Thames Gateway

HS2 - forget the pain, think of the gain

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, January 6 2012

Hooray for the business people who have called for the HS2 to go ahead.

At long last, a real-world case is made for a project that would - albeit belatedly - put the UK on the right track in the new era of international high-speed rail travel.

We know all too well in Kent about the disruption and damage that construction causes. It was horrible while it lasted. There were ugly scars on the landscape.

But engineers did a great job. The wounds have healed. For all the protests about HS1 many years ago - similar to those we hear along the proposed HS2 - Kent now has a superb high-speed service, even though some of the advantages have come at the expense of old-style train performance.

Okay, fares are high but increased prosperity brings more wealth.

High-speed rail is slowly transforming the economy, with house prices leaping in towns like Ashford, Gravesend and Folkestone which are well plugged into the service.

It’s not just about people travelling to London, it also encourages people to commute into Kent, adding to the county’s skill base.

The same scenario will apply to Thanet when Manston, for example, has a Parkway station and journey times to London fall to an hour.

As for the feared landscape damage, few people now complain about the environmental impact of high-speed trains. It now blends into the landscape.

Initial Kent protests succeeded, forcing the then Government to abandon the initial route through South Darenth in favour of a northerly route. But thank goodness the principle of high-speed to the Continent was retained.

No doubt there were protests from residents between Settle and Carlisle about a “damaging” new line in Victorian times, but it is now cherished as a scenic and engineering wonder.

HS2 to Birmingham and beyond promises economic growth on the back of faster journey times.  It should help bridge the widening North-South divide.

The Chilterns are a precious asset but skilful - and no expense spared - engineering can mitigate the impact.

The French have led the way on Les Grands Projets while the UK is usually late into the big idea, frightened off by cost or public protest.

HS2 is a bold initiative that should be welcomed. OK, there will be pain, and plenty of fury from affected locals. But as we have found in Kent, both are temporary. The longer-term economic gain for the UK will be immense – and it should not be just business people who can see this light at the end of the tunnel.

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Categories: HS-1 | Regeneration | Thames Gateway | Transport

Boris Island Part 2: Why the Thames Estuary option will be pursued

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, January 18 2011

The most telling phrase in the report published today about the Mayor of London's case for increasing aviation capacity was the one that talked about the need for "a brand new airport."

Not extending an existing airport but a brand new one. Which suggests to me that when Boris comes to issuing a report later on this year identifying particular locations as part two of his assessment, the Thames Estuary will be the number one favourite.

We were told several times - rather unconvincingly - that the Mayor and Transport for London were open to all suggestions although when pressed about whether that included extending Heathrow - which Boris and the coalition have ruled out - there was a bit of subtle manouevering to indicate that this, ahem, wouldn't be among the options.

Indeed, the only specific place mentioned in the Mayor's 70-page report is the Thames Estuary - and in a classic piece of under-statement, the report notes that it "will require sustained political determination to deliver such an airport."

You can say that again. But no-one should under-estimate the seriousness with which Boris is taking this. He made a compelling case on economic grounds, pointing out that together London airports can muster just five daily flights to China - half the number from Paris and Frankfurt.

He also pointed out that David Cameron's plans for greater use of existing regional airports would only absorb about 10 per cent of the extra capacity expected to be generated at Heathrow as the number of passengers increases from 240m to 460m over the next 20 years.

Boris reignites row over airport plan for Kent>>>

So, he ploughs on in the face of implacable opposition from council chiefs and most MPs. But one thing that did strike me at today's seminar was that many businesses actually seem quite keen on the idea and believe that there has been a pretty one-sided debate so far.

As to ManstonDaniel Moylan, vice chairman of Transport for London, was fairly dismissive - revealing that it would only work if it became a four runway hub of the sort Boris wants. Intriguingly, this proposal was put to KCC leader Paul Carter but he demurred at the suggestion.

So, Boris may not be terribly popular down here but seems remarkably unperturbed. You could even say he's rather relishing the challenge.

Mind you, it was a shame he didn't stick around to answer any journalists' questions.

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Categories: Politics | Thames Gateway | Transport

Boris island: why the Mayor won't say no

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Monday, January 17 2011

It has been roundly denounced and at a cost of £40bn is regarded as pie in the sky.

But London Mayor Boris Johnson just won't let go of his idea to build an off-shore airport off the north Kent coast (where, it is worth mentioning, he has no planning jurisdiction).

The latest wheeze for Boris Island - by the independent panel he commissioned to examine options for the Thames Estuary - is that flood defence islands needed to withstand flood surges could double up as runways.

Flood islands could double as runways, says Mayor's expert panel>>

It sounds creative but I think there is a wider point here: the panel known as the Thames Estuary Steering Group is signalling subtly that it would like to keep the idea of Boris Island alive despite the hostility to it here.

This will no doubt please Boris, who is expected to underline his own personal support for further exploration of the scheme at a seminar tomorrow. A report is due to be published making the case for increased airport capacity in London and the south east that should be "configured in a hub airport".

The Mayor is using the government's own review of aviation capacity to keep up momentum in the debate and according to City Hall will be outlining the strong economic case for alternatives to expanding Heathrow.

It won't go down well in Kent and both KCC and Medway councils are poised to reaffirm their opposition, as no doubt, will many of the county's MPs.

 

 

 

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Categories: Politics | Thames Gateway | Transport

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