Push back and prepare to take off - by David Callam
4th September 2008
... Comments

A PROPOSED auction of London airports is good news for anyone in Croydon who travels by plane.

The Competition Commission - of which, curiously, there is only one - has finally acknowledged the blindingly obvious and recommended that BAA should be required to sell two of its London airports - most likely Gatwick and Stanstead.

There has long been a feeling in business circles that the former British Airports Authority should never have been privatised as a single entity and that the break-up of its commercial successor is long overdue.

An independently owned Gatwick would almost certainly mean an improvement, over time, in the number of destinations offered. That would mean progressively less need for people from Croydon and other parts of south London to make the nightmare journey to west London.

The same argument applies to Stanstead in relation to people from east and north-east London, and large parts of East Anglia - the fastest-growing region in the country.

Heathrow is a 60-year-old planning mistake that we have continued to compound - it is far too close to London, in a much too built-up area to be further developed as the capital's only major airport.

Consider the present controversy over a third runway - something of a make-weight, it seems, since the only available space is a confined area culminating in the junction of two major roads.

I'm told the new runway would be about half the length of the international standard and incapable of servicing an increasing proportion of long-haul flights.

As an alternative, we could follow the French and create a totally new airport for our capital city - possibly on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary. Or we could add a second runway at Stanstead and in due course another at Gatwick.

Both London's other airports are better connected to the capital than Heathrow - Gatwick particularly so. It is served by Capital Connect rail services that link it swiftly and directly with every underground line in London, as well as the national rail network and Eurostar.

Compare that with Heathrow, which is only connected to south London by bus - and there is no possibility of a direct rail link for at least the next ten years.

Enough procrastination - now, can we please get on with it!

Croydon Eye is a weekly commentary written exclusively for The Best of Croydon by David Callam and posted in the blog section every Thursday.

David Callam is a freelance journalist and the former business editor of The Croydon Advertiser. For more examples of his work and to see what he could do for your business please visit www.callamedia.co.uk

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