Tuesday 17 December 2013

Flights Of Fancy

The Commission asked to come up with a plot for UK air travel in the future with particular reference to where a hub airport might or might not be with the relevant facilities has delivered.

Only it wasn't the takeaway meal that was ordered, it was a box of pick and mix broken biscuits.  It seems almost designed to cost the Coalition as many votes as possible in 2015 in some of their choicest areas.

The South East chunk of the Atlantic Isles has any number of runways and air travel facilities from functioning airports to military airfields and a number of others left over from the past or simply providing leisure and occasional use.

My problem is the easy assumption that the key reason for major development and spending is the predicated doubling of demand.  If this is effective demand this means it has to be backed by that number of people being wealthy enough to afford to do the air travelling that we have become used to.  Will that happen?

There is almost a circular argument in the thinking. New major airport provision will increase jobs and attract economic activity.  A lot of this will be related to the airport.  In other words if you build a new airport the extra people involved will provide a lot of the increased demand you need to cover the costs.

The costs, however, may not be covered by that.  The figures given for the potential costs seem to be ludicrously low.  My figure would be at least triple.  Also, yet again this money would not yield a real return to cover capital costs in the future.  If it does not cover operating costs then it will need subsidy, direct and indirect.

This has all the makings of yet another gruesome Westminster fiasco and the prospect of yet another economy wrecking big project that not only may cause a crash on the runaways but literally goes off the rails.  The bit in the small print is a passing mention of the surface infrastructure that will be necessary for the project.

At the very same time we have the government crying tally ho!  as it gallops into the mist with its HS2 project.  Do any of them see that the two might just be connected, again literally?  Is it a hub just for London, or just for England, or for the Atlantic Isles or for the Isles plus a part of Northern Europe?

Is it quite so difficult to see that if you are going in for major transport developments then it is better to see them as a whole.  This includes roads as well.  In the South East the M25 and immediate connected motorways are now at full stretch. 

What is to be done about these?  If you are going to have a new hub with extensive connections to other transport and give economic development and expansion to somewhere that really needs it, there are other places, far less costly, to look at.

Try South Yorkshire, notably what is now Robin Hood Airport up at Finningley by Doncaster.   Then think in terms of the Atlantic Isles as a whole.  Then expand that to look at the potential for Scandinavia, The Baltic (we have a lot of East Europeans around now) and Northern Germany.

You have the space, the need and the potential to create a major new economic entity to help rebalance the economy as well as reconfiguring the patterns of air and surface traffic to ease the overcrowding in the skies and south eastern rail and road at present.

More to the point for the Coalition, they might lose fewer seats.

1 comment:

  1. "Try South Yorkshire, notably what is now Robin Hood Airport up at Finningley by Doncaster."

    The Rt. Hon Edward Miliband might think of pushing that one.