A world of opportunity beneath your feet

By Mike Appleton

One thing we occasionally hear from the people who oppose Heathrow’s growth is ‘I don’t use Heathrow’. Whilst this is obviously intended to give the impression that they don’t feel they receive any of the benefits of Heathrow, it is almost always completely untrue.

Of course it is perfectly possible that someone might not physically go to the airport and get on an aircraft to meet with clients or to go on holiday, but to say that you don’t use the airport is simply not the case.

Many people understand that much of our fresh produce like fruit and vegetables comes from warmer climes, but you’d be surprised at the key role that Heathrow plays in keeping the economy moving, and the vital role it plays in the lives of those in need.

Pharmaceutical companies use Heathrow to send vital drugs and vaccines around the world. In 2012 one airline alone sent 31 million vials of vaccines through Heathrow, with the UK exporting £2 billion of their vital products through the airport. Pharmaceuticals are typical of the small, valuable and urgently needed cargo that is shipped by air.

Nothing can be more urgent than cargo that can save lives. Whether it is human organs on their way to save lives or aid to disaster hit areas, air freight is the only way to get vital cargo to where it is needed on time.

Yet despite this, cargo planes are pretty rare at Heathrow. Only a small number of routes operate as cargo flights to and from the airport. The majority of freight to and from Heathrow doesn’t travel in dedicated cargo flights, instead it flies under our feet. The millions of people who rely on this ‘belly hold’ freight value Heathrow for the same reason that passengers do, the network of routes that serve the hub airport.

Getting HIV drugs from Nairobi to Newcastle or from Aberdeen to Addis Adaba requires a hub airport to make the journey viable. The day to day deliveries to provide us with the produce that we consume and the products we rely on to go about our daily lives rely on the hub model to make these deliveries cost effective. It is only by funnelling traffic, passengers and freight through one central point that makes it possible to connect many global destinations that can’t sustain a single point to point connection.

Gatwick is not a hub airport. It relies on holiday makers and low-cost airlines for the majority of its passengers. With very few exceptions, low cost operators focus on providing passengers with cheap flights for holidays, not business or manufacturing destinations. For this reason, Gatwick’s operators do not put as much focus on their freight operations. Put simply: Gatwick doesn’t do freight. In 2012 Heathrow processed 1.5 million tonnes of freight through the airport compared to 0.1 million tonnes at Gatwick. Even Stansted processed more freight that Gatwick, although this is mainly through dedicated operations to major cargo centres.

Expansion at Gatwick without growth at Heathrow will only serve to make the UK less well connected for both passengers and the freight under their feet. Gatwick is a great airport to get to Malaga or Majorca, but it can’t help the UK to get machine parts from Leeds to Lahore.

People often don’t realise that air freight is vital to the UK economy: it accounts for around 40% of the UK’s exports and imports, worth around £400 billion per year. Heathrow is the lynch-pin in the UK’s air freight industry with a phenomenal 86% of UK air freight passing through the airport.

A logistics manager for a major pharmaceutical manufacturer summed up the problem when he told the Freight Transport Association, “We need Heathrow and we need it to be a primary hub. It is essential that it receives investment for a new runway because we will start to lose airlines and services to other countries where the hub airports are getting investment and slots are not under so much pressure.”

DHL, ASDA and Ford are just three of the many companies supplying services to manufacturers and UK residents that have expressed concerns about the capabilities of Heathrow given the current capacity squeeze. All understand the value of a successful hub airport to their business models and to the UK economy.

The Heathrow debate is often viewed through the lens of west London or the aviation industry. Looking at the enormous positive impact that Heathrow has on millions of lives every day shows that the fight for Heathrow’s future is far from regional. This is a national issue of national importance, but it will take local people to fight for it.

Hot air but no answers from Heathrow’s opponents

Hot air but no answers from Heathrow’s opponents

By Mike Appleton

It was shocking but not entirely surprising to read last week that Greenpeace, an environmental group that urges us to stop flying, had been paying for one of its executives to commute by plane. More shocking was that Greenpeace’s UK director John Sauven refused to condemn this hypocrisy. As is often the case with anti-aviation protestors, it’s one rule for them and one for the rest of us.

