Saturday, 5 April 2008

Heathrow expansion vs. railways (again)

I never thought to see it, but the normally loathsome Evening Standard has come out with an editorial with every word of which I agree.

The subject is Heathrow airport, and the fact that its further expansion is both unnecessary and undesirable:

Plenty of capacity could be freed up by reducing services to
destinations such as Paris and Brussels which, thanks to the successful new Channel Tunnel rail link and St Pancras Terminal, are better served by high-speed rail than ever.

The same applies, of course, to the scope for abolishing most domestic flights and instead building new rail capacity within the UK, as I argued recently in my submission to the Transport Secretary, No to Heathrow Airport expansion.

Remarkably, the Tories have come round to my way of thinking on this -- not just Boris, who might have been accused of mere opportunism, but the party nationally, as explained by their spokeswoman Theresa Villiers:

She said: "The Government is set on building a third runway regardless of whether key economic and environmental questions are answered. However, they have failed to make the case."

She also questioned the thoroughness of the consultation document outlining expansion. "On page 55 of one of the annexes to the consultation document, we find them casually admitting that they have failed to price in the carbon effects of surface access to the airport... (...)"

She said the Government should look at a northsouth-high speed rail line linked to Heathrow and the Channel Tunnel as an alternative to expansion.

"We could dispense with the need for hundreds of the flights now clogging up the airport," she said.

She added: "The Government... has given us a consultation document which fails to make the economic case, fails to make the environmental case, and fails to consider the alternatives."
For almost half a century, from the 1959 general election onwards, I have been fighting against the Tories. Now, on this and some other issues, they are more on my side than a Labour government. What on earth is going on?

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