The Anonymous Widower

Should The Overground Be Extended To Gatwick?

With no end in sight f the Southern dispute and Govia seeming incapable of managing their way out of a paper bag, surely the time has come to explore the possibility of making Gatwick Airport a terminus of the East London Line?

A service could stop at all stations to New Cross Gate, Anerley (for my friend Nick), Norwood Junction, East Croydon, South Croydon and Gatwick Airport.

I know I’m being selfish, but it would create a valuable route to the East of Thameslink.

Gatwick have ambitions to be a massive rail hub and are putting millions where their mouth is.

So why shouldn’t they become a terminus for a two trains per hour (tph) service from Highbury and Islington, that alternates with a two tph service to West Croydon?

  • At present you can get to Gatwick from Highbury and Islington, with a single change at New Cross Gate.
  • It takes 26 minutes to New Cross Gate and after a three minute wait, 44 minutes from New Cross Gate to Gatwick.
  • So total time is 73 minutes.

By comparison getting to Heathrow by Piccadilly Line takes about 70 minutes, so it’s not that slow.

I started this post on holiday, as a bit of a light-hearted post, but it does strike me, that it would be feasible.

Consider.

  • It gives the whole of East London from Walthamstow to Croydon, through Hackney, Tower Hamlets, New Cross a direct route to Gatwick.
  • There is no new infrastructure required.
  • Highbury and Islington is a well-connected terminal.
  • Whitechapel gives a good connection to Crossrail.

I think that although it wouldn’t be something that some companies would welcome, it is the sort of idea, that an innovative Gatwick could fund to steal business from Heathrow.

 

 

December 6, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Reflections On My Journey From Gatwick

After a good night’s sleep, it is perhaps worth taking a look at my experience yesterday in getting through and home from Gatwick Airport.

The train problems were hopefully exceptional, but having seen the new plans for Thameslink’s services, which make it difficult for anybody in East London to go South, I suspect that these problems will go on for some time.

The trouble with the new Thameslink is that it has no step-free interchange with any of the main North South routes through East London.

East London Line

Currently, you can change at New Cross Gate for Gatwick services, but after Thameslink fully opens, this connectivity will be lost under current plans.

It looks like the best route will be to go to West Croydon station and take the tram to East Croydon.

Bank Branch Of The Northern Line

Currently, the interchange at London Bridge between Northern Line and National Rail is not good, although it is step-free.

Hopefully, it will get better.

But the problem with the Northern Line is that many of the stations need reconstruction for full step-free access.

If the London Bridge interchange is improved and the excessive walking is cut, I could use this route a lot to get to Thameslink from Angel station.

But Angel is not a station for a large case, a wheelchair or a baby in a buggy.

Victoria Line

Many on the Victoria Line go direct to Victoria and get a direct train.

Victroria Line access to Thameslink is currently terrible with the only interchange at Kings Cross being step-free and a very tortuous and long walk.

After Thameslink is fully open, there will be a much easier change at Finsbury Park station.

Conclusions

I’m still not sure that the new fully-open Thameslink will not be without controversy.

There is also a need for a solution to the Freedom Pass problem.

I suspect that savvy passengers will just buy an extension ticket between East bCroydon and Gatwick Airport.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t put it past Gatwick Airport to fund the moving of Gatwick Airport into Travel Zone 6, if Heathrow does something unfriendly with Crossrail ticketing. After all, each return ticket costs just £6.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Crawling Home From Gatwick

Getting home from Gatwick for me, should be an easy process.

  • Touch in with my American Express card at Gatwick Airport station.
  • Train to East Croydon station.
  • Touch out to close the transaction.
  • Train to London Bridge.
  • 141 bus to home.

But there was trouble in this simple plan.

  • Thameslink services appeared to have problems.
  • The tragic Croydon tram accident.
  • There appeared to be a shortage pf trains to East Croydon.
  • Staff weren’t very numerous.
  • The closure of ower Bridge.

