Heathrow, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via The Telegraph
Heathrow Airport, one of the main airports for the London region, is experiencing massive delays and ‘travel chaos’ after activists opposed to the airport’s expansion blockaded a tunnel leading to the facility, Britain’s Telegraph reports today.
Activists belonging to campaign group Plane Stupid, who are opposed to an extra runway being built at the airport which lies near west London, created a traffic block in a tunnel leading to Terminals 1, 2 and 3, causing massive tailbacks for holidaymakers and other travellers in the area. Five people have already been arrested for the disruption by the protest, which was held as the UK’s Parliament debates airport expansion. Both Heathrow and Gatwick airports are pushing cases forward to ministers to add extra runways, in Heathrow’s case, it’s third, as both airports handle ever increasing numbers of passengers.
Campaign groups, including Plane Stupid, are opposed to these expansions as they say the increased number of flights and airport activity will cause higher amounts of air pollution and noise to residents in the immediate area of Heathrow, as well as helping contribute to global climate change.
Pictures published by the Telegraph show two men in high-visibility clothing resting around a white van parked across the lane in the tunnel. The van is covered in two homemade banners reading “NO NEW RUNWAYS“ and “NO IFS NO BUTS, NO 3RD RUNWAY” in large letters. The second slogan is said to have been an election promise made by UK prime minister David Cameron before he was elected . A Twitter-style hashtag which appears to read “#PLANE STUPID” can also be partly observed.
Heathrow’s official Twitter account @HeathrowAirport warned travellers of delays this morning at 8.51, stating “Protest activity in the inbound tunnel is currently affecting traffic around the central terminal area and terminals 2 & 3 at Heathrow.”. The central terminal referred to is also known as Terminal 1.
Plane Stupid put out a press release on their website to declare the blockade. Spokesperson Cameron Kaye said: “Airport expansion would wreck the legally binding Climate Change Act, risking wiping out 55 per cent of species this century and displacing 75 million more people from their homes by 2035.
“If aviation growth isn’t reduced, by 2037 aviation alone could emit all of the carbon it’s safe for the UK to emit.”
Kaye also added: “The government needs to choose: build new runways or stop climate chaos: it’s that simple.”
“There is already airport capacity for families taking their yearly holiday. New runways only benefit the 15 per cent of flyers who take 70 per cent of our flights, cooking our planet.”
“These are rich frequent leisure flyers. The most reliable predictors of frequent flyer status are a household income over £115,000 and owning a second home abroad, but it’s the poorest people who suffer most from climate change.”
Plane Stupid also took to Twitter to announce the tunnel blockage, tweeting on their official account @planestupid: “At 7:40am today three Plane stupid activist have blockaded the entrance tunnel to Heathrow terminals 123. #planestupid #no3rdrunway #climate”
If Heathrow’s petition to the Government is successful, it will build the new runway just north of its two existing ones, in an area near the suburban town of Harmondsworth.
Ministers are currently debating the findings of the Airports Commission, who have published a final report into the case for Heathrow expansion. The debate began at 9.30am local time.
In its release, Plane Stupid quoted “local resident Neil Keveren”, from nearby Harmondsworth, saying: “No one wants to do this. They feel they have to. People feel they have no choice.
“After we campaigned for years, David Cameron was elected promising ‘no ifs, no buts: no third runway’.
“In 2010 the High Court ruled third runway plans ‘untenable in law and common sense’ because they breached the Climate Change Act.
“Now Cameron might just build it anyway. We have tried every other option. We have been forced to be disobedient just to be heard. To save our homes and our planet.”
London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, has also previously expressed his displeasure at enlarging Heathrow, preferring instead to build an entirely new airport on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary east of London.
However, Rob Gray, of the Back Heathrow campaign, which support the airport’s expansion, said: “This demonstration by a handful of protestors does not represent the views of most people in west London or beyond.
“Of the 70,000 responses to the Airports Commission public consultation, 82 per cent were in favour of Heathrow expansion.
“A new runway has strong cross-party support in Parliament and is backed by the majority of UK businesses, international airlines and local residents.”
The Metropolitan Police, which is responsible for law and order in the Heathrow region, commented: “Officers are currently dealing with a protest near the inbound tunnel of Heathrow airport.
“They were called at 7.42am on Thursday, November 26. Five arrests have been made.”
People travelling towards Heathrow should expect severe delays and should seek alternative routes.