The chief executive of Dubai Airports has blasted the British political establishment for blocking airport expansion over the past two decades.
London-born Paul Griffiths lambasted political parties of all stripes for holding back economic growth that would come from building new runways and extending capacity at major airports in the south east of England.
The former managing director of Gatwick airport predicted the Airports’ Commission’s soon-to-be-published recommendations would be ignored by policy brokers in Westminster.
Responding to a question posed by Buying Business Travel during a press conference at the SITA airline IT summit in Brussels, Griffiths said: “If a country wants its GDP to benefit from international transport infrastructure it has to be taken seriously.”
“[The issue of airport and runway expansion] has been handled most parlously by successive governments over many years.
“Every White Paper and initiative on the topic has been backed by economists but eventually thrown out by government.
“Unless we can remove the issue from the four-year political cycle nothing will ever happen.”
His sentiment echoes that of International Airlines’ Group chief executive Willie Walsh, who has stated on a number of occasions that Westminster politicians have neither the courage nor will to follow through on airport expansion.
Though Griffiths, who spent 13 years with Virgin Atlantic and three years with Virgin Rail Group before joining Gatwick, does not expect construction work to take place at either of the airports being studied by Lord Davies, he does believe that Heathrow has the stronger case. He said extra capacity should be directed to where it would bring most benefit to most people.
“The main confluence of motorway is west of London and Crossrail will soon be operational. The demand for connecting traffic is far greater at Heathrow than further south (Gatwick),” he said.
Griffiths went on to criticise the government for prioritising the high-speed rail project HS2, saying that it would create more environmental damage than expanding Heathrow or Gatwick.
“Building HS2 would involve digging up hundreds of miles of countryside. If they just lay four and a half miles of tarmac north of Heathrow it will cause less disruption and be much better for the economy.”
Griffiths concluded by saying it would take action from a bold politician for any change to take place, though conceded that was “something of an oxymoron.”