By Ray Fleming

IT will not have come as a surprise to frequent users of London's Heathrow Airport to learn from data published yesterday that more than half of arriving flights are delayed in holding patterns for a total of 55 hours every day because of congestion on the runways below. It provides an opportunity for window seat holders to spot familiar landmarks but that apart it is a wholly negative phenomenon whether for reasons of convenience for passengers or concern about the amount of CO2 discharged unnecessarily into the atmosphere. One of the first decisions of the current government was to abandon outline plans for a third runway at Heathrow and it is also opposed to proposals to permit “mixed mode” operations by which planes land and take off from the same runway. There are in fact neither A, nor B nor C plans for increased capacity at any London airport in the foreseeable future. No one can make financial sense of Boris Johnson's Thames Estuary dream; the government has promised new policy proposals in 2013. Meanwhile choked airlines are looking at other European centres as their long distance hubs and the City worries that business will leave London as it becomes less and less convenient and pleasant to arrive and leave the capital. Reconciling business and environmental considerations in this area is not easy but the present air of inaction is disappointing.

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