Government fails to make an airport decision – no surprise there.

This article was first published on the Infrastructure Intelligence website and is reproduced with permission. The original article is available here.

Of course there is no airport decision. The options presented to the government by the Davies Airports Commission are all wrong, says Rod Macdonald

A 3rd runway at Heathrow is blatant nonsense from so many positions, air pollution, noise pollution, lack of long term capacity, flight path risk, cost to the public purse for public transport and roads unaccounted for by the Airports Commission. A 2nd runway at Gatwick gives us 2, two runway airports more than an hour apart with no sensible option to change from a flight at one to a flight at the other. Neither answers the needs.

No, a decision between the two is not possible as neither answer our national air transport needs.

We need a 24hour 4 runway airport for our national economy. A 3rd runway at Heathrow was stated to bring £147 billion to our economy. Imagine what an airport that really satisfies our needs would bring to our economy.

The estuary option was rejected because of the birds. The birds are moving their habitat because of climate influences. It was rejected because of the cost of the public transport and roads involved. The cost of providing public transport and roads to Heathrow in an attempt to meet air pollution standards is as high as the costs for the estuary. The estuary option was rejected because of the cost of the airport itself, yet the funding is available to pay for it. It was rejected because the thought of moving operations from Heathrow to the Estuary was just to big for many to contemplate. We are British we have taken on much bigger tasks than this move!

There has been little talk about the complexity of construction at Heathrow. It is described as a building in a war zone. A complete new airport on a costal site with sea access can be built as quickly a single runway over the M25 with new terminal facilities and infrastructure.

Quite how a supposedly independent commission with the job of determining what is best for our nation as a whole could have been so influenced in its considerations by 2 large and powerful private sector business is worrying to say the least.

We should not allow ourselves to be frightened at the thought of building a new airport. The construction of the airport is a major piece of work, but many communities around the world are facing up to, or have faced up to the challenge.

Much was made, in the Commission reports, of the infrastructure costs of an estuary airport while the costs for Heathrow were kept under wraps.

If we travel to London from the north by car we are likely to come down the M1. We arrive at the M25. Turn right to Heathrow or left to the estuary, the same distance.

But, you won’t be allowed to drive to Heathrow for pollution reasons. Where do you put your car? Yes, if you turn left you come across the Dartford Crossing. Understand that another crossing will be built here, be there an estuary airport or not. Arrive by car from the west by the M40, the M4 or the M3 and you arrive at the M25. Again you will have to find a place to park your car. Travel by car from Bracknell or Slough to Heathrow at present is easy. In the future this won’t be allowed for air pollution reasons. It will be necessary to get on a bus or a train and having done so you might as well continue through to the estuary.

Arrive from the north by rail and you arrive at King Cross/St Pancras or Euston. Kings Cross/St Pancras are linked along our only high-speed rail line to the estuary. Euston is not far from Kings Cross and will be linked with the arrival of HS2. To get to Heathrow from Kings Cross/St Pancras the only options are a taxi to Paddington to the slow Heathrow ‘Express’ or to use the slowest part of the entire underground system. Travel by rail from the west and the sensible way is to go all the way to Paddington then take the slow Heathrow ‘Express’ back out west again. With Crossrail in operation, coming from the west, transfer at Reading and it can be straight through to the estuary.

Rail travel from much of London to an airport will be by Crossrail, but why spend money on linking to Heathrow when for the same cost you can link to the estuary site.

Rail travel from the south of London to either site has a natural focus in Clapham Junction and Waterloo. Both routes need substantial modification of the rail network, but the costs are much the same and we have made much more major modifications to the rail network.

A family arriving at an airport wants to be in a car because of all the luggage they have. This will not be possible at Heathrow. Cars will not be allowed.

From other parts of the UK you would think that you could fly to Heathrow and catch one of those great frequent long haul flights to the far reaches of the world. Sorry there will only be capacity at Heathrow for a maximum of one flight per day from our regional airports, meaning long stopovers and probably overnight stopovers. You could of course fly into Gatwick and transfer. This means collecting your luggage, taking a bus or a taxi for an hour minimum and being at Heathrow 2hrs before your connection for check-in and security reasons. A minimum of a 3 ½ hour transfer. Not very clever.

We are told that flights into Heathrow will get quieter. One of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers has stated that there will be no reduction in aircraft landing noise until, at least, after 2050 as the development of new aircraft bodies will take that long. Heathrow is not achieving its aircraft landing noise targets even now. The current noise levels will continue and would increase substantially with a third runway.

A decision for Heathrow will mean 5 years of legal argument, plenty of work for lawyers and expert consultants, to be followed by the inevitable final decision that it is not possible to legally add a 3rd runway. The decision would mean another 5-year delay to opening the airport that we so desperately need.

A rational decision to build a new airport is needed,

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