The truth is that Greenpeace, like the rest of us, rely on air travel for work and leisure. Conference calls and virtual meetings will only take you so far; even Greenpeace have to go and meet their clients or colleagues eventually.

The key to the aviation capacity debate is balancing the needs of businesses and travellers to meet with their customers, friends and family (not to mention the jobs that this supports) with the emissions that aviation produces. Clearly supporting unchecked increases in capacity would be irresponsible. Whilst we back Heathrow’s growth, we would not do so at any cost.

Both Heathrow proposals submitted to the Airports Commission have pledged that any expansion would lead to fewer emissions being emitted in the future than there are today.

This might sound like a dream, but it is achievable. It might surprise you to learn that much of Heathrow’s emissions are not from aircraft, but the vehicles around the airport. Reducing this traffic is key to reducing emissions and congestion. Heathrow’s surface access is going to be rapidly improved with Crossrail connecting the airport to central London and western rail access and southern rail access both proposed in the next decade. By 2030 this would mean 36 trains per hour providing more than 12,000 seats for passengers compared to 18 trains per hour and 5,000 seats today. This would take thousands of cars off the road.

Heathrow Airport Ltd has also proposed a ‘congestion charge’ to encourage passengers to use improved public transport. It is only a suggestion and one which requires very careful scrutiny, but initiatives like this could have a real impact on pollution and congestion. You might expect some support from self-styled environmentalists but none came. Instead Zac Goldsmith called it ‘punitive’ adding “no London Mayor is going to grant permission [for the charge] without a fight.” In opposing measures that would benefit the environment and his constituents, he is simply cutting off his nose to spite his face. It is clear that Heathrow’s opponents are becoming more blinkered in their outlook; any proposal from Heathrow is automatically assumed to be bad.

We all know that aircraft are becoming more fuel efficient, which will mean less fuel burn and a corresponding reduction in emissions. What additional capacity will also bring is more space to land aircraft.

Heathrow is currently the world’s most congested airport, meaning that much like cars in a traffic jam passengers spend a lot of time either waiting on the ground to take off or circling in ‘stacks’ waiting to land. This time matters, circling over London is simply wasting fuel, polluting the atmosphere unnecessarily when the aircraft should be on the ground instead of hanging around.

Taxying on the ground also burns up a lot of fuel and the longer spent on the ground waiting to take off means more fuel burnt unnecessarily. A bigger Heathrow would be a better Heathrow. It would allow aircraft to take off faster and to land more quickly, spending less time queueing on the ground and much less time flying in circles waiting to land. This would lead to fewer emissions and better air quality for all of us. This would not be achieved by only expanding Gatwick or doing nothing.

Far from being the environmental disaster that many anti-aviation groups predict Heathrow expansion to be, it may actually reduce carbon emissions in the longer term. The Government’s Committee on Climate Change found that the aviation industry could increase in capacity by 60% whilst still meeting climate change targets.

We only back growth at Heathrow because we know this protects jobs and reduces the airport’s impact on the environment over time. It’s why more Greenpeace supporters should climb into aeroplanes instead of clambering on top of them.

WATCH: Back Heathrow and the film competition

By Mike Appleton


Lights, camera… action! This week we released a new film starring some of the 30,000+ local people who have signed up to our campaign to protect Heathrow jobs and to secure a bright future for local communities in west London and the wider region.

The release of our Back Heathrow film coincided with an anti-Heathrow film competition organised by Zac Goldsmith MP who hosted a rather lavish and self-indulgent awards ceremony at Richmond Theatre last night. The aim was to encourage budding film makers with a huge cash prize to attack the airport and by definition criticise those who want to see Heathrow grow and succeed.

Mr Goldsmith called in a few favours from celebrity friends. So, Hugh Grant turned up on a judging panel alongside Rachel Johnson, airport-closer Boris Johnson’s sister and TV presenter Holly Willoughby. By joining the judging panel to lambast Heathrow, Ms Willoughby must have forgotten her recent advert for the Skyscanner app which promotes, er, cheap flights.

