Thursday 23 December 2010

Heathrow chaos: are foreigners the problem or the solution?

There have been contrasting views on that question in the letters pages of the Daily Telegraph.

This was David Hardie of Buckinghamshire in Tuesday's Telegraph.

SIR – The Government should have sent in the Army to clear the snow around the aircraft parking stands at Heathrow, and sent the bill to BAA, the Spanish operators, who clearly put profits before sufficient investment in infrastructure.

We demand to know why key industrial assets have been allowed to be sold to foreign investors when they have demonstrated on more than one occasion that they are not running them in the best interests of our country.

That type of anti-market poujadism has become pretty rare on the post-Thatcherite right. It would seem to depend on a faith in British capitalists demonstrating a greater commitment to public duty over profit than their international rivals.

But Matthew Ridgwell, writing from Sweden, instead trusts in Scandinavian rationalism, in a letter I read in today's Guardian, though which also offered a riposte in the Telegraph itself yesterday.

The under-investment and under-preparation by the likes of BAA to counter easily foreseeable winter conditions is clear evidence that it has not been made liable for the full costs of air travel disruption. Instead society is unfairly being made to take the full brunt.

I propose that snow management teams of Stockholm airport (no closures due to snow for the past five decades) and Helsinki airport (a single 30-minute closure in 2003 in the past decade) are invited to review the winter operations of major British airports. If their recommendations require investment equivalent to more than the real cost of one day's worth of airport closures then I shall eat my woolly hat.

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