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Letters: New airport hub still up in the air


Stansted: Possible South East aviation hub loction

I was pleasantly surprised to read two recent letters, the first from Geoff Longlands - “The answer to airport capacity issues lies in the Home Counties” - and the second from Norman Pasley - “Time for a more sustainable way forward for transport” (NCE 6 December).

Over the past number of years I have been horrified by the ecologically devastating proposals to build new airports on the Isle of Grain, and recently on the Goodwin Sands.

High Speed 2 (HS2) has also taken my interest as I cannot see any reason why a perfectly straight twin-bore tunnel cannot be built under the Chilterns between Chalfont St Giles and Stoke Mandeville.

However, Longlands mentions Buckinghamshire as being an ideal site for a new hub airport, and my interest in local history has led me to discover that there used to be an RAF airfield at Westcott between Aylesbury and Bicester.

The site is largely extant, but is now being developed as a business park. It covers 4km2, and it is close to the route of HS2, which could make it an eminently suitable candidate for a new airport with a fast rail connection and easy links to the M40. It is evident that land is available for expansion that would put a new airport there on a par with Luton, Birmingham,Glasgow and Stansted.

  • Martin Young (IM) 5 Nursery Close, Dunstable LU6 1XQ


There has been debate for far too long on the best location for an aviation hub in the South East, but I am surprised that a location north west of London close to the route for High Speed 2, and the existing M1 and M40 motorways, appears not to have been considered. Importantly the hub is needed for the whole of the south of England and Wales, not just for London.

Declan Lynch (NCE 14 February) describes Stansted as the possible “aviation hub for London”.

However, Antony Oliver, in the same issue, more correctly describes the current Heathrow (and by inference any future alternative hub) as the “UK’s main aviation hub”.

Surely, the important thing is to site a hub in the most convenient location for the UK, not just for London. It might best be sited just a third of the way from London to Birmingham.

Necessarily closer to London, but still convenient to Birmingham and the large population and businesses in the southern half of England and Wales, except perhaps those east of London.

High Speed 2 (HS2), and either the M1 or M40, (or even both depending on its location), would provide rapid transit from London and Birmingham.

A hub east of London would result in most of its users having to cross London, only adding to
congestion and increasing journey time.

  • Keith Pratley (M ret), Hereford HR1 1TN

Chris Noon, in his letter “Hard thinking about airport locations” (NCE 14 February), suggests that with high speed transport “passenger check-in could occur anywhere, even in the centre of London”.

In 1970 I checked in at Gloucester Road and was taken by coach with a baggage trailer to the aircraft steps in Heathrow.

Rising traffic made this impractical and the
check-in facility is now a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

  • Dr Richard Bloore,


Two legs better than four wheels

NCE’s editor asks what other infrastructure (in addition to Borders Railway) we should reinstate, (NCE 14 February). He pre-empts our answers, saying “let’s face it, the car remains convenient”.

Most of us live in cities and most journeys are short, so it is wrong to celebrate the car. A reasonable view is that there is a range of options, depending on the journey being made. A smart traveller can make choices based on time, comfort, environment, and the opportunities for fun, work and social engagement on the journey.

We might not choose to sit in a metal box on a crowded and soulless carbon corridor.

The number of young people taking driving lessons has fallen 18% in the past fi ve years. ‘Peak car’ may be here. People are walking (and pedalling) away from cars. This is the opportunity for transport professionals to question the deference to motor transport in our own culture.

Reinstating walking and cycling choices and routes, giving people a real option to experience at least some of their journeys with the exhilaration and liberty of self-determination, will be a good start in rebalancing the current transport network for the benefit of all.

  • Peter Treadgold (F),


The lessons from Dr Beeching

Richard Beeching had the right diagnosis but the wrong prognosis. His report was based on the first comprehensive survey of Britain’s railways.

At the time there were 1.2M wagons, 25,000 locomotives and nearly 100,000 passenger carriages.

