Thursday, 30 October 2008

High Speed Rail and Heathrow: Rat scented.

Plans to build a new network of 200mph railways is one of the least bad things the government can do, all things being equal. However, the plan involves the following:
A high-speed rail hub, with 12 platforms, could be built north of the M4 near Heathrow. A shuttle would carry passengers from the terminals to the hub, which could be linked by a 15-mile tunnel to High Speed One, the Eurostar route from St Pancras.
Now, having connections are good thing, but this mechanism - a shuttle to the hub - is just another example of why Heathrow should be shut down and a new airport in the Thames Estuary built.

It is a lash-up. 

There seems to be some kind of mental block in Heathrow, some twisting of the space-time continuum that prevents public transport from being easily accessible from the terminal buildings. The LAST thing I want to do when I get off a plane is to load all my luggage and my tired body onto a train only to have to unload and then re-load at some hub.

If there is a need for this hub - and I think a hub per se is a good idea - then let the hub be an integral part of the airport, just as the rail system is at, say, Hong Kong, where you can SEE your train when you come out of customs into the meeting area, right across the vast, uncluttered, glass-roofed cathedral hall that is Chep Lap Kok. 

Now, in the case of an airport that will handle 4 or 5 times the traffic of Hong Kong, we need something different, but the very challenge of how to connect 5 terminal buildings to a rail hub connecting London and the West, Wales, Midlands, North, Scotland AND the Continent has potential for architectural beauty and majesty beyond anything seen before.

Heathrow has, for me, a destiny. It should be turned into housing. It has rail and road connections already. It is on the "right" side of London - upwind, just as the Thames Airport is on the right side of London - downwind; London being upwind of its pollution.

What we have here, for something that will be in place for 50+ years, is an intention to nail Heathrow into place. Ministers are fast-tracking it. I bet they are. Next election they will be worthless to BAA and other vested interests, so to earn their envelopes (brown) they need to get busy.

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