I find it interesting that the debate about Heathrow and a third potential runway continues to rumble on. I was pretty sure when ministers put their heads in the sand and said it was not going ahead that the problem wouldn’t go away – even Boris was left to come up with his own rather expensive plan for a runway in the estuary.
I think everyone is agreed that air traffic will grow and if London is to continue to sit at the global table then we need to provide more capacity. Even people previously against the idea of a third runway are already capitulating, realising that while the disruption to noise is a pain, the disruption to business would be a dire if there isn’t a long term solution. And if you think about it over time air travel will get quieter, as technology gets more advance, and if these new scramjet engines ever make service then environmentally friendly as well.
My solution to the problem is a rather simple one which I believe would keep the bean counters happy and ensure London has sufficient capacity for the future. It is to scrap the idea of the third runway at Heathrow and instead invest in a second runway at both Gatwick and Stanstead. This would give us twice the capacity of a third runway at Heathrow in a north and south hub. By spreading the additional capacity as well would ensure the impact to the local residents would be reduced. This would then be supplemented by a new high speed rail line that would link Heathrow and Gatwick and Heathrow and Stanstead – call it HS3 if you will.
That way we turn regional airports into one massive city airport linked by a high speed, reliable and punctual rail service, meaning customers can easily contemplate catching planes from either airport or transferring between airports. Essentially making each airport a hub rather than a standalone airport and with the distance of such a train line being about 100 miles it should be cheaper to deploy than HS2 (London to Birmingham) and take less than 40 minutes to get from Gatwick to Stanstead via Heathrow.
If you then link this into HS2 and Cross Rail you end up with a well thought-out public transport plan which not only benefits London but also the rest of the country.