It found that on average a freight wagon made seven loaded journeys a year, compared to lorries making a loaded trip once a week.

It also found that 50% of the traffic was carried on 10% of the railway, and 10% of the traffic was on 50% of the network.

The same characteristics in the distribution of road traffic were identified but no one suggested closing half the road network!

Production from uneconomic factories can be transferred to other factories to reduce costs. On the railways the contributory revenue from 50% of the network was ignored. Its loss weakened the rest of the network.

Often the main line contributory revenue was greater than the subsidy needed to keep the branch line open.

As the Serpell Report showed in 1982, a profitable core railway was only around 1,600km, and excluded London commuter lines.

Beeching wanted to keep branch line contributory revenue but decided that the institutional problems in reducing costs were more than the cost of closing lines.

The recent McNulty Report showed that reducing costs is still an issue.

So is High Speed 2 a huge distraction from getting costs down, and therefore enabling the reopening of some lines which should never have been closed?

  • Professor Lewis Lesley, 30 Moss Lane, Liverpool L9 8AJ


Rebalancing Crossrail

Peter JH Smith’s letter (NCE 21 February) has the right idea of diverting Euston suburban services into Crossrail 1 in the Old Oak Common area.

Removal of a proportion of the Euston services whilst Euston is reconstructed must save money, particularly by removing all of the third rail DC infrastructure south of Queens Park.

Crossrail 1 has always been lopsided by having a large proportion of services going no further west than Paddington and his idea will address that matter too.

I just hope some space has been left for such a connection among all the train servicing infrastructure to be added to the Old Oak Common area.

  • Jim Wheeler (M ret), 54Porton Court, Portsmouth Road, Surbiton KT6 4HZ

Politicians right to be cautious

I read your report of a source blaming politicians for delay in giving the construction industry another nice big project (News 14 February). This comes across as special pleading.

Everyone working in the construction industry is a taxpayer too, and we and future generations for centuries to come will be paying for this short term boost to construction employment.

It is entirely appropriate for politicians to be dragging their heels on this - and they’re not even considering long term impact, they’re only trying to get a better deal for everyone in the short term.

You provide no evidence or even suggestion that this is government inertia, yet you place these words at the beginning of your report.

Every time a civil engineer puts a natural desire for profit before the needs of future generations it strengthens the impression that we only pay lip service to sustainability.

  • Paul McCombie (F), deputy head of department, Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY

Murky reasons for HS2 stations

In your article discussing issues relating to the location of stations on the proposed High Speed 2 route (NCE 31 January), I note that Sheffield’s two city centre locations at the existing railway station and at Victoria were ruled out on the cost benefit ratio and that the existing station would require a long tunnel approach.

The same article goes on to inform us that “the spurs to Manchester and Leeds will each require tunnels of 17.1km and 8.8km respectively”.

Both of these cities also have out-of-town shopping centres - the Traff ord centre and the White Rose centre.

If the stations were located here most, if not all, of the tunnel sections would be eliminated. Have these alternatives been subject to the same cost benefit ratio analysis or are the rules applied to justify a predetermined outcome?

Due to poor planning out-of town shopping centres like Meadowhall have blighted the development of city centres. Adding a Meadowhall High Speed 2 station would further shift the centre of new development away from Sheffield city centre to the detriment of the city as a whole.

Has this been taken into account and have the rules been applied fairly in justifying the station locations?

  • Kevan Chambers (M),

Tweedbank’s rightful place

I would just like to point out that Tweedbank station is not on the border with England as is repeatedly suggested in a recent article (NCE 14 February).

It is actually around 25 miles into Scotland as the crow flies, and around 40 miles into Scotland by the old Waverley route to Carlisle!

An extension of the current project to the border would have reinstated the old Waverley route through Newton St Boswells, Hawick and Newcastleton, crossing the Cheviot Hills, via the former Riccarton Junction.

From there it would only have been another 20 or so miles to link the route up with the West Coast Main Line to the north of Carlisle.

  • David Sinclair,

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