I eventually got to East Croydon and touched out without going through the barrier, so I was now in Freedom Pass territory. The train from Gatwick was a Class 377 train, which although brilliant for commuters, is not designed for anybody with a suitcase.

There needs to be a reader on the platform at East Croydon, so that passengers with Freedom Passes can touch in and out, without going to the barrier. But sorting this minor irritation, is probably the least of Southern’s worries.

After a wait of about thirty minutes, I got on a trainto London Bridge and although, I’d intended to get the Overground from Brockley, I missed the stop as in the dark, I missed the stop, so I went to London Bridge, which should be quicker anyway.

But it wasn’t, as on arrival at the station, there were no buses and only a couple of taxis.

I took the taxi and the amiable driver immediately turned off the meter.

It was all due to the total gridlock created by works on both Tower and London bridges.

After crossing the river, it was more or less plain sailing.

It could be argued that my journey would have been easier, if I hadn’t wanted to go via East Croydon, so that I could save a few pounds.

I don’t need the money but other travellers do! The system certainly doesn’t cope well with those, who want to change from using their Freedom Pass to a ticket at East Croydon station.

If I’m going out and back through Gatwick, the problem can also be solved by buying a return ticket from East Croydon to Gatwick Airport from a ticket machine from certain companies like the Overground and Thameslink.

 

I

November 10, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Nightmare At Gatwick

I few out to Las Palmas from Southend and the experience coming back through Gatwick couldn’t have been more different.

I arrived in the North Terminal and this terminal is now very poor compared to modern standards.

  • The walk to Passport Control is long and tortuous compared to many other similar-sized European airports.
  • Passport Control was solid and was only half open.
  • The baggage took an age to arrive, but luckily my bag was off first.
  • I had to get the shuttle to the main terminal for the train, but it wasn’t a well-signposted route.
  • I of course just missed the shuttle.

The North Terminal is basically a 1970s design and it shows.

The terminal is a disgrace and doesn’t fit with any notion of Britain being open for business.

Did the Government plump for Heathrow, as they have all had very bad experiences of Gatwick.

To be fair to the Airport, their plans for the future look good.

Gatwick In The Future

Gatwick In The Future

But will we actually see it?

 

November 10, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Is Theresa Working A Flanker?

With my Project Management knowledge, but no actual experience, if I look at the three options for a new runway in the South-East, I come to these conclusions about each.

  1. New North-West Runway at Heathrow – Virtually impossible to build due to political, environmental and local opposition.
  2. Extended Northern Runway at Heathrow – Difficult but not impossible to build.
  3. New Southern Runway at Gatwick – Probably fairly easy to build.

But reading the media this morning it looks like Option 1 will get the go-ahead.

So could Theresa give her blessing to this option, knowing it will never get built, due to the will of the House and the people?

It would be Brexit all over again, where the electorate and some rebellious MPs override the wish of the Prime Minister and their cabinet.

Ultimately, it would mean that Option 3 at Gatwick could go ahead, followed in a few years by a cut-down Option 2.

This would future-proof the South-East’s airport capacity for decades.

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Planemakers’ View On The South East’s New Runway

There was an article in the Business section of The Times yesterday with a headline of Boeing Ditches Supersonic For Down-to-Earth Midsize Models.

The article says this.

For Heathrow, the traditional long-haul/short-haul connection model is undermined by the direction of Boeing and Airbus development, which means that long-haul can be achieved flying with smaller aircraft from secondary airports.

I read the whole article and they backed the statement with impressive evidence.

I think that if Heathrow gets the nod to expand, it could turn out to be a disaster for the Airport, especially as Gatwick needs to expand anyway.

But who knows, what the Government’s decision will be today, in this crazy world of UK Politics?

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Heathrow Bid To Duck ‘£40m’ Crossrail Bill

This is the title of a small article in the Business section of today’s Sunday Times

Heathrow is annoyed that the Office of Rail and Road rejected their plan to charge every train that uses the line to the Airport, £597, with a maintenance charge of £138,

So they are going for a judicial review.

This is the last sentence of the article.

