runway or no runway? / by Nick Ierodiaconou Democratic Land Ownership Part II : Time to take a stand. Between the debate on the environmental impact of flying, versus the affect on business & trade, is there a viable alternative?

"That is a convenient claim, relying on some questionable assumptions. First, that the aviation industry will soon design and deploy a new generation of cleaner jet engines. Second, should such technology fail to materialise on time, that the government can be trusted to restrict flight numbers to meet its emissions targets.

In other words, the environmental "compromise" is a pledge to build the runway, but not necessarily to use it. That rather undermines the economic case for increasing airport capacity in the first place. Besides, promises to limit Heathrow's expansion have been made since the 1960s. Every one has been broken.

This government declared its intent to build a third runway in 2003. So it has had many years to formulate a credible strategy for mitigating the environmental harm of such a project and to place it in the context of a wider, greener transport policy. Instead, last week's announcement was only superficially dressed up as a broader statement on infrastructure. Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon re-announced plans to open motorway hard shoulders to car traffic. He spoke about "analysing the affordability" of improving railways and announced that a company would be set up to "advise on the credibility" of new high-speed links.

Those are very vague assurances. They must be followed soon with detailed proposals. Britain needs a railway policy designed to carry passengers, not spun to sweeten an unpopular decision about airports."