Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Heathrow: The State Is Out of Control

In a story here, we see a classic problem. Fix after fix, tweak, fiddle, botch, patch and munge just to keep something going that should be rethought or replaced. In this case, Heathrow.

Heathrow is in the wrong place.

Prevailing winds blow the fumes over London - this is why smelly and dirty industry was put into the East End.
Aircraft approach over densly populated areas, often across the entire stretch of central London.
There appears to be something in the soil that prevents engineers from building rail platforms anywhere near terminal buildings and vice versa.

Their answer? Expansion. Congestion charging. A tunnel for traffic fumes. All this to enable Heathrow to expand whilst remaining within EU directives.

Expansion: A new runway, more terminals. Results in a destruction of villages.
Congestion Charging: To push people onto public transport they say - anyone with more than 1 bag or in any way unfit is in deep trouble using public transport at Heathrow because it is such an utter dogs breakfast. Long walks, up down up levels and the slowest lifts in Christendom. Result - people pay more, Heathrow is less competitive, Government gets more unearnt, undeserved revenue.
Tunnel for Fumes: The aircraft make the fumes, so clean the road traffic. This is absurd beyond measure. This is like saying there is too much illegal gun crime, so ban legal handguns. Oh, they've done that. Figures.

And remember all this to enable BAA - a SPANISH private company to make even more money. It was bad enough when a BRITISH private company could get the government to dance! At least the profits would be booked in the UK before. No guarantee of that now.

The answer is simple and it solves many problems at once. Anyone who has been to Hong Kong would know the answer because the wise custodians of that place made some excellent decisions over their awkward, congested and busy airport at Kai Tak. Their answer was to build a new airport at Chek Lap Kok on an artificial island and link it to the city via a new toll highway for vehicular traffic (mostly high speed buses) and a dedicated ultra-rapid rail link from Central to the terminal. Passengers are disgorged, not to some subterranian dust trap miles from anywhere connected via a long, tortuous, badly signposted, drafty set of dingy corridors and broken lifts, but to a platform in plain view of the check-in desks on the way in. For arrivals, picking you up from a platform in plain view of and at the same level as the arrivals meeting area. It makes the "Heathrow Express" look like a caravan on the silk road.

London needs such an Airport. The best way IMHO is to build it anew in the Thames Estuary and link it to Central London via high speed express railway. It will be easier to protect from terrorism, fumes will disperse out to sea, aircraft will no longer need to approach over a city of 7m people, no land will be taken and it can be built to a high specification using all the good ideas of Hong Kong and other airports.

Heathrow can then be shut down or scaled back to a fraction of its size. Land can be freed for housing or industrial use, remembering that Heathrow has existing transport links and would make an ideal residential area for commuters into the City. Blight can be removed from swathes of West London freed from turbine drone at 90-second intervals.

But no, this Government is going to spend our money on propping up the monopoly and profits of a foreign-owned organisation and take even more of our money. It is like they are demanding their "cut" of the deal - "We'll help you expand Heathrow, but the Congestion Charge is OURS!".

Britian is made less competitive, more expensive, still under threat, more congested and still one of the ugliest and inconvenient major airports to arrive at.

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