There has been much talk about the capacity issues of airports in London and the Southeast. To me, both the airlines, business and airports are very blinkered in their whole approach. I just do not see why London Heathrow is considered so important – concentrating so much on one airport can cause a number of security and operational issues should things go wrong for a start. Then, one must not forget that, despite the small advances on changing one’s fuel use to other sources other than oil, that energy source will run out within the next thirty to forty years. (Biomass is not a long-term solution due to the vast areas of land that is required (in most cases).
Whilst a believer in aviation as part of an integrated system of transport, also involving trains, trams and buses , I am also concerned upon its impact on the areas around the various airports. With this in mind, I would like to suggest the following:
London Heathrow should be used solely as the hub for the One World Alliance, especially as it is the home of British Airways. This could lead to a reduction in the number of terminals used; it becomes a lot easier to navigate from the point of view of the car driver; cargo can be greatly expanded in general. Most businesses that use Heathrow are based in the east of London, with logistics firms in the west.
London Stansted should have an extra runway, built closer to where the current one is, so as to avoid demolishing a village. Then this airport should be then used by the Star Alliance, being the largest alliance, especially as there is more room to grow within its boundaries.
London Southend has recently been updated and is due a small amount of further expansion. Runways could be strengthened to cope with long-distance aircraft. Then this could be used by the Sky Team Alliance. Train travel to and from the airport can still be improved even though it is quite good now.
That leaves London Gatwick to focus on the other scheduled airlines, not in an alliance. The Government must improve the line between Gatwick and the centre of London, including offering a new line to the east of London.
London Luton, London Oxford and Kent International could focus on the no-frills airlines like Ryanair. Obviously, rail links to and from Kent International would have to be vastly improved. Lydd is a possibility, but there are many environmental concerns.
The Thames Estuary Airport will still be needed, but not quite so big to cope with any future growth, but shouldn’t be needed for at least thirty years. This is providing that planning applications, environmental impact, etc starts now.
The other issue is to encourage more foreign airlines to travel to airports in the north like Robin Hood, Newcastle and Glasgow, as well as businesses to relocate there, due to housing and infrastructure not being able to cope with much more growth in the southeast. This is where incentives should be used. Rail links would also need to be improved.
It is all a matter of culture that holds us in this funnel-like thinking that needs changing. We should be co-operating with each other to maximise routes, even if that means working with Amsterdam or Brussels or Frankfurt or Dusseldorf or Luxembourg, for example. Don’t forget, because of Air France/KLM, Amsterdam and Charles de Gaulle Airports are at least superficially working together because both airlines are their major tenants! I expect to see similar links in other countries eg Milan and Zurich, or Vienna and Munich.
I shall be interested in other people’s thoughts on my proposals.