Monday 24 September 2012

A event free night on the Central though autumn arrived with much rain. In the absence of any Tube news my mind has turned to other Transport/London issues.

Daniel Moylan interests me. He was appointed Boris’s aviation bod two weeks ago and has been in the press regurgitating Boris opposition of the third runway at Heathrow, calling anyone who suggests this “deluded” while celebrating the merits of Boris Island. Before that he was at the new London Legacy Development Corporation that replaced the Olympic Park Legacy Company in the summer and while he was only there for four months it proved long enough to get Baroness Ford, the previous chair who everyone seems to have thought had done a good job, to quit prematurely.

Obviously as a lifelong West Ham fan the comings and goings amongst the people who will decide the fate of the Olympic Stadium is of great interest to me. While I think moving to a 60000-seater stadium when we only get crowds of around 35000 and will be watching football from the other side of a running track is a pretty sad prospect Boris taking over is pretty good news for the Two Davids, West Ham’s porn baron owners Sullivan and Gold. If they’re lucky we’ll see his huge face on TV saying that the plans for the Olympic Stadium are “a fantastic idea”, that it will be “iconic” and that it “won’t cost the tax payer a penny” which from past experience translates as the tax payer will end up footing the bill for everything while West Ham get full naming rights for very little; see Boris bus, Boris bikes, cable car.

Before the LLDC Moylan was vice chairman of TfL, quite an important job as the chairman was absent most of the time getting his face in front of any camera that pointed his way. Moylan was at TfL at the time the decision was made to give the design of the Boris bus to Heatherwick studios. When Boris became Mayor he said there would be a competition to design the new bus, various designs were submitted and while joint winners were announced neither of two winning designs or the associated bus manufacturers were awarded the contract. Heatherwick hadn’t entered the competition and had never worked on bus design before but they had done some work with Kensington & Chelsea Council at a time when Moylan was head of planning. Surely not……….

Away from the past and back to the future, Boris Island is a complete non-starter as the DfT’s own research says that London does not need two hub airports so Heathrow would close or be drastically reduced in scale. There are over 75000 people working at Heathrow and perhaps three or four times working for the businesses that rely on it. Thousands of companies have moved to West London and along the M4 corridor to be near London’s main airport and none of them would be particularly happy with the prospect of relocating to Kent.

All those people and their dependents would need homes and amenities, shops, schools, hospitals and everything else, a massive new town would have to be created on or around the Isle of Sheppey. Apart from the much touted high speed rail link from Boris Island to London other transport links would need to be expanded to deal with the mass influx of population. An airport isn’t just a few runways and the terminal buildings, Heathrow has grown over the years and the area around it has grown with it, moving London’s main airport 50 miles the other side of London would be an economic and logistical nightmare, costing far beyond the few billions casually mentioned.

The problem with the aviation debate is that just about everyone offering an opinion stands to profit from whichever scheme they are supporting. Obviously the owners of Heathrow want a third runway, the owners of Gatwick and Stansted each want a second runway, the architects and developers want Boris Island, the TOCs and ASLEF say HS2 will reduce domestic flights, everybody has a vested interest.

The Green Party don’t have much vested interest which is perhaps why they’ve suggested that the current situation could be eased by making more efficient use of the take-off and landing “slots” and by moving more short haul flights to the three other major airports serving London, something that makes neither Boris or Heathrow happy. Rather than HS2 cutting a big, noisy path through the Chilterns I suspect that demand for domestic flights could be greatly reduced if rail were made more attractive by cutting fares and the money spent on upgrading the current infrastructure. There was also a proposal to build a High Speed link between Heathrow and Gatwick with 180mph trains running alongside the M25, covering the 45 mile journey in not much over 15 minutes. A second runway at Gatwick would also cause far less disruption as the area around it is far less densely populated than West London.

Perhaps what we need more than anything is to view transport as a single issue rather than slicing it up into road, rail, air and the rest. No doubt I’ve missed some highly relevant point in all this which is why I’m just a train driver and not some senior civil servant at the DfT earning £150k pa. I’ll be flying to Charleston, West Virginia in October to visit a friend and go see Morrissey in Pittsburgh which is the extent of my interaction with air travel. If you think the security checks at Heathrow are bad you ought to try Dulles.


  1. I reckon that if they put a new airport somewhere it should be a two runway job at Ashford. Gatwick isn't too far from the old channel tunnel line (which is still high speed until it gets well within the M25 and goes all wibbly-wobbly), so you could have a Gatwick to Ashford interchange taking around 30 minutes.
    Ashford is 47 minutes from King's Cross, comparable to Stansted's 46 minutes to Liverpool street. If they built a high speed route up the East Coast instead of the West Coast, they could go through Stansted too.

  2. Err, hello? The decision is where is London’s main airport should be, not adding a fifth one. How does having an airport on the main route of the Eurostar, the main competition from flights to Europe, make any sense?

    Gatwick is 44 mles directly west of Ashford and Gatwick is a straight 23 mile journey north to Victoria/London Bridge. It's called Google Maps.

    Almost as stupid and as much understanding of geography as the arses who tell me that they are going to reopen the Epping-Ongar line with the hope of going up to Stansted even though it's 90 degrees in the wrong directiin.

  3. There are some short haul flights that could be moved out of LHR, however with some one-third of passengers being transfer, the powers that be will not want to see too many go elsewhere. It will affect the viability of many routes. HS2 is not due to arrive until phase 2 either, so transferring all short haul flights (those for which the train would take more than 4 hours) simply won't be an option.
    LGW is (at certain times of the year) as close to capacity as LHR, and the agreement on a second runway there does not expire until 2019. Local opposition also gives pause to the owners, wanting to avoid a repeat of some of the incidents that befell staff the last time they investigated a second runway. STN is a option but the connections would need to undergo massive expansion, plus local opposition will need to be overcome.
    Heathwick is a non-starter. Research has shown the optimum transfer time is 45 minutes from the minute you disembark to re-embark. Trip between Heathrow and Gatwick may only take 15 minutes by HSR but to even come close to that time overall (I think an hour is the closest estimated time it would take), the link would have to be 'airside' and the security implications are too enormous.
    Imperfect though it is, LHR is what we have (you dealt with TEA) and the sooner our political representatives realise this, grasp the nettle and address the local noise issues that concern local residents so much, the better.