It (Heathrow) argues that it is unfair to make air passengers – who may never use Crossrail – subsidise the new line.

Consider.

  • If passengers use Crossrail, this will mean they won’t have to pay the high prices on the expensive Heathrow Express, which only takes you to the inaccessible-for-many Paddington.
  • Crossrail will be the route of choice of many passengers to and from Heathrow. As an example, three out of four of my closest stations will be a single change via Crossrail to Heathrow.
  • When Crossrail opens, I suspect only unknowing and the rich will use Heathrow Express.
  • Did Crossrail pay for the new Stockley Viaduct, which will increase capacity on the route to Heathrow?
  • Many passengers, who have Freedom Passes (As I do!), won’t put Heathrow on their list of London Airports, unless they get free travel to the Airport on Crossrail. Boris promised it!
  • Will passengers be able to use contactless ticketing to Heathrow Airport, as they can to Gatwick?

With the decision on the next South East runway to be made this week, Heathrow seems to be reinforcing the view that many hold of the Airport – It operates in a selfish culture, that is more about profits, than passengers, the Airport’s many neighbours and the environment.

 

October 23, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Does Brexit Mean We Need More Runways?

I ask this question, as after I wrote Changing Sides, I’ve had some thoughtful comments.

In 2015, there were seven airports that handled over ten million passengers.

  1. London Heathrow – 74,985,748
  2. London Gatwick – 40,269,087
  3. Manchester – 23,136,047
  4. London Stansted – 22,519,178
  5. London Luton – 12,263,505
  6. Edinburgh – 11,114,587
  7. Birmingham – 10,187,122

In addition, there are airports like Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds-Bradford, Liverpool and Newcastle, that can take a significant portion of regional traffic.

I can add these comments.

  • Manchester is taking traffic from other airports in the North and Scotland.
  • In a decade or so, a very high speed rail link could enable Liverpool to provide extra runway capacity for Manchester.
  • Birmingham will be on HS2 within a decade.
  • Manchester will get HS2 within two decades.
  • Six of the top seven airports are getting improved rail links.
  • Glasgow is just off the list in eighth, but does Scotland need two airports in the Central Belt?
  • Cardiff is not the busiest airport and was in fact 20th.

The Airports Commission said we need another runway in the South East, but will Brexit change matters?

I have this feeling that, Brexit could mean that we actually see more air-routes opening up.

Consider.

  • The British will always love their holidays in the sun.
  • The UK will always be a destination for tourists and a low pound courtesy of Brexit will help.
  • If the regions of the UK get more independence from London, they’ll probably look to attract more visitors.
  • On past form, the City of London will survive Brexit, just as it did the Great Fire and the Blitz.
  • Brexit could be an excuse for building more runway capacity.
  • People love setting up airlines to lose their fortune and those of others.
  • Infrastructure like railways and trams will make some airports, easier and more affordable to use.
  • Travellers will get more savvy.

On the other hand, the low-cost airlines seem to be saying that traffic to and from the UK will be a lot lower and they are moving aircraft out of the UK.

I have no idea what will actually happen, but we may see some surprising things. I said this earlier.

In a decade or so, a very high speed rail link could enable Liverpool to provide extra runway capacity for Manchester.

Consider.

  • The Shanghai Maglev Train has a top speed of over 400 kmh and a length of 30 km.
  • Liverpool and Manchester airports are 50 km. apart.
  • Liverpool Airport is alongside the Mersey.

Even if this doesn’t happen, we’ll certainly see many airports expand and be easier to use.

The debate on where the South-East gets extra runway capacity has been enlivened by Gatwick saying that if Heathrow is chosen, then they’ll build a second runway anyway.

Consider.

  • Building a new runway at Heathrow will need extensive works to the M25
  • Gatwick has the space for a second runway and has already shown possible runway, terminal and rail railway station designs.
  • Gatwick is already a well-connected rail-hub.
  • Both airports will be connected to Farringdon by modern high-capacity rail links.
  • Cameron promised no third runway at Heathrow and his election still defines the make-up of Parliament.
  • Most Londoners don’t like Heathrow.
  • Heathrow probably couldn’t build a third runway, if Gatwick got the Government’s blessing.

