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Lesley's Column

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14th November 2016

Why we need integrated transport planning

Challenges lie ahead for the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport, and democratic processes, legal challenges and further consultations are likely to stymie its progress – just like HS2.

What we seem to lack as a country is a national integrated transport plan. If Heathrow is to be developed then its transport links must be improved. If we do nothing, road traffic in the area is likely to come to a stand still.
Currently, the only rail links to the airport are from Central London. Everyone else has to approach the airport by road (normally the congested M25). There are vague plans to improve rail links from the south and west (but no timelines) and, of course, the government has already scrapped plans to connect Heathrow to HS2.
So, for those of us not living in London, we could be left with a situation where a 150-mile journey to the airport takes longer than a 1,500 mile flight – and that excludes time allowed for check-in and security!
A sensibly implemented integrated transport policy would offer rail as the primary domestic mode of transport throughout the UK (similar to France where domestic air travel has been largely replaced by high speed trains) and would include connections to all our main airports.
Very few of our airports have good rail links (Gatwick and Birmingham being the main exceptions), so we must improve connections to airports such as Stansted, Manchester and Edinburgh if these hubs are going to develop, or face even more road congestion.
Running HS2 via Heathrow is common sense but politics dictate that our government has to focus on short-term budgeting. We need the travel industry – both leisure and corporate – to lobby more strongly for integrated transport improvements. After all, aren’t we supposed to be the experts?