I’ve flown from and to a few Airports in my time. Barcelona, when I drove up to the old terminal & parked across the road – more recently the marvelous new Terminal 1 for Mobile World Congress. Frankfurt, when I would fly in to see the Dell team. Schipol, Amsterdam, to hop on to trains for Utrecht, Eindhoven and Maastricht. San Francisco for numerous Bay Area Meetings………… All of them had a presence, a character, a way of welcoming you to the Brand of the Country / City.
Heathrow has been somewhat of a second homeover the years, as I have used it for business since the mid 1990s, taking flights every couple of weeks to destinations in other European countries, the US and Asia. Indeed having easy access from my base in Windsor, has for certain perspectives, been rather advantageous, as it is only a 15 minute taxi ride away. Two of my neighbours are employed in international logistics and by BA. However, and it’s a very large however, my work and home life, and a large number of other west-of-London residents, have been affected by the organic and uncontrolled rise of Heathrow, coupled with short-term priorities, dire transport links and finite space for expansion, mean it is no longer a suitable or sustainable site for the next 50 years (granted Terminal 5 is an excellent experience). However due to procrastination going back to the 1970s, Heathrow may need to be an immediate and forced solution for air traffic volume expansion!
Britain’s international position in the world, and her standing as brand for global business / culture, with the right transport links, are critical subjects. Britain must continue to be an International Brand, based on her size and location, and an economy based on services, finance, science, engineering and high-end manufacturing, which need diverse links and trading alliances. We must therefore have a Global Airport, and integrated transport / communications, as a key aspect of such a positioning strategy.
A grander vision for the British Brand is needed, with an airport, transport network and communications infrastructure, that reflects our future as a centre of commercial and cultural excellence in the 21st century. An Estuary-based Airport (should it be the chosen site) would better serve London’s Commercial Centres as they move to the east-end – Canary Wharf, Excel Centre, O2 Arena, Olympic site and The City of London. (or possibly near Abingdon, one of my old stomping-grounds, for a more central-southern hub!?) Cross-rail would allow air passengers, to travel swiftly to a new airport hub from west to east (and potentially north to south at some stage). Taking off towards and landing from the sea would have the least impact on south-east England residents. There could be a fresh look at how rail (HS2, Cross-Rail, other rail services), and other modes of transport, could be optimally linked to Britain’s Hub Airport.
Whatever the location, a new airport and integrated transport network is much needed, and would be a statement of Britain’s forward-looking and innovative intent.