There are plenty of illustrations of Britain’s laughing stock status in the modern world. Our utter failure to complete major infrastructure projects on time, on budget or at all (in some cases) is one of them. In layman’s language we just faff around.
Whilst most of Europe has joined Japan and, more recently China, in having high speed rail networks we have just one short line in Kent. Whilst cities from Dubai to Berlin have modern airports London has four ageing ones each in the wrong place with inadequate capacity and little or no coordination (and no transport) between them.
Pessimism about future air travel is misplaced. Whilst the pandemic has reduced demand this is surely a temporary blip. And when demand turns up again, as it will, London will be ill-equipped to cope. I lived in Hong Kong in the 1980s when the planning for a major new airport was underway. It was delivered ten years later an island having been reconfigured to make way for it !
LHR has always been a hub airport with long distance travellers frequently changing planes there. This generates income both for the airlines that operate out of it and for the nation. Inadequate capacity drives this traffic away – to Amsterdam or Paris and in the future, one suspects, to Berlin whose new airport has just opened.
Of course Little England may drive demand away if the worst happens and Brexit tanks our economy. But if the presumption is that somehow we will weather the storm of our isolation one way or another we will need substantially increased airport capacity for our capital city. If a brand new high capacity airport is ruled out then a third runway at Heathrow and a second one at Gatwick will be essential. Let’s get on with it.