We could see the Government give Heathrow their blessing, but Gatwick builds a new runway as well.

Surely two world-class airports for London, would show that a post-Brexit Britain was open for business.

I think many London residents like me, living away from Heathrow, would accept an enlargement at both airports.

You can envisage these scenarios.

Heathrow Gets A Third Runway And A Sixth Terminal

If this was the decision, the following would or could happen.

  • The opposition would be vocal and possibly violent.
  • Every legal experts in the field would keep the Courts going for decades.
  • The moving of the M25 would paralyse the traffic to the West of London for at least a decade. Remember Terminal 5!
  • All of the hassle would frighten investors away from a post-Brexit UK

Gatwick would build a second runway anyway.

Heathrow Hub

Heathrow Hub is the independent proposal shortlisted by the Airports Commission. Wikipedia describes it like this.

Heathrow Hub proposes extending both of the existing runways up to a total length of about 7,000 metres and dividing them into four so that they each provide two, full length, runways, allowing simultaneous take-offs and landings. The aim is to complete the construction within five years and with 100% private funds.

Available capacity would be doubled while keeping a percentage of the slots unused in order to alter noise levels. In addition, early morning flights could land much further west along the extended runways so reducing the noise footprint for a large area of west London.[5] Other noise mitigation techniques include using two-stage approaches, and steeper, curved climb-outs.

The Heathrow Hub concept includes a new multimodal air, rail and road interchange located approximately two miles north of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to accommodate passenger growth. This includes a new terminal, a new railway station connecting Heathrow to the West Coast Mainline and Crossrail and direct access to the M25 motorway.

 

This image from the Heathrow Hub web site shows the layout with just the Northern runway extended.

Heathrow Hub Runway Proposal

Heathrow Hub Runway Proposal

Note.

  • The M25 would just needed to be put in a tunnel, as has been done at Schipol.
  • The Southern runway could be expanded later to provide even more runway capacity.
  • As aircraft will get smarter and be able to fly more precise paths, more noise will be kept within the larger airport boundary.

With my project management hat on, I believe that the building of the rNorthern Runway extension, a new terminal and all the connecting infrastructure could be built without disrupting the operation of the current Airport.

Heathrow Hub is the joker in the pack and it could be the surprise choice.

But I doubt it.

  • The opposition would still be vocal and possibly violent.
  • Every legal experts in the field would keep the Courts going for decades.
  • Heathrow Airport wouldn’t like it, as they didn’t think of it.

Although, in a post-Brexit world, it could make sense.

Gatwick Gets A Second Runway

In some ways this is the option with the least amount of hassle.

  • The opposition at Gatwick would be much less, than choosing Heathrow.
  • There would be no traffic disruprion at Heathrow.

But Heathrow would probably fight the decision in the Courts.

I also think, that Heathrow will never give up on expansion, as there is just too much investment in the airport.

Both Airports Get An Extra Runway

This could be the Judgement of Theresa!

  • Heathrow would extend the Northern runway, as detailed in the Heathrow Hub proposal, with perhaps another rail-connected terminal between the runways.
  • Gatwick builds a second runway and appropriate terminals.

Consider.

  • The current two-airport strategy works for London.
  • Heathrow and Gatwick will soon have much-improved rail connections with an interchange in Central London.
  • Both rail journeys to Central London will be around thirty minutes.
  • Both runways could be built without disrupting the existing airports.
  • Once the M25 is covered, Heathrow can extend the runway and gets the space for more terminals.
  • Few properties would be demolished at either Heathrow and Gatwick.
  • Those living around Heathrow would suffer less noise.
  • A second runway fits Gatwick’s plans.
  • Airlines can choose their best location as capacity increases.
  • At least two runways at both airports, surely increases safety.

But the reason, I like this option best, is that it future-proofs, the airports in the South-East for a very long time.

It also creates true competition between the two airports and that can only be to the benefit of the airlines and their passengers.

