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UK’s HUB Airport should be at Prestwick

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The Government’s announcement (Oct’16) that Heathrow is their choice for the expansion of UK airport capacity does not so much bring the debate to a conclusion as herald a further period of wrangling; over a year later we still await a final decision. This provides a window of opportunity for UKIP, particularly in Scotland. I would like to explain why.

But first I better declare that I have no vested interest and nothing to gain personally. I am offering my ideas because I think they provide a better way forward for UK aviation and a great political opportunity for UKIP. I have been a member of UKIP since 2003. I am English, and these days live in Herefordshire, but primarily I am British and so what is good for Scotland is good for Britain.

I take it as read that the UK aviation objective is to have a World-Class hub airport; that is what the Government has said. An entirely reasonable objective if it can be achieve at reasonable cost, with an acceptable negative impact and does indeed achieve a net benefit for the UK as a whole. The objective can only be achieved by increasing airport capacity.

The debate has been between Heathrow and Gatwick, but there are so many reasons not to expand either that to choose one will inevitably generate a large amount of objections, difficulties, delays and costs. When stuck between a rock and a hard place it makes sense see if there could be a third way. And I think there is a third way, which is Prestwick.

The Third Way

By its very nature a “hub” is not primarily a destination but an interchange. It does not have to be anywhere near London as its primary role is not to increase capacity for London as a destination.

Prestwick is already an international airport, and has a lot going for it. Prestwick enjoys an advantageous micro-climate, which means that it is less affected by bad weather than any other airport in the UK. I believe for this reason it was designated an emergency landing runway for the Space Shuttle.

It is on the Great-Circle route to North America: so, for instance, planes from Heathrow to New York fly over Glasgow. Bear in mind the policy objective is for a hub airport, so Western Scotland is ideally placed for intercontinental routes with North America to fan out to short-haul routes across Europe.

The environmental and social detrimental impact of expanding at Prestwick will be small compared with Gatwick, and tiny compared with Heathrow. Indeed, socially it should be beneficial.

Prestwick was bought by the SNP government for £1 and they don’t know what to do with it! The news reports (end October 2016) are that the SNP is backing Heathrow (because they have done a deal with them, it was said), so UKIP making the case for Prestwick shows how little the SNP care about their own country!

Two other reports on the BBC are instructive. Both British Airways and Ryan Air are opposed to Heathrow. It seems they are concerned that the cost of building the third runway is so high that it will inevitably put up their cost operating from Heathrow and there by undermine their competitiveness. I would expect the cost of converting Prestwick to a hub airport would be much less than expanding Gatwick and very much less than Heathrow.

Prestwick is close enough to Glasgow to be able to draw on a large city for services and resources, yet far enough away that the city will not suffer the noise, pollution and congestion associated with Heathrow.

By building the main UK hub airport at Prestwick some flights will move from Heathrow, thereby freeing up landing slots and so enabling Heathrow to continue to serve London for the foreseeable future without the need for a third runway. Heathrow will continue to have some “hub” function, and being the airport for the capital there will continue to be direct routes Worldwide. But the need to expand will have gone.

On Radio 4 there was a lorry driver who has been going to Heathrow for years: much of the goods transported by air goes in the baggage hold of passenger planes. He said that for years there has been totally inadequate facilities for lorries, resulting in them driving round in circles as there is nowhere to park in the goods area. Expanding Heathrow means more commercial and private vehicles in the vicinity, a place that is already heavily congested.

Expanding Heathrow and thereby increasing road usage in the area is illogical given its very close proximity to the M4/M25 Junction. There must be many bitter memories of the terrible congestion caused last time by road infrastructure improvements in that area; not to be repeated.

It seems several of the UK’s provincial airports favour Heathrow as their interconnect, but that is compared with Gatwick, and given the option of Prestwick, with its cheaper operating costs, I do not see any reason for them not to support that option once they know it is possible.

Some, in England, may argue that with the loud beating of the independence drums in Scotland putting an airport in Scotland to serve the whole of the UK is madness. But Scotland has voted to remain in the UK, and what better way for a Government in Westminster, that supports the Union, to show it really does care about Scotland.

Good For UKIP

If UKIP promotes the idea then it puts all the other parties to shame. But how to proceed?

Clearly it is one thing to have an idea, it is entirely another matter to turn it into reality. I am not the person to lead a Prestwick campaign, though I would help as best I can. UKIP has many talented Members, and I would hope from within the Membership  people with relevant expertise of airlines, air transport and airports could be found who could put the flesh on the bare bones of my Prestwick idea.

A few years ago there was a call for UKIP Members to help on various working groups which got a good response – I worked on the Transport Group focusing on roads. That never came to much, but it did show the expertise was available and people were willing to help. This is a resource that should not be ignored.

