Monday, 6 February 2012

The buffoon and the airport - or Boris's balls-up

The late Tony Crosland buried what was then known as Maplin at a time of similar financial stringency in the 1970s.  Ted Heath's white-heat idea was to build an airport in the Thames Estuary, with plenty of transport links but without the spurious "regeneration" that the current adulterous nincompoop wishes to parade up and down in advance of his re-election bid.  Crosland, being reasonably practical and faced with the reality that it would be destructive both to finances and the environment, interred the floating catastrophe - only to be resurrected at the behest of the London Tories who are clearly completely incapable of recognising politics, economics or the harsh realities of the future.

Nobody claims that Heathrow Airport represents the apogee of anything - it's not the site you would have chosen in 2012 for a major city airport.  But it's there, and it handles a great deal of traffic with the infrastructure to support it (roads, rails and people) provided incrementally since 1946.  It will have Crossrail when that opens, and it will, as planes get larger, be able to cope with at least some growth in passengers (leaving aside whether or not this a good thing).  However, the blond cretin seems to believe that the only part of "predict, manage and provide" that applies to him is the last word, especially when he has to face the electorate.

The British Isles land mass is not entirely dominated by the South-East, nor do the vast majority of the population live there.  Indeed, given constraints on the amount of land and, perhaps less obviously, water supplies available to the region, we should perhaps be looking at politicians to encourage dispersal of economic activity and population to the areas where the infrastructure might have a better chance of coping.  This implies having decent international connections closer to people's homes and offices, rather than channelling them through London.  Boris Island would fail even more spectacularly on that basis, being to the east of London implies almost all its potential market would have to traverse or circumnavigate the Great Wen (more demand for transport!).

Indeed we have plenty of decent regional airports that could probably be expanded at much less cost both financially and environmentally - and with proper local planning they could have decent access by road and public transport.  This would cost a fraction of the ancillary costs (always borne by the taxpayer) than a hare-brained erection through land reclamation and hubris.

With high-speed rail taking markets from the airlines both domestically and to our European neighbours, there is probably enough capability in the aviation system to cope without either a monstrous vanity folly in the middle of the Thames or more runways and disruption at Heathrow.  But that isn't sexy, nor does it create a new black hole to replace the Olympics as a means of pouring taxpayers' money into London aggrandisement.

Johnson is a raging self-publicist with a delusional sense of messianic certainty.  Destroying the Thames Estuary yet further would be a fitting legacy for a man who considers the citizens he allegedly leads as cannon-fodder for an inflated ego and boundless ambition.  Even the Hamster has been prepared to indulge the delusion by putting the Floating Fatuity into the forthcoming aviation consultation - hopefully then it can be shot down and deflated whether or not there is a change of power in London.  The South-East needs to be gently deflated rather than pumped up further, otherwise it will become unbearable to live in.

What can't happen is for the costs of mindless BoJo policy masturbation to distract from the real issues of regional connectivity, sustainable aviation and the need for proper transport policy.  The one thing that can be said with confidence is that the aerodynamic properties of the floating aerodrome are somewhat less impressive than those of the ostrich.

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