Now, I must confess that I have changed my opinion on this. Up until a few years ago I really couldn’t understand the fuss about Heathrow. I had chosen to live in London, and one of the things you accept about living in a big city is the noise, but over the years I’ve come to realise that not only is the Heathrow flightpath having a huge effect, but that it has slowly become worse and worse.
Damn those early morning arrivals at Heathrow – I want another hour asleep!
Although written at 6.14am, it followed a couple of hours of the incessant drone of engines, approaching then fading, then realising that the fading engine noise is actually the next plane. (That this followed a sleepless night with an unsettled baby just compounded my frustration.)
It is a difficult subject to tackle, and I’m aware of the risk of seeming to be a NIMBY politician, but the government is railroading a decision without consideration of the alternatives.
We could expand existing airports. My council colleague, Nick Cuff, has written a thoughtful article – ‘There are alternatives to expanding Heathrow’ – on the ConservativeHome website detailing some of the smaller airports in the south-east that already have expansion plans and could accommodate increased air-traffic.
We could invest in high-speed rail. The 2M Group, of which Wandsworth Council is a member, published a report on how a high speed rail network could connect the UK to many European cities in under four hours (good when you consider the time wasted at airports in addition to flight times)
Or we could take the radical option of building an airport that is actually designed to be a good modern airport, rather than one that has evolved since the 1930s. Apparently, one of the reasons the car-parking is so far from the terminals is that originally it was assumed passengers would be chaffeur driven and wouldn’t need to park nearby.
Boris Johnson has suggested that the best solution would be a new airport in the Thames Estuary (with most flights over water and therefore not causing the disruption we currently suffer), that could be designed to meet the demands of modern air-travel and modern passengers. Sadly, it seems no-one in the government has his foresight.