Last week there were two bright thoughts on transport. The first was to start HS2 in the north and build it towards the south. The second was to build a new London Airport in the Thames Estuary on the Isle of Grain.
It isn’t that clear what the overall advantage of starting HS2 in the north will be except that it is probably easier as it cuts through less inhabited areas and so will make faster progress. It also creates jobs in areas that are currently suffering more. Politically it delays decisions in sensitive areas and perhaps changes to airports will enable the southern part of the route to be adapted. Heathrow is badly constrained by lack of runways, an airport operating at over 90% capacity is a recipe for delays and increasing cost of landing slots.
Meanwhile the UK is accelerating its slip down the league table of developed countries not helped at all by having a clogged up transport system while Asian and major EU countries are building more runways and a fast rail network to major cities.
Our state of democracy is that a few newts placed on a site or a footpath used by a few people can set back a major development by years and cost millions of pounds. While campaigners can make all kinds of fanciful claims.
In particular articulate people close to the capital and hub of UK power have a stronger voice than those in far off regions. This is creating a two speed Britain where a region buffered by the Chilterns is getting a disproportionate amount of investment. A few crumbs are cast out to other regions like a few miles of electrified rail between Manchester and Liverpool while London gets a £16bn pound new rail line that is about the same length.
So Heathrow’s days of operating at over 90% capacity should be numbered and a new rail line linking the major cities of the UK should be started immediately to help create an M25 effect by spreading the wealth about.