I wrote the other day about the inconsistency in Transport Secretary Lord Adonis’ position on the planned third Heathrow runway, given that he aims to replace the UK’s short-haul air travel with a high speed rail network. It looks as though it’s not really inconsistent after all:
High Speed Two, the company charged with proposing a north-south route, is working on a business model that features a Heathrow station but does not factor in a new runway at the UK’s largest airport, reflecting Tory policy to block expansion.
In an interview with the Guardian, the High Speed Two chairman, Sir David Rowlands, and the company’s chief engineer, Andrew McNaughton, said the scheme required a plan that could be used by a Labour or Conservative government. “Our ambition is to produce a report that is useful to the government before and after the election. We are modelling Heathrow with and without a third runway, so that it is equally useful to either kind of government.”
So despite the Department for Transport still publicly supporting the third runway, HS2 is essentially being set up under the premise that it will never happen. It makes plenty of sense, since moving away from domestic, short haul air travel removes entirely the justification for a third runway; the expansion predicted for Heathrow would be generated entirely by short haul travel. Good news all around really – it’s been crazy that Spain, a country moving out from a dictatorship merely 25 years ago, should imminently have the largest high speed rail network in Europe, that China (a country which notably has banks under state control) should be aiming to have the largest network in the world, whilst Britain makes do merely with the recently completed HS1. I don’t care if it’s a policy being introduced to damn the Tories if they decide it can’t be afforded after they win next year – if we’re on the road to HS2 and beyond, I’m pleased.