Whilst almost every celebrity known to man or beast has flown through Heathrow at regular intervals, our campaign is all about the support of thousands of local people who are proud of Heathrow. Some of them may have helped Zac Goldsmith’s judging panel to complete their onward journeys, who knows?

Our film is about people like Matt Goggins from National Express who explains that Heathrow is one of his company’s most important destinations, providing transport routes on the ground to connect with routes in the air. It also includes people like Sally Rose, a young apprentice starting out on her career learning the skills in engineering to keep the airport moving. Even at last night’s anti-Heathrow film ceremony, Hugh Grant said he would have liked to have seen more about airport jobs!

Unlike the slick Heathrow-bashing films on show at Richmond theatre, our film is rather more home-spun. Our film stars each have very different backgrounds but one thing that unites them is that they have come together to support Heathrow. No-one was paid. There are no actors and no scripts in this blockbuster. Instead, we featured genuine residents, telling their stories in their own words.

For the thousands of people who call Heathrow their workplace, they know that they’re not just working for an airline, a cargo-handling agent or for a taxi firm, they’re working for community and country. Where ever we live in the UK, we all rely on Heathrow in some way.  Whether it’s helping passengers on their way to visit friends and family or moving goods from manufacturers to customers, the people who make this happen tell us they’re proud to play their part.

Many people have got in touch with the campaign to let us know how incredibly proud they are of the airport and what is has achieved for their local community. In just a few months more than 30,000 local residents in boroughs surrounding the airport have now backed our campaign. The number rises every day.

You can watch our film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkHIYWJwTGs. We think it will help rebalance the debate between the negative ‘No’ campaign against Heathrow that a well-connected minority are pushing and our message of a positive future for our local economy and communities – and the UK!

If you know people who haven’t yet signed up to the campaign, why not copy and paste the link into an email to them. Alternatively, you could post it to Facebook or Twitter, allowing other people to see too.

That’s a wrap. But there’s talk of a sequel.

Cabbies hail Back Heathrow!


By Mike Appleton

What’s red and yellow and can be seen being driven around London? It is not, as one campaign wag suggested, Noddy’s car. The answer, thanks to London cabbies, is 50 special Back Heathrow taxis zipping around the capital for the next few weeks.

Last week, some of Heathrow’s cabbies joined Back Heathrow’s campaign co-ordinator Rob Gray on top of the brand new Terminal 2 to show off two of our Back Heathrow taxis. Dozens of these special taxis are on London’s streets in the coming weeks, providing a clear demonstration of support for Heathrow and the west London economy. It would have been great to see the Queen arrive in a Back Heathrow taxi to officially open Terminal 2 later this month but we understand she may have other transport arrangements.

As support continues to roll in, we are delighted that the Heathrow branches of the London Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) and the Heathrow Airport Taxi Drivers’ Union (HATDU) are both proud to back Heathrow.

“Like Heathrow, black cabs are icons for London and the UK, known throughout the world,” said LTDA representative Bob Livingstone. “Heathrow is so important to cab drivers because of the trade that it brings us. Any threat to a successful Heathrow would be a serious problem for our members and it would be devastating for the local area.”

HATDU chairman Eddie Symes said, “We are based at Heathrow and our members mostly rely on the airport for their income just like thousands of other workers. We want the airport to grow and support more routes to bring more people to the capital. It’s unbelievable that any local politician would want to see Heathrow decline or close”.

Tell us if you spot our cabs!

If you see one of our special Back Heathrow taxis we want to know. Simply tweet us a picture using the hashtag #BHcabs telling us where you were when you saw it.

Say hello to Terminal 2!

By Mike Appleton

Say hello to Terminal 2!

On Wednesday 4 June, United Airlines flight 958 from Chicago will land at Heathrow at 05:55, much like it does every day. However on 4 June, this will be the first flight to arrive at Heathrow’s brand new Terminal 2 as it opens to the public for the first time. The new terminal will bring a much better experience to thousands of passengers travelling through the airport. The Terminal will also be the UK’s ‘front door’ for travellers from across Europe and the world; and it is sure to offer a welcome to be proud of.

