Architects and Builders to the Rescue?
With the piecemeal development of Heathrow and limitations in the area it is clear to see how architects and builders would seize the opportunity to ‘start again’ and build a new airport either alongside Heathrow and other airports or even to replace it. Given completely empty canvass and a very large public and private investment in a new airport and infrastructure of the problems that have affected Heathrow could be avoided. Lots of work and lots of money!
A site in the centre of England would provide maximum connectivity across the country, but the experience of Heathrow and infrastructure issues would suggest somewhere else would be needed. North London is covered by Stansted and South London by Gatwick. To the east the Kent Thameside Development Zone has been established for sometime but development has been slow due in part to the economic downturn. There is also no doubt that the area as a whole is less densely populated than central London and that at least plan arrivals would largely be over the North Sea and the Thames Estuary.
Perceived Benefits :
- Economic Development – Jobs
- Reduced Environmental Impact – arrivals over sea
- Opportunity to build new-age airport
- Use of existing Infrastructure M25/HS1 Rail
In addition Foster’s proposals included
- London Orbital Railway, linking major ports and passenger traffic to main spine routes into/out of London
- Thames Barrier – providing replacement of current time limited barrier and flood protection for London
- Lower Thames Crossing – on the wish list of Kent County Council. to relieve Dartfor Crossing, incorporated into Barrier
- Increased compensation for displaced businesses and residents (although it is not clear how this could be done as compulsory purchase legislation normally limits this).
It is plain that these ideas are both to generate extra work for architects and builders, tap into other public sector funding, to over come some objectors.
In the next Blog, I scratch at the surface of these ideas and look at the real implications and constraints that affect these proposals
The Growth of Heathrow
London Heathrow airport has seen major growth from a local airstrip with ‘terminal facilities’ in tents to a five terminal major facility. Despite this growth, public access was primarily by road (A4) and the London Tube network had only extended to Hounslow West where passengers had to transfer to a bus. Coaches ran from London Victoria and Gloucester Road to the terminal. The local roads were primarily east/west and connection from other areas was restricted to stretches of dual carriageway and local roads.
WIth the extension and upgrade of the A4 and A40 and the provision of an M4 and M40 and the spur road into the airport, road access as improved, but soon reached capacity. The M25 provided motorway links to the other spoke motorways around London, but even this was soon running at capacity during most of the day and further widening and other traffic measures were required.
The Tube and Rail
Finally an extension from Hounslow West was built to link into terminals 1/2/3 and later 4 & 5. But as this connection with London was slow the airport authority paid for a heavy rail connection to be provided from the airport to the Great Western mainline into Paddington. Services on this have been extended to include the local stopping Heathrow Link service and work is underway to ink this into the Crossrail link now being built. Further extension to the west has also been proposed and there were plans to connect to the south east and south west via Airtrack but these have been scrapped although alternatives are being discussed.
High Speed Rail
Proposals for a new Highspeed 2 line to link London, Birmingham and then on to Manchester, Leeds/Sheffield and ultimately Scotland are also in the early stages of development. An additional link to Heathrow from HS2 is being included.
The economic success of West London and the Thames Valley is linked in a major way to Heathrow. Apart from direct jobs at the airport there are many more indirect jobs in the wider area that would not have been there if it was not for the airport. Regional, National and International Headquarters of major corporations are located in the area because of the connectivity the Heathrow provides
A Victim Of Success?
The location of Heathrow and the growing investment in roads and rail has been a major success, but concerns with the capacity of that infrastructure and the direct implications of planes arriving over the centre of London and losing height over West London to land at Heathrow have generated major concerns about noise and air quality.
Although there are strong arguments that the capacity of Heathrow is not being used efficiently and that new planes are quieter and cleaner, there is a call from the business community that extra capacity is required soon to provide links to growing economies such as China.
Here We Go Again
With another set of consultations due in Summer 2012, the local area is preparing to see off another assault on the County of Kent (both countryside and urban areas alike). Following an extensive consultation that only completed about 8 years ago, the option to build a new hub airport on the Hoo peninsula was rejected. Instead further expansion through a third runway at Heathrow was proposed and limited expansion of other airports across the UK. Since the election of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London, he has proposed and supported schemes for new airports on land and in the Thames Estuary and urged that the third runway at Heathrow should be dropped. The election of the Coalition Government in 2010 did drop the third runway proposal but supported further consultation into aviation policy and especially the need for a new hub airpprt. Options in the Thames Estuary would be included and it is expected that growth at Stansted and Gatwick would also be included along with Kent County Council’s view that Manston could also provide capacity.
These Estuary Airport Blog Posts attempt to look at all the main issues both for a new airport and those against.