The Anonymous Widower

While Cameron Dithers About London, Manchester Decides!

I picked up two reports on airports this week.

This report on the BBC is entitled Heathrow airport delay gutless, says business group and talks about a lot of the fallout from David Cameron’s decision not to decide on a new runway for the South-East.

In contrast, you have this report in the Manchester Evening News entitled New images shows possible high-tech future of Manchester Airport’s check-in after ‘Super Terminal’ transformation, which describes the airports expansion plans.

Expanding Heathrow seems to generate controversy in super-tanker loads, whereas Manchester doesn’t sem to attract anything like the same level, even when you take the different sizes into account.

Look at this Google Map of Heathrow.

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport

Compare it with this one of Manchester Airport.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport

I don’t know for sure, but it would appear from these maps and larger ones, that Heathrow has used up much more of the available space around the runways, whereas Manchester hasn’t!

When Heathrow wanted to build Terminal 5, they had to move a sewage works, and another terminal would be difficult on the same site. Manchester has some space left.

So any expansion at Heathrow needs to expand the airport site, which is where a lot of the opposition comes from.

In my view the only way to expand Heathrow is to make better use of the current runways and the terminals. But that can only go on for so long!

And would the locals object to more landings and take-offs? You bet they would!

David Cameron is no fool and he knows that with the opposition of Boris Johnson and nearly all the candidates for the London Mayor against Heathrow, that it will never gain a third runway.

I hate to look backwards but the Roskill Commission of the 1960s and their eventual decision by a roundabout route was for an airport on Maplin Sands to the East of Southend.

But Harold Wilson’s government cancelled this airport, just as they did the Picc-Vic Tunnel in Manchester and improvement of the rail lines across the Pennines.

In my view as air traffic increases, Heathrow needs to expand to just survive, as there is competition all around.

  • Schipol, Paris Charles de Gaulle and even Manchester competing for the interchange traffic.
  • Trains to the Continent
  • Birmingham, Gatwick, Luton, Southend, Stansted and others nibbling Heathrow’s markets.
  • HS2
  • Passengers are increasingly savvy and go from any convenient airport, using an acceptable airline at the right time and price.
  • Internet technology will guide people to the best and cheapest way to travel from say Cambridge to Boston. An expensive Heathrow could be its own worst enemy.
  • Other airports will offer better car-friendly solutions.

So as it can’t expand, due to the politicians and local residents, Heathrow must accept that it can’t and it must prepare itself for downgrade to just an airport for London and those living locally.

It also means, the South East must eventually find another site for a new airport to replace Heathrow.

The only place is the Thames Estuary!

So why didn’t the Davies Airport Commission recommend the Boris Island?

Howard Davies is a man of the City Establishment, who are very conservative with a small c and love the convenience, which Crossrail will make better, of Heathrow. How many submissions were against the Boris Island because it would mean too much change in their business?

But a properly designed Thames Hub Airport, could also incorporate the new Thames Barrier and Lower Thames Crossing that London needs.

To many of London’s residents and a lot of their politicians, it is a no-brainer! But for the City, only an expanded Heathrow will do!

So how will Manchester Airport affect London’s Airport mess in the future.

I believe that Manchester Airport will start to dominate air transport in the North of England and Scotland, just as Heathrow used to dominate the South.

  • It has space for new terminals and aircraft and car parking.
  • A rail network is developing to bring passengers to the airport from all over the North and Scotland.
  • HS2 and probably HS3 are coming to the Airport.
  • When it needs to expand it decides to and does!

It could also be combined with Liverpool Airport using a very high speed train, if it needed more runway capacity. It’s just forty-four kilometres as a Maglev would fly at 200 kilometres per hour, up the Mersey. Manchester and Liverpool airports could work together, much better than Heathrow can work with either Gatwick, Luton or Stansted.

So will an expanded Manchester Airport take a big bite out of Heathrow’s traffic? You bet it will. Especially, if Heathrow continues to not expand.

I think we should start to plan a Thames Estuary Airport now, even if we don’t built it for twenty years.. If we don’t, then when we need to start building, we’ll take another fifty years to make a decision.

Or we could always do what we’re doing now and let market forces, various interests and passenger choice decide our airports policy?

And as ever, engineers and architects, will improve aircraft and airports, so that we find them acceptable.

The airports problem won’t be solved until perhaps in about 2060, when the Dutch get fed up with Schipol and we join with them and the Belgians to create an airport perhaps slightly east of the Thames Estuary connected to various countries by high speed rail lines. It could be called Canute International!

The only certainty, is that I won’t be here to see it built!


December 12, 2015 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Manchester is expanding rapidly and marketing itself very well – Media City is part of the reason they are able to expand. But even before that, with the large number of good hotels with conference facilities on or very very near the airport site, there were a lot of conferences with delegates flying in from other cities in Europe.

    There are also now direct scheduled long haul flights to places like China direct from UK – and most of middle East and South Asia, Russia I think. It is a very easy airport to get to – nothing like the hassle around Heathrow and Gatwick. Many hotels within and 15 – 20 mile radius offer flight packages – arrive the day before your flight, sleepover in hotel, and the hotel will bus you to the airport and you leave your car free of charge at hotel whilst you are away. Plus there are a great many long stay air parks.

    Plus it is a big employer, I know many many people who work there, and the number is rising – incidentally they have a comparatively good number of adults with learning disability working there, mainly cleaning and catering I think.

    I pass the motorway exit for the airport several times a week, I can be at the car park for departures within 12 – 15 minutes from my house, if I drive. There is also a bus service direct there.

    So I think Manchester has a good future, and will cash in on the Heathrow debacle.

    Comment by nosnikrapzil | December 12, 2015 | Reply

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