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NEW HEATHROW RUNWAY VITAL TO BRITAIN, SAYS CBI

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Confederation of British Industry director general Digby Jones has warned that failing to build a third runway at H...
Confederation of British Industry director general Digby Jones has warned that failing to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport would deal a hug blow to the UK's competitiveness against its European rivals, reported The Sunday Telegraph (Business, p2).

His warning comes as the government prepares to publish its white paper on the future of aviation. This is widely expected to recommend that the UK's airport expansion should instead take place at Stansted in Essex, where a second runway could be built.

Building a third runway at Heathrow would be controversial. Several local authorities have said they will take legal action to try to prevent expansion at the world's busiest airport. Protesters also point out that a third runway would generate so much extra air and ground traffic that air pollution levels in the surrounding area could breach European standards.

However, Mr Jones believes that an international air hub that allows long-haul passengers to transfer to local destinations is essential if UK business is to compete with rivals such as France, the Netherlands and Germany.

'STANSTED WOULD COST 100,000 JOBS'

British Airways joins forces with Virgin Atlantic, bmi and the Trades Union Congress in an advertising campaign claiming that not building a new runway at Heathrow could cost over 100,000 jobs, reported The Independent on Sunday (Business, p1).

Transport secretary Alistair Darling is expected to say in the next few days that he favours expanding Stansted. However, a strongly-worded letter - signed by BA chief executive Rod Eddington, Virgin Atlantic chairman Richard Branson, bmi chairman Michael Bishop and Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC - will argue going for Stansted is the wrong decision.

The letter claims: 'It is estimated that a third runway at Heathrow will bring £37bn of benefits to Britain and drive an extra 24,000 jobs and a further 80,000 indirect jobs by 2030'. It is feared the jobs could be lost to Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfur t International and Amsterdam Schipol.

The airlines are spending more than £100,000 on the campaign. It is thought the cabinet is split on the issue with Tony Blair arguing that Stansted expansion is better environmentally and politically while chancellor Gordon Brown favours Heathrow for economic reasons.

The airlines have threatened legal action if the government cross-subsidised the development of Stansted through higher landing charges at Heathrow, the only way aviation experts think airlines can be persuaded to fly to Stansted.

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