16 JANUARY 2012

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Article from BTNews 16 JANUARY 2012

COMMENT: High Speed Two

AERBT is in favour of High Speed Two (HS2), the 21st century railway announced in Parliament last week, initially from London Euston to a point north of Birmingham, and once built splitting and continuing to Manchester/Scotland and Leeds.  It seems to us that a policy of ‘fix and mend’ will only produce a second rate product.

A parallel and comparison can actually be drawn with the M1 motorway and the A1 dual carriageway.  The 1960s M1 is a success, and yes it does have problems, but works.  The A1 is OK but is essentially what can only be described as a “mish mash”.  A journey from say Mill Hill in north London to Doncaster, much the same distance on either road, will take 30 minutes longer via the A1 and, with the roundabouts and traffic lights, be far less economical and eco friendly and more wearing for the people concerned and their vehicles.

Likewise HS2 will offer the latest technology whilst some sort of upgrade for the present Victorian concept will at the best be a compromise.  We accept that some people and communities will experience problems, but they (and everyone else) will suffer even more if the country declines over the next half century due to poor transport infrastructure.

For once the Government has grasped the state of affairs, but it still has not recognised the even more serious situation regarding air transport and the position of Great Britain globally in terms of trade and commerce.  We are in serious danger of falling dramatically behind unless we get our act together.  Next week AERBT intends to publish some figures which highlight the situation today, and not in 10 years’ time.

Justine Greening, the new Transport Secretary, is more than happy to promote 143 miles of railway, every metre of which is bound to cause controversy.  Yet a simple one mile runway on land that as far back as 1944 was designated for use as an airfield is anathema to her.  Politics!

AERBT will continue to support Heathrow’s third runway (and a lifting of limits that restrict an easy increase of say 20% over current capacity).  We will also bang the drum to promote the proper commercial use of RAF Northolt (NHT), but not as a connecting airport.  AERBT sees NHT as a London City in the west, a gateway to the nation’s capital from the provinces and regional European points.  Certainly in the short and medium term as HS2 is built.  It meets the political statement “no new runways in the South East”, is a plus in terms of revenue for the Treasury (RAF Northolt is a minus), and provides more slots and flexibility for Heathrow itself. 

Yes, there will be opposition (but more income for the local council and employment), NATS will want to have a say (at Los Angeles the runway separation is infinitely less), and the Air Marshals will shout (they always do). 

The Times in a leader last Friday (13 January) put the case for Heathrow’s third runway admirably.  In our opinion the same goes for Northolt.  “The wellbeing of the few cannot hold sway over the wellbeing of the nation.”


Malcolm Ginsberg
Editor in Chief

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