High Speed links between airports

Originally published 7th July 2013.

Bringing jobs to the North East, to the English Regions, to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is going to take a bit of imagination. Our focus needs to be on infrastructure, on creating links with the rest of the world and on demonstrating that the United Kingdom is, in fact, United.

This can be done with Infrastructure – high speed rail links linking not the cities, but the airports.  So a commercial traveler passing through can stop in two airports (one for arrival, another for departure) and talk to two lots of suppliers or importers, and the jobs will follow those conversations.

An app on my smartphone shows the way.

England with aeroplanes
FlightRadar Screenshot of aircraft over England on Sunday noon (c) Hugo Minney

Look at this picture of air travel, Sunday at noon, taken from the screen of my Android smartphone.  The London air space is pretty crowded – and this is a weekend!  Building another runway, or even another airport, isn’t going to help London’s air space.

Notice also the flights to and from other airports within UK.  They take up around half of Heathrow’s capacity – in other words, we could nearly double Heathrow’s capacity for international flights by moving the high speed links between UK’s airports to ground level.

Why is it important?  Well if you are flying in from North America to speak to clients in Europe, you often stop over for a couple of hours in Heathrow or Gatwick to talk to potential clients or suppliers on your way past – no moment wasted!  The size of the business parks and industrial estates for both of these airports bear witness to this.

What if you could fly in to Newcastle, speak to potential suppliers and clients there; then take the shuttle to Heathrow, speak to more key contacts there, before carrying on to your final destination in Europe?

That’s why I’d like to see high speed rail links between our MAJOR AIRPORTS.

Not between the major cities, where there are all sorts of problems building the final mile through city, and where there are inevitable arguments how many places it stops along the way – but from one airport to the other, making use of the airport-city links that each major airport has.  Heathrow to Leeds-Bradford.  Leeds-Bradford to Newcastle.  Newcastle to Edinburgh.  Edinburgh to Aberdeen.  Newcastle to Heathrow in under 2 hours (getting close to the amount of time it takes to change terminals at London Heathrow), with only one stop on the way.  Perhaps even carriages which are Air Side?

How much would these links cost?  To tell the truth, I don’t know.  But I bet it’s on a par with the cost of another runway at Heathrow, and certainly less than Boris Island, to run the high speed link up the East Coast.  Heathrow already has links with London – Paddington Express for West London, Picadilly Line for Central London.  Leeds-Bradford airport already has high speed links to its local cities.  Newcastle, Edinburgh, the infrastructure to get from city to airport are already in place.  We might need some new high speed links between local airports, say Glasgow and Edinburgh, Newcastle and Durham/Tees Valley, when the idea catches on.

How much would we get back?  Well BAA (British Airports Authority Limited, in turn owned by the Spanish group Ferrovial) might lose out, as all of those domestic flights don’t need to pay landing charges, so they might object.  Boris and the South East might object to the number of jobs being created in the rest of the country, because they might reduce the monopoly that London has on high paying jobs.  But the regions would benefit handsomely.

An investment to create jobs

UK with rail links joining airports
High speed rail links between airports will save air traffic and pollution, and be low cost

International business travelers, landing at one airport and departing from another, would generate masses more business locally.  Of course the airports would be busier and generate more income (including income from business lounges where our intrepid travelers met the potential suppliers and customers).  But the key increase in wealth would come from the extra links between businesses internationally, the increased opportunities to buy and sell, to import and export, to collaborate creatively and create wealth, and with the wealth creation, to create jobs.

At the moment, many of the England Regions, and three of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom, are heavily dependent on public money, on public jobs.  This is because many of the commercial jobs are concentrated in the south east.  Even though manufacturing is out here in the regions, the bits that make a profit are the companies that import and export, or the head offices of these big manufacturing companies.  And they are in the majority in the South East – because the transport links to suppliers and to customers (international) are in the South East.

This investment will create jobs.  And that’s what we want?  Yes, that’s what we want.  I want to make the North East great again, as great as it was when the North East of England exported gospels and scriptural teaching to the whole world; as it was when we exported wool to the whole world; when British inventions and British industry was known worldwide; when we built the best ships; and we can be great again. Of course the exports will be new, but it will be great.

If I were running the country, what would I do?  Well, I’d create more jobs, and more jobs in the regions, for a start.

Originally published 7th July 2013.  Revised 16 February 2014.

The business case for HS2 continues to show poor ROI, with a benefits approach that attempts to create “benefits” for a political decision.