Airport development in the UK

2 Sep

Mayor of London, ‘Bonking’ Boris Johnson, is apparently hopping mad that the commission created to decide where new airport capacity should be sited have rejected his preferred plan of a huge new airport in the Thames Estuary, known as ‘Boris Island’. Whilst I thoroughly applaud the commissions judgement on this issue, for all sorts of reasons, ecological, financial and in terms of infrastructure, the vision involved is blinkered. It relies on a completely circular argument for justification and has no idea, is completely clueless, about joined up thinking.

The Airports Commission have only three plans in mind, two involving expansion at Heathrow and the third at Gatwick. No plan outside of Greater London has been considered.  The ‘logic’ for this is that people in London fly more that others in the country. I ask the members of the Commission this question, why is that true?

The single major problem we have in this country is that London is unbalancing the economy. London overheats and the rest of the country stagnates or goes backwards. The reasons for this are historical, but I’m not here to lay blame. We are where we are. The major powerhouse of the economy is the Financial Services sector based almost entirely in London. When they sneeze we all catch cold. When they throw their weight around the government jumps. 

It appears that no major developments can be financed outside of London. This results in more people moving into the area, the price of property going through the roof and the snarling up of transport links, leading to more development. For the rest of the country London is the problem, not the solution, and the overheating of the economy there is a problem for everyone.

London is a crowded, overdeveloped area in the extreme south east corner of Britain. Any further development there is ludicrously expensive and ultimately self-defeating in economic terms. The reason London is expanding so fast is the amount of development going on there. There is plenty of room outside of London.

The other mooted major development is a high speed rail link, HS2, to connect London to Birmingham, and eventually Manchester. While this is still a London connection, it does at least involve some other parts of the country. The line will connect to Birmingham International station, which serves Birmingham Airport. Travel times are somewhat shorter from there than the link from Heathrow into London.

So why not develop Birmingham Airport instead? If travellers want to get to and from London they have a simple and quick way of doing so. The development would be much cheaper outside of London and would economically help a region with very slow growth and high unemployment rates. It would take some of the heat out of London and benefit the regions.

To me, and the large majority of people in this country who have no option but to fly from Heathrow, or, occasionally, Gatwick, It makes sense in terms of transport links. And yet the Airports Commission are unable to see the solution. It seems to be the sort of committee which is set up to give the ‘correct’ answer rather than truly look at needs and solutions.

Please, just for once in this country, let us have some genuine joined-up thinking, some proper vision of where we might go to instead of some short term fudge to suit a single pressure group. As for Boris Johnson, he is doing a disservice to London by pressing for more development there.

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