HS2 is not the alternative to a third runway

Lets be clear: whatever people think, HS2 is not the alternative to a third runway at Heathrow.

Many of the strongest proponents of HS2 also want Heathrow to be expanded.

Take Andrew Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport who announced HS2 in March 2010, with no provision for a link to Heathrow. In March he said

“It has been stark staring obvious for years that a third runway at Heathrow was in the national interest, to safeguard jobs and new investment from abroad.”

And a couple of weeks ago, he demanded that the Coalition should just get on with HS2 – his view is that HS2 should be built as well as expanding Heathrow.

(See also David Begg’s view.)

The January 2012 Economic case showed that just 3% of HS2 passengers would be taking the train rather than flying.  That compares to 24% of the passengers who only decided to travel because HS2 had been built.

There are no flights between Heathrow and Birmingham, and the Manchester to London route has 80% of the market already going by train.

And, with the design that Lord Adonis approved, there won’t be a connection to Heathrow until Phase 2 – currently due for completion about 2033.

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6 comments to “HS2 is not the alternative to a third runway”
  1. Surely the same arguments apply to a third airport runway as to running a high speed line through an urban area; demolition of houses, increased noise and pollution under the flightpath – the sound “footprint” from an aircraft covers a wider area than any ground based transport…

    Heathrow was developed at the end of World War 2 and originally had SIX runways- a double version of a typical RAF triangular layout of that period- an era of piston engined aircraft each carrying 30 passengers first class or 70 or so in tourist.

    Most passengers would have checked in at the West London Air Terminal and been driven to Heathrow
    in airport buses- aconvenient transfer for the small proportion of the travelling public who could afford to fly.
    Although it lay in a fork with main lines just a few miles away there was no attempt to provide a rail connection in the early years.

    Heathrow seems to have grown far beyond any original plan- assurances given that Terminal 4 was the limit…only to have the enormous T. 5 built as a follow on.

    At some stage, possibly in the 1960s or ’70s should Britain not have done as the French did when it was decided that Orly and Le Bourget would never be adequate and planned the all new Paris Charles de Gaulle airport,with rail and road links- including TGV high speed included from the start, not bolted on as an afterthought.

    * And If we really need an extra runway, then just up the road lies the underused RAF Northolt which served as the main airport for European routes in the late 1940s and 50s.(main runway longer than London City airport-LT Central line and Chiltern railways close by)

    • @John Webber

      All completely valid points but your narrative pre-supposes certain influencing factors;
      1. A strong element of pre-planning and basic nouse, in terms of avoiding blindingly obvious instances of obsolence, within our political and NGO élites
      2. A general environment of consensus building, rather than adversarialism, which usually leads to any contentious (no project of significant stature can expect to inflict ZERO environmental impact so there will always be someone who loses out by having something coming through their backyard?) infrastructure project becoming a political football, subject to the vagaries of ministerial uncertainty and/or vascillation
      3. A general acceptance of the principle that the needs of the many always outweigh the demands (no matter how strident they are) of the few
      4. A political élite immune to the malign effect of internal, secret lobbying (usually instigated by those with the means and contacts pursue this corrosive practice)

      Sadly, none of these overriding caveats apply in dear old blighty – so common sense is often discarded on a whim/sacrificed on the altar of short-term political expediency?

  2. Are they seriously suggesting that Birmingham airport is an alternative to more capacity in the south-east. If I want to travel to London from overseas why would I fly to Birmingham and catch a train to London?

    When will this ad hoc nonsense stop and a proper transport strategy be put in its place

    • And how many people who travel to Heathrow actually want to end their journey there? London via HS2 is barely different to London from Heathrow.

      • In my experience Heathrow arrivals get connecting flight,go to nearby hotel or take Heathrow express to Paddington In 15 minutes ,if they are not being met

  3. It’s a question of the rich cities fighting for the crumbs while the rest of us go hungry. It’s tough when there’s no local transport to get get to work, school, doctors, shops etc.

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