Heathrow – the solution

London needs more hub capacity. Piecemeal growth at various airports (a new runway here and there) won’t work. Every capital city needs one principal airport where major airlines can concentrate their services most effectively.

Expansion of Heathrow is the obvious solution. There is space to create a four-runway airport there. It would be one of the cheaper options available and can be achieved fairly quickly. The only stumbling block is public opposition. Successive governments have run scared of upsetting the residents of west London, and the wealthy areas further out, who have been vocal in their objection.

If a new airport has to be developed elsewhere, the economic impact on the area around Heathrow could be devastating. Of course, Hounslow, Feltham and the other districts immediately close to the airport would be hardest hit because they supply so much of the labour to the airport. However, the impact would be felt in the wealthier areas as well – Richmond, Windsor, Chiswick and even Fulham have a huge economic benefit from being close to such a major airport. All you need do is count the number of major international corporations who have their UK offices in the “Heathrow corridor” to see the huge potential loss if a new hub were developed elsewhere.

Yet local residents seem oblivious to this. Even in Hounslow, which depends heavily on the airport, around 50% of the local population appear to object to airport expansion.

A few weeks ago, Birmingham Airport made a publicity splash by announcing plans to build an extra runway and become a major alternative hub to London. The reaction in the local media was strangely positive – all those extra jobs and investment seemed very tempting. Maybe locals did not take the plan very seriously – the Birmingham Airport CEO is rather a publicity junky and too keen on making grandiose statements about future plans that hide the rather mundane current growth.

However, there is an important fact here. Everyone seems agreed that they want jobs, investment and economic growth. A major new airport will drive that.

The only thing that is holding back growth at Heathrow is public opinion. Maybe it is time for a simple question to the few million people that live in the broader Heathrow area. Do you want it or not? 

If the answer is negative, there are other areas that do. They should be given the chance – and if west London turns into an economic backwater, as the old docklands did, then so be it.

Welcome to Ozzy International Airport

There are rumours in the local press in Birmingham that the airport is considering re-naming itself to honour one of Birmingham’s most famous sons, the illustrious Ozzy Osbourne. If Liverpool can do it with John Lennon and Belfast with George Best then why not Birmingham? 

Actually, there are an awful lot of reasons why not.

Birmingham is in the process of extending its runway and wants to be taken seriously as an international airport. Liverpool is a fairly minor regional airport which wanted publicity and to differentiate itself from the much bigger Manchester Airport. Gimmick names are all very well for regional or budget airports that want to cash in on a local celebrity, but not for an airport with serious ambitions (even if some of Birmingham’s ambitions are a little unrealistic). Changing the name to “Birmingham Airport, Ozzy Osbourne International” would make it into an international joke.

However, it does look as if there is some truth in the rumour which just highlights the problems of an airport with a mixed group of investors. Birmingham is 49% owned by seven local councils, with 48% owned by a foreign pension fund and the balance in an employee trust. A Birmingham councillor has said “we are looking into the possibility of honouring Black Sabbath in some way” at the airport. The airport itself has said they have no knowledge of any re-naming. 

Birmingham Council is thought to be considering selling its stake in the airport and we suspect the management of the airport would welcome such a move if it led to a reduction in councillors trying to interfere with their job.

Still, it would be fun if they did change the name to “Birmingham Airport – Ozzy Osbourne International”. They could even use BOO as their airport code.