Come fly with me (in one possible, distant future).

Quick, phone your granny, a ‘truly momentous’ thing has happened. Yesterday the government finally made a decision on Heathrow, a decision they had been putting off since roughly 12 years before the Wright brothers were born. The reason they put off the decision is that, just as with nuclear power and assisted dying it was debated over by a group of people who are terrified of saying the wrong thing (or the right thing, come to think of it) in case they get voted out next time. Of course that’s simplifying it a little: we do have a splendid Parliamentary system which we should be pleased with, and also consider that several proposals have offered lots of options on Heathrow which will impact, for better or worse, on an awful lot of people. These things should not be taken too lightly.
The point is that delaying this decision so long means that what we could have started X number of months/years ago is now only just beginning to creak into forward motion and in this ever expanding country that’s simply too slow. This whole thing has run on since 1968 (really) and since then London and its surroundings have changed well beyond measure and even further beyond prediction. The BBC states, with little apparent panic, that ‘if all goes to plan, the planning process should be over by 2020/2021 – which is a big if, given the scale of opposition’. Shiver my timbers (I’ve deliberately stopped using foul language for a bit) that’s at least 4 years before any one picks up a spirit level or kicks a bulldozer into gear. At least the high-viz jacket industry wins, whatever the outcome.
I’ll be half way to 50 before anything starts whirring or rattling down Heathrow way. By then many of the people who live near the proposed site of runaway 3 will have had several years to sell up or shut up or die. What is more for all anyone knows the planning could over-run, which let’s face it is a huge likelihood given our track record, or even worse be blasted from the skies by the ‘opposition’ 3 years in, wasting vast amount of money. On the plus side Zac Goldsmith might be an ever longer, more forgotten memory. Silver linings etc.
What’s not a silver lining is the fresh news that the new runway could be built over the existing M25. I can appreciate that if you live anywhere other than the South East and rarely visit then this will mean very little to you, it’s a bit like a Brexit thing; what matters to some matters little to others. Let me put it in perspective: if you listen to the national traffic news there is always one stretch of motorway that never fails to get a mention. Oh I know the Dartford Crossing and Blackwater Tunnel don’t do well and the M6 between Birmingham and Manchester usually gets a thorough kicking. Plus there’s occasionally a stretch of the Dundee ring road causing hold ups for as many as 7 commuters. But the stretch that is beyond kicking, that is permanently flopped, limp in the gutter coughing into a pool of its own blood is the Heathrow stretch of the M25. Between J16 and J19, in both directions, is awful, permanently. Ok, not at 3 in the morning but you get the idea.
It’s bad enough that traffic will get even worse over the years as more people inevitably gravitate towards the big stink (because Osbourne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is going no-where even slower than the 3rd runway). It’s also bad enough that this stretch of the M25 has already been expanded by a gorilla with a hammer leaving a not-so-super highway that then bottlenecks dramatically every 2 miles. And it’s bad enough that at peak times (5am – 8pm) it takes roughly an hour to cover 8 inches of ground. So what’s the big plan? Build a huge great slope over the busiest bits of the busiest road in Britain so that enormous planes can get a bit of a bump up as drivers slow down to take a quick look. I don’t (mercifully) have to use that stretch much and I pity the poor souls that do.
Anyway, things ARE grinding into action and just like Brexit it will now become very dull until those days when there is no news, at which point it will be splashed all over the front pages again before it’s overtaken by a mass murderer, or a idiot’s dog eating their own child or someone really famous dying or another DJ confessing to fiddling with the entire underage population of Swindon. Call me cynical but is it not also quite likely that in 10 years time, when the new runway might open, we’ll be in consultation over a 4th one. The other irony is that I bet you when a couple who live 3 miles from Heathrow try to book a holiday they’ll still always get Gatwick or Stanstead. Because that’s just Sod’s Law and unlike Heathrow expanding there’s even less anyone can do about it.
Watch this (air) space (single drum hit plus brief symbol tap).
G B Hewitt. 26.10.2016

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