Split up the BAA

I want a better service when I go to an airport. London airports lack capacity and provide a poor service to the travelling public all too often. They are not assisted by government refusal to put enough border control staff onto the task, and by some of the regulations that contribute to the bad experience of trying to get to the aircraft.

It is wrong in principle that one private sector company owns all three of the main London airports. I think the Competition authorities should tell BAA that if they want to own Heathrow they should not also be able to own its two main competitor airports, or if they want to own Stanstead and Gatwick they should sell Heathrow. We need some competition. Each of these airports need substantial investment:it would be easier for more than one company to raise the money and manage the projects.

It might also produce some innovation. I do want the airlines and airports to offer a greener way of air travel. If we had more runway capacity we would not need to have so many planes flying around in stacks above London waiting for their place in the queues to land.

If we had some vision, planes on the ground could be taken around the airport by surface vehicles pushing or pulling, to spare the main engines until flight.

If we had more airport capacity, airplanes could go straight to a gate and switch off, instead of hanging around on the tarmac with engines running.

If the airport owner streamlined the process of getting to the gates instead of telling people they need to arrive two hours before they can fly anywhere, they could cut the fuel usage and the required capacity of the terminals.

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4 Comments

  1. mikestallard
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Two hopeful remarks:
    1. On the radio today it was suggested that perhaps each of the 5 terminals could be put under different companies and thus introduce competition that way.
    2. When I flew to Bangkok recently, I did not even consider Heathrow. I went via the excellent Birmingham. My daughter went via Leeds/Bradford. Provincial airports are in fact taking over from Heathrow which is far too big, too political and too inefficient.

  2. Raymond
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Airplane! AIRPLANE!!!!! Good grief man, and on St George's Day. The word is AEROPLANE. Have we really sold out to the colonies.

    Sorry, rant over.

  3. Freeborn John
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I must say I was surprised back in 1987 when BAA was privatised without first being broken up. Surely there is a difference between privatizing a company that has competitors and one that effectively operates a monopoly. In many similar cases (water, electricity, etc.) the state-monopolies were first broken-up to introduce competition. I can’t understand why the then Conservative government permitted the creation of what is effectively a private monopoly.

    For 20 years BAA has operated like one of the ‘national champions’ so favoured in dirigiste countries using a privileged position at home to fund empire-building overseas. I wonder if it is only because this national champion is now Spanish-owned that the issue of break-up is back on the agenda?

    Reply: I have always wanted to split Heathrow from Stanstead and Gatwick and will continue to argue the case.

  4. John, wrexham
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    dear john redwood,

    all this talk of splitting up BAA has all the hallmarks of the so-called competition that was introduced into the railway industry ie everyone will spend a stack of money rebranding themselves and blaming each other, while we'll all end up paying more.

    the debate about gatwick, stanstead and heathrow is very London based. for most people in the UK, Stanstead and Gatwick are not easy airports to get to. i'll need more than a few quid off my flight to put up with the hassle of getting to Gatwick!

    as for the queues, they are the response to the war on terror. you might remember we were promised the near ending of passport controls in the EU back in the 1980s. nowadays, the queue is often shorter and quicker for 'aliens' than for UK citizens to get back into their own country.

    the idea of pulling airplanes around airports using trucks is about a sensible as you and your wife pushing your car out of the garage and down the drive each morning and claiming to be helping the environment.

    we need some techological solutions and they will only come when people see there is money to be made out of them!

    Reply: Competition works – just compare the levels of service and low prices from a competitive airline industry with the high prices and poor service of the BAA – or Network Rail. The queues are largely because the gov ernment does not staff our borders properly. Improving fuel economy is often a cae of making many smaller improvements. These can include cutting fuel use through planes stacking above the airport and waiitng for space on the ground with engines running.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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