Building impressive infrastructure doesn’t come cheap: the new terminal represents a £2.5 billion privately funded investment into the airport, replacing the dated and cramped buildings with a new spacious and light terminal. Terminal 2 should join Terminal 5 in securing Heathrow’s position as one of the world’s favourite airports for many years to come. To give you some idea of the scale of the investment, for a time Terminal 2 was the largest building site in Europe, employing thousands of workers and many more in the UK supply chain. This investment shows the commitment that the airport has to its long term future at the heart of our community.

Last week Boris Johnson unveiled his plans to close Heathrow down by building a new airport in the Thames Estuary. His plans require the construction of an entirely new airport, complete with the terminals, runways and transport links that Heathrow already has. Why on earth would we put Heathrow jobs and future growth at risk?

Opponents to Heathrow’s continued growth say that the airport should be ‘better not bigger’. Investment in projects to make the airport more efficient, like Terminal 2, shows that Heathrow is getting much better. But while T2 will provide a great experience for passengers, it can’t sort out the blockage in the UK’s economy: choking off the number of routes to emerging economies from the airport. That problem can only be solved through additional hub airport capacity and extra runway space.

We think a bigger Heathrow would be a better Heathrow, helping to get the economy moving and securing the airport’s place in the world against its competitors in Europe and the Middle East. When looking around the bright and airy new terminal, it will be difficult for passengers or politicians to argue that this shining example of British engineering should be torn down in favour of a new hub airport elsewhere.

At the end of next month, Her Majesty the Queen will be at the airport to officially open the new Terminal, just as she did with the old Terminal 2 (the Europa Building) back in 1955. Let’s hope that in 60 years’ time we can say that we made the right decision to Back Heathrow.

You can see more about Terminal 2 on Heathrow Airport's website.

Question time – take a peek at T2

On Thursday 29 May the BBC’s Question Time is being filmed at Terminal 2, to show off the new terminal before it opens to the public. Tune in to BBC One at 10:35pm (after the news) to see the brand terminal in action.

Seizing a golden opportunity for west London and the UK

By Mike Appleton

Sir Howard Davies, you have mail. Today, the chairman of the Airports Commission will receive detailed plans from the shortlisted schemes to solve the UK’s aviation capacity problem. Happily, two of these favour Heathrow.

For months, both plans have been under development whilst key questions about vital issues like aircraft noise, carbon emissions and transport links were answered. Now both plans have been made public, we are able to see for the first time the real benefits for all of us in west London, the Thames Valley and beyond.

The owners of Heathrow Airport - who favour a new runway to the north-west - say their option would create more than 100,000 jobs across the UK, including many locally. But they also point to £100bn of potential economic benefits and a £550m fund for noise insulation and property compensation. Supporters of the second option from Heathrow Hub, fronted by ex-Concorde pilot Jock Lowe, also offer large-scale job creation but say their proposal demolishes fewer houses and delivers a world-class noise mitigation strategy.

The other official option for the Airports Commission will be submitted by Gatwick. You may have seen some of their anti-Heathrow advertisements arguing that Gatwick is the ‘obvious’ choice for a new runway. We have no objection to Gatwick growth but not at the expense of Heathrow growth. Heathrow’s runways are full. This must be the priority – there is a hub airport capacity shortage, not a wider capacity shortage.

The Mayor of London’s plans for a new hub airport to the east of London, resulting in the closure of Heathrow, are still alive but only just. Boris will learn his fate in the autumn. However, it must be disheartening for anyone involved in this ill-fated project to watch the Mayor’s protracted and clumsy swanning back towards the House of Commons.

Like you, we want Heathrow to succeed, not decline. Any option to increase capacity at Heathrow will protect jobs and allow the wider economy in the area to flourish for years to come. It is clear that both of these new options for Heathrow’s future open an exciting new chapter for the airport and local communities.

The Airports Commission process is the final opportunity to secure a bright future for Heathrow and it is important that politicians seize it with both hands. If they do, they will find that the majority of local residents in west London are behind them – as first-rate, independent polling has shown year after year.

