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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- London Heathrow – 74,985,748
- London Gatwick – 40,269,087
- Manchester – 23,136,047
- London Stansted – 22,519,178
- London Luton – 12,263,505
- Edinburgh – 11,114,587
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I said we should be prepared for surprises about airports.
I stand by that!