Hot news today is Heathrow Airport’s third runway plans. It seems there’s some realisation that a “Boris Island” won’t be built early enough to satisfy the needs of the South East’s demand for landing slots, and something needs to be done now rather than in 20-odd years.
There is a perception that London lags behind Amsterdam Schiphol, Paris Charles De Gaulle or Frankfurt, in the sense that it’s not an “airline hub” of the same magnitude, and dear old London Town is being left behind.
If anyone has been through any of the above airports recently, I’m not entirely sure that being like them is something we should be aspiring to!
I’ve already made my views known about Frankfurt‘s recent redevelopments, trying to make it less painful than before, and still managing to miss the target.
Anyone who flies to Amsterdam often enough will have experienced the mind-numbingly long taxi to or from their relatively new runway, which far enough away to be built in a completely different town to the airport itself. You would be forgiven for thinking you’re driving to the UK, as the taxi time is often as long as the flight itself, unless you’re lucky enough that the prevailing wind lets you take off and land closer to the terminal.
As for Charles De Gaulle… I’ll just give you a Gallic shrug.
While Heathrow is BA’s “hub”, it’s not really a hub operation in the sense of a US air carrier. Flights don’t arrive and depart in deliberately orchestrated waves, purposely designed to connect, such as Delta’s operations in Atlanta. BA’s hub operation is more by accident, because of the sheer volume of the operation, rather than schedule design. Flights “happen” to connect, rather than do so by design.
Following the effective breakup of the BAA, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted are now owned by different operators, and from reading this BBC article each of them seem to be vying for a bit of the cherry, while Boris would like to demolish Heathrow entirely.
What it’s left me wondering is why there is a complete lack of joined up approach?
Danger Will Robinson! Radical thinking…
In terms of land and environmental concerns such as noise, a 2nd runway at Gatwick seems to be an easy win when compared against putting a 3rd runway at Heathrow.
Given that we’re seemingly hell bent on building HS2 (let’s ignore the fact that less than half of the money being spent on HS2 could revolutionise rail in the North of England) , wouldn’t it be eminently sensible to extend it such that it touches Heathrow and extends South to Gatwick? Use the train as a complementary form of transport to the train, rather than as a competitor.
It could then serve a dual-purpose of making it more convenient for those in the Midlands to access Heathrow and Gatwick, while also handling connecting traffic between Gatwick and Heathrow.
What would the Gatwick to Heathrow travel time be on such a train? About 20-25 minutes? I know some airports where it can take just as long to transfer between terminals, or to get from departure lounge to gate!
Might it even be possible to provide trains, or designated sections of trains, for “sterile transit” between the airports, without the need to officially enter the UK?
Yes, this will involve taking on the fearsome NIMBYs of Surrey, but isn’t it all for the “greater good”?
Should we ever decide to build “Boris Island” or devastate Hoo with a big International airport, it’s close enough to HS1 to be hooked up to that. We can offer fast train connections into Central London, and maybe even to France or Brussels from the airport. Just think, it might be preferable to fly in to Boris Island then get the train, if you’re travelling to Lille!
But, as I say, that would require some joined-up thinking. Something we need to get better at.