This week was an important step towards making Heathrow’s future more secure, but there is still a long way to go before a final decision is made. If local elections are taking place where you live, make sure you tell any candidate that comes to your door your views, so that they are under no illusion about how local people really feel about Heathrow.

‘Like’ Back Heathrow on Facebook!

We’ve launched a new Facebook to help everyone stay in touch with the campaign. On the page you’ll find all our all our latest news and pictures from the campaign. You can find us here: https://www.facebook.com/backheathrow or by searching ‘Back Heathrow’ on Facebook.

Remember to click the ‘thumbs up’ to receive our updates.


Why a lorry load of businesses support Heathrow


By Jack Andrews,

It’s not just those directly employed at the airport relying on Heathrow for their jobs. South east England and west London have grown up with Heathrow as businesses have taken the opportunity to base themselves close to Britain’s UK hub airport. They want to connect to the world and an entire supply chain has sprung up to provide jobs and services to those who depend on those links.

As the debate over new runways rumbles on, we were delighted when Feltham firm Mixed Freight Services approached us offering to help the Back Heathrow campaign. The company’s founder, Alan Smith, wanted to send a clear message to the politicians that would be happy to see the airport decline or even close. “Heathrow’s future affects people like the 70 employees working for our company,” said Alan, continuing, “There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region that depend on Heathrow and that is a serious number of people to brush aside in this debate.”

For Alan there is a stark connection between the future of Heathrow and that of his business. His firm can grow alongside Heathrow or it can decline alongside Heathrow – and the effect of closing Heathrow doesn’t bear thinking about.

That point was so important for Alan that he didn’t want to risk anyone not getting the message. His solution was to create something that would be difficult for others – including the politicians – to miss; he decided to turn an 18-metre lorry into a mobile advert for Back Heathrow. Those that see this lorry (pictured above with Alan, left) drive past over the coming months, whether they’re on the motorway or at the airport, will have no doubt of Alan’s support for local jobs.

Of course, Alan’s logistics enterprise is just one of thousands of local businesses that would suffer if a decision was made against Heathrow continuing to be a global hub in west London. As Stephen Fry, Chief Executive of Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, puts it, “Many of Hounslow’s firms are dependent on the Heathrow economy”. That’s why 77% of businesses in Hounslow support expansion, and why 76% in Hillingdon do too.

There’s a reason that 202 of the 300 top companies in the UK have chosen west London and the Thames Valley as the location for their headquarters – proximity to Heathrow airport.

The connectivity that a major competitive hub provides makes this area one of the best places to be if you’re looking to move people or freight around the world, that’s why companies like Microsoft, Honda, Mars and Google have chosen here as their centre of operations.

Major local employers also help sustain supply chain companies, whilst the multitude of employees living nearby ensures that shops and other community businesses can be successful. A recent independent report for Ealing, Hounslow and Slough Councils showed that 300,000 jobs across the region are at risk if Heathrow’s status as an international hub airport is jeopardised.

All of these tremendous economic and social benefits that Heathrow brings to west London and the wider region could be put at risk if more local politicians do not speak out in favour of the golden goose on their doorstep. Local voters are surely entitled to ask… what on earth are some of their elected representatives playing at? Meanwhile, it’s great that Alan and thousands of other supporters are, at least, looking out for jobs in our area.

Keep an eye out for a large, yellow Back Heathrow lorry!

Heathrow residents show supersonic support

By Rob Gray,


Did you know there are more US astronauts than BA Concorde pilots? Well, you do now. When the longest-serving Concorde pilot dropped in to Back Heathrow on Monday evening, we thought we’d give him a warm welcome. So we invited around 100 of our friends.

In his time, Captain Jock Lowe has been responsible for the day to day operation of the entire British Airways fleet of 300 aircraft worldwide and served as Chief Pilot of British Airways. He has also been President of the Royal Aeronautical Society. But his latest project is rather different.

Jock is the front man for Heathrow Hub which is an independent proposal to extend Heathrow’s existing runways. Some expressed surprise when this option was shortlisted by the Airports Commission as a potential solution to the UK’s airport capacity problem - but not those of us in the Back Heathrow cockpit. A man used to piloting the world’s most famous supersonic aircraft at cruising speeds of 1350mph can handle the odd technical question or two about runways.

