The Anonymous Widower

Cargo Hub Is Latest Plan To Get Manston Airfield Off Ground

The title of this post is the same as a news item in the business section of The Times today.

This is the first paragraph.

It is the airport that refuses to take off. But the latest attempt to turn the Battle of Britain airfield if Manston into a sstainable commercial proposition could take wing this autumn.

The Plan

The plan for Manston Airport is roughly on the following lines.

  • The airport becomes a passenger and freight airport.
  • Help create employment in a depressed area.
  • Talk of a £300 million investment.
  • A potential to take air cargo out of Gatwick and Heathrow.

But I’m fairly sceptical given that so many attempts have failed in the past.

This Google Map shows the position of the airport.

Note how the airport is ringed by the Thanet towns.

This Google Map is a close-up of the Airport.

Note

These are my observations.

Local Residents

The runway is roughly East-West on an alignment of 10-28.

Most take-offs and landings will probably we towards the West using Eunway 28.

I don’t know the area well, but I did get this image from Google Maps.

Note this housing just to the South of the final approach to Runway 28.

This Google Map shows the housing, the runway and the A299.

The residents can’t be too pleased of the plans.

Especially, as Google StreetView shows some of these houses to be newly-built sizeable bungalows.

Road Access

Road access to the airport would need to be substantially improved.

I can’t expect that the residents of Thanet will be pleased if a motorway is built across the countryside from the A2 South of Canterbury.

Rail Access

London’s newest airport is Southend Airport on the North bank of the Thames. The airport is growing as a base for easyJet and other low-cost airlines.

Southend Airport has several advantages, one of which is that the terminal is only a hundred metres from Southend Airport railway station, which is fifty minutes from Liverpool Street station.

In this day and age, I don’t believe that planning permission will be given for Manston Airport, unless a large proportion of freight, travellers and airport workers travel to and from the airport by rail.

Consider the current situation.

  • As the Ashford to Ramsgate Line passes just to the South of Manston Airport, I would expect that the development would involve diverting this rail line, so it passed close to the airport.
  • Current passenger services on the line, link to Ashford, Canterbury, Dover,  Margate and Ramsgate, so at least it would be ideal for local airport workers.
  • There are also a couple of trains per hour (tph) to and from London Victoria.
  • Class 395 trains or Javelins also run using HS1 into St. Pancras. Currently, the fastest trains from |St. Pancras to Ramsgate take 79 minutes, so I suspect that to Manston Airport will take about 75 minutes.

The new Southeastern Franchise, which is currently being bid for will see improved access to this area of Kent, which could include.

  • A second HighSpeed route opened into either Victoria or Waterloo using the route that used to be taken by Eurostar to Waterloo.
  • Increase in HighSpeed services to Kent.
  • Replacement of all the slow trains to speed up faster services.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see that Ramsgate gets the following HighSpeed services to London in every hour, that would call at Manston Airport.

  1. Two fast trains to St. Pancras.
  2. Two fast trains to Victoria
  3. Two fast trains to St. Pancras via the Medway towns.

Certainly, the frequency will be good.

Getting Passengers To And From The Airport

It is 2026 and these will be the times from Oxford Circus to the various London airports.

  • Birmingham – 45 minutes – via HS2
  • Gatwick – 68 minutes
  • Heathrow – 27 minutes
  • London City – 20 minutes
  • Luton – 43 minutes
  • Manston – 75 minutes
  • Southend – 60 minutes
  • Stansted – 43 minutes

Access from London might be by HighSpeed train, but people complain about the time it gets to Stansted now, so a time of 75 minutes may be a discouragement, when there are so many alternatives.

I believe that coupled with road access, which will be difficult to improve, that Manston Airport, will never be a significant player in the passenger market.

Getting Cargo To And From The Airport

The local residents are not going to want large numbers of trucks taking cargo to the airport.

But I believe that a lot of parcel and pallet transport, can go by train.

Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, which is also serious about cargo, is proposing to divert the East Coast Main Line, so that cargo trains can call at the airport. Manston Airport would have equally good rail access.

The interesting concept is what I call a HSPT or High Speed Parcel/Pallet train. The idea was first proposed in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which talks about high-value parcel carriers.

I have developed the concept, as I’m inclined to do in The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT).

I would use some of the soon-to-be redundant Class 321 trains and convert them into parcel and pallet carriers.

  • They are four-car 100 mph dual voltage electric multiple units.
  • They can run in lengths of twelve-cars if required.
  • There are over a hundred of them of which the large proportion will need new caring owners.
  • The trains may be thirty-five years old, but they are reliable and built out of steel to take punishment.
  • They can easily be converted to bi-mode units, by adding underfloor diesel engines, so they can go anywhere in the UK.
  • They could even go through the Channel Tunnel and run on the the French 25 KVAC network.

How many trucks would be taken from the UK’s crowded roads.

An Integrated Cargo Airport

An integrated cargo airport may have appeal.

Consider.

  • Air cargo is increasingly  containerised.
  • Gatwick and Heathrow Airports are short of slots for passenger aircraft.
  • Manston has a long runway, that could handle the largest cargo planes.
  • The airport could easily have rail access to the |Channel Tunnel.
  • The proposed HSPTs could use the Channel Tunnel with the correct signalling.

I worry that the poor road access would be a problem.

The Competition

Doncaster Sheffield Airport could be a serious competitor with equally good train and much better road access.

Conclusion

As in the past, it will be a difficult project to get working well

I also think the road access problems might kill it.

 

 

August 31, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. Take cargo away from LHR and LGW – good idea, but a lot of it arrives and departs in the holds of passenger flights. Indeed some aircraft have been adapted to accommodate more. I remember flying AMS -> JFK once and when I went to stretch my legs (a good idea on long flights), I noticed the plane seemed short. Thinking it might have been a 747SP I asked a crew member. No no came the reply there is a bulkhead near the tail and the back section is full of flowers.

    Actually LPL is probably the best for air cargo – next to a main line and motorway, close to the docks, and on the western seaboard reducing the cargo’s costly air miles from north America. It would make a good site for a Freeport post Brexit,

    Comment by Mark Clayton | August 31, 2017 | Reply

    • Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of air gargo. I was listening to Wake Up To Money on Radio 5, when an air cargo expert, said, if you sent a parcel airfreight by Alitalia from Heathrow to New York, it was first sent to Milan by truck, before flying to New York from there. This expert was very forthright about air cargo and said it should be removed from Heathrow. But then some airlines aren’t very efficient.

      Comment by AnonW | August 31, 2017 | Reply

    • Liverpool Airport has a good position and I wonder if when Manchester Airport needs another runway, then it could be the third runway connected to Manchester by a Maglev or Hyperloop system, Or more likely something a lot better!

      Comment by AnonW | August 31, 2017 | Reply

      • Still quite a way off capacity at Manchester and that is using one for arrivals and one for departure – they could move to using both for both as at Heathrow, which IIRC handles more than twice as many flights on two runways,

        PS the current configuration is very efficient for most movements, Arrivals usually set down on 23R and normally stop just by the terminals and depart on 23L which starts just by the terminals. About one day a week the wind is the other way, so the pattern reverses with landings on 05R and take offs on 05L which is just slightly less efficient for “heavy’s”.

        The real argument is whether a fourth runway for London should be built at LHR or LGW, and the latter is far more sensible IMO.

        Comment by Mark Clayton | August 31, 2017

  2. Gatwick is much more sensible. In the 1980s two British Airways pilots proposed putting the M23 in a tunnel and building a North-South second runway for take-offs only, which would be in a Southerly direction.

    Comment by AnonW | August 31, 2017 | Reply


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