When Network Rail announced the need to replace track and signalling at Gatwick Station by 2011 it seemed to be a golden opportunity to deliver the long awaited upgrade for the station and remove the worst bottleneck on the London Brighton line. This project could be timed to ensure that Gatwick provided an impressive gateway for the Olympic Games in 2012 - and a lasting legacy for commuters who currently have to stand from Brighton to London each day.
Network Rail's concept plans won near universal approval and private sector investors at Gatwick including BAA and the airlines who were keen to invest. As last week's NCE Special Report indicates BAA is already committed to a major investment in the airport facilities costing £874M over a 5 year period – surely an improvement to rail facilities is also long overdue!
So what went wrong? Well it seems that the Office of Rail Regulation sees things differently and is proposing minimal funding to maintain the existing infrastructure – not the major overhaul required to meet the needs of air travellers and rail commuters in the 21st century.
So what will our Olympic visitors think of the UK when travelling on the Cowshed Line?
ALISTAIR SMITH (M), firstname.lastname@example.org