Local residents gathered at the Marriott Hotel on the Bath Road, a short hop to the UK’s hub airport, to hear Jock run through his plans allowing Heathrow to grow. They also had the chance to question Andrew Macmillan, Heathrow’s Strategy Director, about the airport’s own expansion plans, which are also on the Airports Commission shortlist. It’s fantastic for our campaign that two options for growth at Heathrow are still in contention. We don’t mind which one emerges as the winner – so long as one does!

But whilst our 100+ supporters were delighted to see Jock, they were less happy to hear about the Mayor of London’s plans to build a Thames Estuary Airport and close Heathrow. They had come to offer their backing for our campaign which has now attracted tens of thousands of supporters. As these determined residents-turned-activists hoovered up the campaign posters, balloons, car stickers and petitions, I thought that if I was Boris, I seriously wouldn’t want to mess with them.

Yet it’s not just about preposterous plans to close Heathrow and build Boris Island, or Fantasy Island as Jock refers to it. The vast majority of local residents are genuinely proud of Heathrow and recognise the benefits this national asset brings to local communities. They want a successful UK hub airport in west London and many are prepared to campaign hard to get it.

There will be turbulence ahead but there are signs that the powers-that-be are starting to listen. Before Christmas, one prominent local politician said that she never heard from pro-Heathrow constituents. She doesn’t say that any more. Perhaps, too, she has seen the polling which shows that the majority of residents will vote for local politicians who back Heathrow expansion.

Supporters of Back Heathrow won’t win everyone round but they are beginning to unveil the true picture of resident opinion in the boroughs surrounding the airport. And it’s looking good.

April Fools - Boris & Ray go for Heathrow closure

By Rob Gray,

Last week Boris Johnson came to Heathrow. Well, not exactly to Heathrow, but to Hillingdon Civic Centre, no more than a stone’s throw from Heathrow. He came to talk about the airport. Or to be more precise, he came to talk about closing it down.

We want, the Mayor said, Heathrow to close and to build a Garden City for 100,000 people, to create 66,000 jobs and provide a wide range of education and health facilities. Boris was joined by Ray Puddifoot who seems endlessly delighted at the thought of Heathrow closure. Councillor Puddifoot is Leader of Hillingdon Council and so in effect Heathrow landlord. Looking admiringly at Boris, Ray said that “the only senior politician of any party with the clarity of vision to deal with this issue is Boris Johnson”.

However the “clarity of vision” was sorely exposed in Boris’s report. Referring to the proposed Garden City it stated: "Location: lack of close proximity to an airport may have an adverse impact on certain sectors. Good connection to a new airport would be required."

So the only thing the new Garden City doesn’t have is an airport. Well, an airport and jobs.

Local MP John McDonnell says “as many as 200,000 local jobs would be at stake and for the leader of the local council to put at risk so many local jobs is a dereliction of his duty to represent our local community. If he gets his way, our local economy will collapse”.

London Assembly member for Ealing & Hillingdon and local GP Onkar Sahota, challenged the cost of the Mayor’s “unworkable, unrealistic and unaffordable plan to taxpayers” which I’m told cost in excess of £3m (and counting) to produce.

Onkar said that the Mayor “must be the only person left in London who thinks this is a good idea”. Onkar clearly had forgotten that Councillor Puddifoot thought it a good idea as well.

However a day later and the reality of the situation kicks in. European boss of US-based Delta Air Lines calls for the expansion of Heathrow over Gatwick airport, saying: “business travellers prefer it”. Delta’s Perry Cantarutti, who is running the airline’s new transatlantic tie-up with Virgin Atlantic, warned: “Cities that offer two hub airports tend to be a limiter for airlines and for passengers. It’s not a viable alternative.”

Sadly, The Boris and Ray Show was not an April Fool’s joke – they really are happy for Heathrow to close. It’s just one reason why Back Heathrow has already attracted the support of more than 20,000 local residents who want to defend jobs and secure a bright future for the UK’s hub airport. It’s just the beginning for our campaign and you are welcome aboard.