Sunday, 30 January 2011

Heathrow capacity

So the Government say that they are considering fining Heathrow if travel chaos occurs in the future due to snow or other reasons.

This is farcical.

The way I see it, the owners of Heathrow, BAA, are trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea. Heathrow is operating at 98% of capacity, meaning that there is no spare capacity. As I mentioned in a previous post, this means that there is little slack in the system and delays propagate down.

So the Government has come up with the wheeze to fine them if there are delays. Yet the main causal problem is that of capacity, and that same Government is refusing a third runway or even the building of a brand-new airport. This means that if the fine is set high enough to really have an effect, then the operators will try to avoid them. Something will have to give, and that will be capacity.

There will be less flights from Heathrow, and as it will be illegal to place this burden on just one airport or airport operator, other airports will look at what they can do to avoid the fines. Prices for passengers will consequently increase - maybe not by much, but certainly a little.

Of course, this does not mean that the Ferrovial Group, the ultimate owners of BAA and Heathrow, are investing enough in the infrastructure of their airports. But that is a different issue to the one the Government is failing to target.

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