air transport has to contract and become more efficient, if only because of global warming even if there were no world-wide recession.
It is not affordable because the scale of national debt in this country is now absolutely staggering; so staggering in fact that almost whatever any incoming government, of whatever political persuasion, might do we (the taxpayers) are going to be paying off that debt for decades to come. According to Burning Our Money our national debt is now so high it is almost £25,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. What that means is that if every penny of Income Tax we pay were used to pay off that debt it would take at least 5 years just to pay off the principal, never mind the interest. Or expressed another way: average UK house prices are around £225,000, which means you would need roughly 1 person in 5 to sell their house and donate the whole proceeds to the government to pay off the national debt.
How can we afford to build Heathrow's third runway under such economic conditions? We can't.
The fact that this really isn't affordable is further highlighted by the second item that caught my attention. British Airways (BA, not to be confused with BAA) is "asking" its 30,000 staff to work for up to one month unpaid in an attempt to save its financial skin: BA reported a loss of £401m last year. Now my understanding is that any company which cannot afford to pay its creditors is bankrupt; and an employee is essentially a creditor -- they provide something (labour) to the company, under contract, in return for money. I have said for a long time that any airline which tells you it is making a profit is either doing so by non-airline business (selling off property, say) or is indulging in creative accountancy. I fail to see how air travel can be viable at the current fares. And let's remember, BA is not a budget airline; it cannot afford to be; it has an absolutely vast organisation which it cannot afford --as the results show -- even with its current inflated fare structure.
So we are going to build a third runway at Heathrow, which we cannot afford, to prop up a global airline industry which is bankrupt and is now predicted to shrink at around 2.5% this year (rather than show the previously expected 5% rise).
Now tell me again why we need Heathrow Runway 3?