Last week, in a vote of huge importance, the Commons emphatically approved the Airports National Policy Statement. The most significant consequence of the vote is that it gives the green light for the expansion of Heathrow airport and the construction of a third runway.
Heathrow is a vitally important piece of national infrastructure. For many years it was the world’s busiest international airport, but now it is operating at full capacity. In terms of passenger numbers it has been overtaken by Dubai airport, while Amsterdam’s Schiphol, with its five runways, now has more flights. In the post-Brexit era, global connectivity will be more important than ever, and it is essential to restore Heathrow’s international preeminence.
There will, of course, be many hurdles to overcome before the diggers go on site. A highly complex planning process will have to be completed, and everyone expects a variety of legal challenges. Nevertheless, last week’s vote marked the first step toward expansion of the UK’s hub airport, and an increase of its capacity from 480,000 to 740,00 flights per year.
This is important for the country as a whole, not least North Wales, which is why the proposal has received the strong support of the Cheshire and North Wales Chamber of Commerce. Heathrow is Britain’s biggest port by value of goods, and its expansion will mean more opportunities for businesses from all parts of the UK to export to international customers. The new HS2 hub at Crewe will also significantly improve surface connections with Heathrow, with fast rail links from our region.
North Wales’s two local airports at Liverpool and Manchester have also firmly backed Heathrow’s expansion. Liverpool John Lennon at present has no links with Heathrow, which significantly impedes its international connectivity. North Wales business and leisure travellers will find it easier, post-expansion, to access global destinations.
It was particularly pleasing that the Heathrow proposal received strong cross-party support: the majority in favour was 415 to 119. Such firm political backing should make it easier to overcome the inevitable continuing objections and ensure that the UK acquires a hub airport fit for the 21st century.