It’s been a week of re-opened scar tissue when it comes to solutions to London’s airport problems, but why should we care on the other side of the world?
The short answer is because London is an example of what happens when lack of efficient and convenient air access starts to kill a city’s economy, (apart from the bits not killed by criminal misconduct and gross negligence in its banking and financial regulation spheres).
It is relevant to what is happening to Sydney in particular.
In the week just over Heathrow Airport set out three options for construction a third runway. It’s a brutal document when it comes to the community dislocation all of the options involve, but stiff upper lip and all that, our (your) country needs you to fall under the bulldozers for the greater good.
This is a refreshing change from the Sydney Airport’s she’ll be right until 2049 rubbish that ignores the need of the western half of its metropolitan sprawl for its own airport. What Asian century? All’s well, go away. Or catch an unbuilt fast train to or from Canberra Airport to do business in China, which is the severely enlightened position taken by the NSW Premier.
However with impeccable timing in terms of countering Heathrow’s candor about its dilemma, London Lord Mayor and would be future conservative PM of the UK, Boris Johnson, proposed closing London Heathrow and building 100,000 new homes on the site and creating a super hub airport but with only four runways (!) in the Thames Estuary, an idea that has been around since at least the Maplin Sands proposal that was all the rage in the 60s.
One of the first things the curious student of London’s regional economics will discover about its airports is that the three largest, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, are actually very convenient to significant population and enterprise centres, because not everything that value adds happens to be in central London or the City.
London could use an initial extra two runways in the Thames Estuary with the right access infrastructure today, and it would continue to sustain air travel activity at its other major airports, but without a third runway at Heathrow, a second runway at Gatwick, or controversial expansion at Stanstead.
But the smart odds would probably be on Badgerys Creek being turned into Sydney West before Boris’s Island gets built in the lower Thames.
For those who dread using Heathrow today, there is some conditional good news taking shape very visibly in London in the construction of new stations for the Crossrail project, the core of which should be in service in 2018.
Crossrail is not an airport rail project. It is all about creating but the first stage of an ambitious, and much needed set of new wide diameter heavy rail tunnels through central London to relieve pressure and allow growth in commuter traffic from the vast majority of professionals who can’t afford to even think about living in London, much less driving to and from.
It will however incorporate the existing Heathrow Express services into operations and mean that instead of their starting or finishing at Paddington, they will be able to run through the new tunnels to London tube integrated new stations at Bond Street, Tottentham Road, Liverpool Street (which has a rail service to Stansted Airport), Farringdon Road, and Canary Wharf.
You won’t it seems get more frequent services than now provided by the Heathrow Express, but you will be able to escape from or surrender to the misery that is Heathrow more conveniently than before from inner London stations.