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Alan Savage: Heathrow, you have been missed

Alan Savage, Orion Group
Alan Savage, Orion Group

If there are any regular readers of this column you may well remember that just a few short months back, I used these pages to emphasise the benefits that a modern transport network can bring to the prosperity of the region.

Judging by recent announcements, I’m beginning to think that the powers that be must in fact be the regular readers.

Back in May, the focus was on the new operators of Scotland’s rail network and the need to make sure that both they and their masters in the Scottish Government deliver on their pledge to deliver first class rail services for the north-east.

While the jury may still be out on their early performance it’s still relatively early days so hopefully their act will come together.

There was another piece of transport news that caught my eye this month – the decision by British Airways to finally reinstate direct flights between Inverness and Heathrow.

Securing the return of this service will be a great boost to an already thriving economy, not to mention an important part of the jigsaw in supporting our City Deal ambitions.

As a local, anything that benefits the local economy is good news to me but as the chairman of an international company headquartered in the city, I am even more excited at the prospects that these new flights will bring for our business.

Orion has its roots in the capital of the Highlands but as we’ve grown over the last quarter of a century, we’ve also cast out net far and wide to far flung corners of the globe.

So whether I’m popping down to meet with our team in our new London offices or jetting off to Houston or Papua New Guinea, the convenience of flying through Heathrow is going to bring a lot of benefits for our business.

I couldn’t believe it when I read that as many as 70,000 passengers a year had been lost to Inverness Airport as a result of the lack of a direct flight to Heathrow.

That’s 70,000 people who could have been coming to and from the area for business or for pleasure.

But think about it this way, over the course of 18 years that could have been as many as 1.26 million people contributing money to the local economy, helping to sustain local businesses and jobs.

It’s often said that size doesn’t matter? However in the case of a runway I think it does. Where’s this going? Well, I think that if Inverness could take the A380 – the A380 would eventually land here. I firmly believe the prosperity of a region is directly linked to its transport infrastructure and in particular the size of its airport. There’s plenty of land out there. Needless to say closing an international airport at 9.30pm at the weekends is parochial beyond belief.

Of course, this could all be put at risk if the UK Government doesn’t hurry up and make a decision about the future of Britain’s airport capacity.

The Davies Commission hummed and hawed for more than three years before settling on Heathrow as its preferred airport for expansion.

But we’ve still to get a formal response from the UK Government about whether or not it will go ahead and implement those findings.

Did you know that the Bullingdon Club is an exclusive but unofficial all-male students’ dining club based in Oxford, UK? It is noted for its wealthy members, grand banquets and boisterous rituals, such as the vandalising (‘trashing’) of restaurants and college rooms.

The club has attracted controversy, due to former members now being part of the UK political establishment. These include the current Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

So Bullingdon boys David Cameron and Boris Johnson should pack in their extra-curricular stuff and agree finally on the Heathrow runway.

Rant

Being part of the European Union is fundamental for my business so all this macho man stuff from number 1 Bull to appease his right wing is extremely unnerving.

Leaving the European Union is a completely absurd idea. The whole idea all those years ago, after two World Wars, was to stop another one by creating a political union between France and Germany which led into an economic union – a common market. Lots and lots of countries are trying to get in with only one as far as I know threatening to throw the toys out of the pram. The EU is good for business and good for peace! Why else would Australia want in or was that the European Song Contest?

Sticking with the travel theme (sort of) I saw my first Christmas tree last Saturday, a very big and sublimely decorated one to boot.  Where was this and you’ll never guess? Well then it was in the departure lounge in Port Moresby airport Papua New Guinea!

I continue to gather air miles in my quest to reposition Orion in the $47 a barrel oil world we face until Saudi turns the taps down a bit. I can’t understand why anyone would sell a product for $47 when they could get $100? Ah well may be the Bullingdon boys will figure it out once they have decided on Heathrow?

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