What do you think?

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About Alan Wheatley (3 Articles)
Alan Wheatley is a member of UKIP since 2003

9 Comments on UK’s HUB Airport should be at Prestwick

  1. As Glasgow Airport already exists – what is to stop airlines using it as their international ‘hub’ if they wish to do so ?
    Heathrow is just so crowded, both when you actually get there and on the way to ( if traveling by road or rail ) that it is such an unpleasant experience I already prefer to travel via Amsterdam if flying across the Atlantic ( from the N/E ). I believe many make the same choice.
    Personally I wonder whether we should just assume that the demand for air travel capacity will increase exponentially ?
    As regards business travel ~ is not a lot of this, perhaps most of it, frankly unnecessary in these days of Skype conference calls ? ( And in the not too distant future probably hologram calls as well ? )
    And as regards tourist / leisure travel ~well how necessary is most of that anyway ?
    How much of a holiday even is it if you have to spend half a day of it in Heathrow hell ?

    rhys burriss

  2. Sorry this pure shit stirring and is simply having a dig at the SNP. Whilst I am a great supporter of Prestwick its future lies in being a very diversified aviation hub hosting maintenance, FBOs, training, cargo, tech stops. Military activity and to a small degree passengers. As a hub for the UK? No chance. Scotland is very well served by good passenger airports at Glasgow and Edinburgh and as for the UK then there is plenty of scope to expand the likes of Manchester, Birmingham and Stansted. If you want an extra hub then reopen Manston

    • Thank you for your comment, Rhys.

      Your point about the future and real need for journeys to be made at all is well made. As it is an enormous topic in its own right, my starting point has been to take as read Government policy, that the UK needs and wants to have a World Standard hub airport.

      I do not think Glasgow has the appropriate runway where as Prestwick does, so is a better place from which to start. I would envisage that Glasgow would continue for short haul while Prestwick is developed for long haul. A fast train link between the two would probably make sense. And if it flowed into the East Coast main line then Prestwick could be the best route from the North East.

  3. It’s an interesting idea, I might not agree with it, but it’s good to have some ideas from ‘outside the box’, rather than the seeming insistence that it should always be Heathrow and/or Gatwick that get all the attention.
    Personally, although I don’t know how it would be done, I’d like to see further expansion at Birmingham Airport; it is already a ‘hub’ airport as such (many years ago the one terminal was specifically designated as ‘Euro-hub’), and it has a good central location in England, with connections due to be further improved if HS2 ever comes into being.
    It makes no sense spending billions on HS2 to improve the transport infrastructure in England, if airport expansion is only ever going to be focused in the south-east.

  4. A ludicrous idea. A Hub needs to be near to where people need it and that’s in the South somewhere. The UKIP idea at one time of Manston has very many merits. It is reasonably close to London. One runway already exists and flights would take off and Land over the sea. It could easily be linked to an upgraded HS1 putting it within about 30 minutes of London and from HS1 you can provide direct rail links to much of the UK

    • Bob, my point is not that this is a hub for people living in the south, it is a hub for Europe (to be clear, that is Europe the continent, not restricted to the EU). This is the Government’s objective.

      The UK as a whole has been cursed by a political attitude that London and the South-East comes first in all things. No wonder there are strong pressures for independence in Scotland, Wales, and even Cornwall (another part of “South”) and NE England.

      As I explained, moving hub flights elsewhere will free up slots at Heathrow for domestic, national and international travellers in the South East.

  5. After Henry Bolton’s nauseating email abut his ‘love’ life, I’ve decided to end my membership of UKIP. Bolton is the final nail in the coffin. No more UKIP for me, and they’ll be others on the back of Bolton’s ‘love’ ratting. Just when the country needs UKIP, Farage has put an over-sexed puppet in charge. The final joke. Sick UKIP.

    • I think, perhaps, you are not on the most appropriate thread for your comment. Today’s ‘News Review’ and yesterday’s ‘With Sadness, a New Year’s Resolution’ will show that many people, myself included, are just as upset and disgusted as you are.

      I wish you well in your decision to leave and will probably be not far behind you.

      Kind regards

  6. yes, it has advantages. However disadvantages seem to me to be lack of lack of roads from any direction, enviromental, Across incredible scenery, its closeness to Glasgow airport, it’s use as a military airport, .I would have thought a whole new airport like Lincoln, or even expansion of Birmingham or E Mids. Or even, if it’s just a hub, The Isle of Arran. BUT IMO nothing beats Boris Island. And, if we ever leave the EU, we do not have to be concerned about a couple of newts.

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