Chart of the day: no room to land?

Passengers to the south-east have soared, but what about the rest of the country?

Over the weekend, the Observer reported that:

Both David Cameron and George Osborne have been convinced of the need to act – and re-examine long-term policy on Heathrow – after being lobbied by overseas leaders and business figures who warn that trade will move elsewhere in the EU unless the airport is expanded. While the coalition agreement rules out a third runway at Heathrow... many Tories now want the party to admit the decision was wrong and back the new runway in the manifesto for the next general election.

This sparked a minor split in the Conservative party, with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, claiming he would veto any third runway, and king of the green Tories, Zac Goldsmith, threatening to resign over the issue. But is the third runway actually needed?

One possibility is that the admittedly soaring numbers of passengers to London represents nothing so much as the undue importance placed on the capital. When passengers to all UK airports are taken into account, the level is pretty stable, and the greenlighting of HS2 represents an important improvement in domestic travel. Rather than a third runway at Heathrow, might it not be a better idea to build a second one in Birmingham?

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.