This article in the Independent is entitled If Gatwick and Heathrow both build extra runways, it could mean the UK becomes future-proofed.

Add future-proofing to my list.

Conclusion

I said we should be prepared for surprises about airports.

I stand by that!

 

 

 

October 9, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Changing Sides

There is an interesting article in The Sunday Times today, entitled Boris Retreats In Fight Against Third Runway.

Boris is apparently saying he won’t oppose a third runway at Heathrow, so if anything he’s being consistent in changing horses, just as he did with Michael Gove.

But perhaps more surprisingly, Willie Walsh, the Chief Executive of IAG, who own BA, is quoted as calling Heathrow a fantasy project, which has been gold-plated and inflated by the owners to maximise their returns, at the expense of the airlines.

The paper also says that Gatwick will build a new runway anyway.

The latter is confirmed in this article on the Sky News web site, which is entitled Gatwick Airport to plan new runway even if Heathrow wins.

Elsewhere in The Sunday Times, there is a story about lawyers preparing their knives and forks for an expensaive dinner on all the arguments.

On top of all this of course, Londoners generally avoid Heathrow, as they prefer to do business with any Airport that treats passengers how they prefer to be treated.

This article on Get West London is entitled Bookmaker installs Gatwick as clear favourite over Heathrow in battle for new runway.

Could we be seeing something unique in the world of airports? A city with two major two-runway airports!

It will be interesting to see if the smart money is being put into commercial property like hotels and offices at Farringdon, where Crossrail and Thameslink cross.

I think that as passengers are much more flexible these days and even eighty-year-olds know how to work the Internet to their advantage, I think that if the Government makes the sensible choice and chooses Gatwick, we’ll see a marketing war, between the two airports, led by innovative airlines.

The major winners could be the passengers.

 

October 9, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Sadiq Khan Backs Gatwick

This article on the BBC is entitled Sadiq Khan urges swift decision on Gatwick expansion.

Doesn’t most of those living and/or working in london and the South East?

This is said in the article.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has urged Theresa May to make a quick decision on airport expansion in the South East.

Mr Khan said the new Prime Minister should make the final decision on whether a new runway should be built at Gatwick or Heathrow a top priority.

This decision has been kicked further into the long grass for years, ever since Harold Wilson cancelled Maplin Airport in 1971.

With Brexit on the near hotizon, what better way to say the UK and London is open for business, than by deciding on the next runway in the South East.

I don’t believe Heathrow should build another runway for the following reasons.

  • Building another runway would cause endless problems as the M25 is diverted., if what happened when it was diverted for Terminal 5 is anything to go by.
  • Gatwick will have better rail connections.
  • Heathrow has annoyed a lot of influential and powerful people and organisations in West London.
  • The site is too small, even after demolishing the odd village.
  • I don’t believe they’ll solve the pollution problem.
  • I don’t like approaching the airport over Central London.
  • It is the more expensive option.

You can probably say similar things for Gatwick.

But at least Gatwick’s owners don’t seem to be as greedy and uncooperative as those at Heathrow.

At least Gatwick’s plans seem well advanced, as this visualisation shows.

Gatwick With Two Runways

Gatwick With Two Runways

This appears to me to be a good efficient design.

  • The new runway is on the left.
  • It looks like the secondary North runway, used when the current main runway is under msaintenance, is still in place.
  • Between the two runways is a massive new terminal.
  • Note the station in the bottom right corner, with the Brighton Main Line going across.
  • The red line is a shuttle, that takes passengers between the current North and Main terminals, the new terminal and the train station.
  • Little demolition seems to have taken place.

But in some ways, where the runway is built is irrelevant, if Crossrail and the improved Thameslink work as they say on their tins.

These two high-capacity railways will give Heathrow and Gatwick a shared terminal called London, that unfortunately for them, they will share with  Stansted, Luton, HS2 and Eurostar.

I feel though, that because of Brexit, we’ll see a decision before the end of the year and possibly in the next few weeks.

British governments have fiddled for far too long!

 

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment