Hopes fade for new London runway

Prospects for a third runway at London's Heathrow airport are looking increasingly bleak as the opposition Conservative party, which stands a good chance of winning the next election, lines up against the idea, and in favour of an expansion of high speed railways instead.

The global downturn is also causing many pundits to question the need for a third runway, which was agreed in principle by the current UK government in 2003, providing strict environmental criteria were met. A green light for the project is in theory due before the end of the year, but the government is likely to see few votes in supporting the plan.

The opposition party have said 63,200 flights a year could be replaced by a high speed railway line from London to the north of the UK, as well as better use of the existing lines to Paris and Brussels. It contrasts this to the 220,000 extra flights the third runway would produce. BAA, the owner of Heathrow, says this figure is a wild exaggeration, and that trains would at best only replace three percent of existing flights, or around 14,000 movements a year.

Members of parliament for the governing Labour party are also lining up against the third runway, with 52 signing a motion in mid November urging the government to consider alternatives. A key concern is that many of the constituencies that would be under the flight path of the new runway are marginal seats with low majorities.