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The ascent of man

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Following Eleni Courea’s Observer story about Northern MPs telling Labour leaders to change their mind on HS2, the shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald and the Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham both made statements repeating the party line (i.e., ‘We back HS2’, ‘We back Crossrail for the North / Northern powerhouse rail’, ‘It’s not a case of either or’).

twitter, @OliverCooper, 'Depressing to see Labour double down on HS2'

Labour politicians nowadays use the term ‘Crossrail for the North‘ instead of ‘Northern powerhouse rail’, because the term ‘Northern powerhouse’ is seen as being associated with George Osborne.

twitter, @MayorofGM, 'The North needs HS2 and NPR'

However, Mr Burnham’s words were “The North needs HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail“. His statement also served as an inadvertent reminder of how much transport thinking and expenditure in the North is dominated by the wants of Manchester airport, over the needs of everywhere else.

Even the city of Manchester itself is in thrall to ‘MAN’, as is plain to see from the design of the Ordsall chord, and the use of vast quantities of public cash to build a poorly designed tram line out to the airport.

Andy Burnham statement on HS2 and NPR, Oct 2018 width=

Written by beleben

October 29, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Mind the (two kilometre) gap

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Would Birmingham airport really be ’40 minutes from central London with HS2′?

Twitter, SmithTonyD, Birmingham Airport would be 40 minutes from central London with HS2

The journey time just from Euston to the ‘Interchange’ HS2 station site at Middle Bickenhill — 2 kilometres away from the airport — would be 40 minutes.

There are plans for some kind of ‘people mover’ to link the high speed station site, the existing ‘Birmingham International’ station, and the airport terminal. (Presumably, the existing Doppelmayr International-station to-airport-cable car would be demolished.)

Bickenhill 'Birmingham interchange' station site (HS2 Ltd)

On 6 June 2012, the Birmingham Post reported airport chief executive Paul Kehoe asserting that moving the passenger terminals more than half a mile east, to be closer to the planned HS2 interchange, “may sound daft but it has to happen”.

It does sound daft, but it looks like it is not going to happen. And Birmingham airport is not going to be 40 minutes from central London by HS2.

Written by beleben

October 7, 2016 at 9:18 am

HS2 and Birmingham Airport growth

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HS2 could “help attract 750,000 additional passengers” each year to Birmingham Airport, according to The West Midlands Aviation Opportunity report produced by York Aviation.

Birmingham Airport, 'The West Midlands Aviation Opportunity' report (press release), 10 October 2015

Birmingham Airport, ‘The West Midlands Aviation Opportunity’ report was commissioned by the owners of Birmingham airport (press release, extract, 10 Oct 2015)

The report also claimed that another 2.9 million passengers could be attracted to the airport by ‘cutting Air Passenger Duty [APD] by 100%’. So for increasing the number of airport users, cutting the rate of APD would seem to be much more effective than building HS2.

In 2013, according to the Civil Aviation Authority, 72.3 million passengers used London Heathrow airport (which was 3.4% more than in 2012). In 2014, Heathrow handled 73.4 million passengers (+1.4% on 2013) and Gatwick, 38.1 million (+7.5% on 2013).

Birmingham Airport, 'The West Midlands Aviation Opportunity' report (press release), 10 Oct 2015

Birmingham Airport, ‘The West Midlands Aviation Opportunity’ report (press release), 10 Oct 2015

It should be apparent that bringing an additional 0.75 million passengers to Birmingham airport with HS2, would not provide much in the way of capacity relief in terms of the overall aviation demand in South East England. Why ‘increasing the number of travellers flying to and from Birmingham Airport’, or bringing HS2 to the airport, should be public policy objectives, remains unexplained.

Written by beleben

October 12, 2015 at 9:18 am

Posted in Aviation, Birmingham, HS2

Against the Grain

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London mayor Boris Johnson launched a ‘withering attack’ on the Airports Commission, after the panel set up to decide where to build additional runways in the south-east finally ruled out his plan for a new hub in the Thames estuary, the Guardian reported (2 September 2014).

Proposed Boris airport on the Isle of Grain

[‘Boris Johnson attacks ‘myopic’ Airports Commission as estuary plan is rejected’, The Guardian, 2 Sep 2014]

The verdict leaves only Gatwick and Heathrow on the final shortlist for the commission’s ultimate recommendation for additional runway capacity in south-east England.

Johnson said the decision was looking like “a smokescreen for a U-turn on Heathrow”.

Chairman of the Commission Sir Howard Davies said the huge cost, economic disruption and environmental concerns associated with a Thames estuary airport made it unviable, the BBC reported.


The proposal for a Thames Estuary airport – dubbed Boris Island because of the mayor’s strong backing – would have led to the development of a four-runway airport on the Isle of Grain.

The name “Boris Island” had previously been associated with an airport scheme for the outer Thames Estuary (beyond the Isle of Grain). In 2013, Testrad, the agency formed by Bridget Rosewell and Doug Oakervee, was still promoting the original “Boris Island” as ‘London Britannia Airport’. Ms Rosewell and Mr Oakervee have also been involved in the HS2 high speed rail project.

Testrad chief executive Bridget Rosewell

Did anyone mention ‘huge cost’, ‘economic disruption’, and ‘environmental damage’?

Written by beleben

September 3, 2014 at 11:55 am

HS1 and Boris airport

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The Mayor of London’s “infrastructure 2050” transport strategy paper included a diagram showing a new ‘hub airport’ connected to HS1, and ‘connectivity brought about by an HS2 – HS1 link’.

Mayor of London: 'connectivity brought about by an HS2 - HS1 link' (official)

Mayor of London: ‘connectivity brought about by an HS2 – HS1 link’ (official)

If Boris airport were to be built in such a way, most of the traffic on HS1 would probably end up being short distance (to and from the air terminal). A high frequency service to Boris airport from west London, and beyond, would require a double track tunnel.


  • at Old Oak Common, the service pattern on the proposed HS2 railway would severely limit, or preclude, HS1-to-HS2 through trains
  • Stratford International HS1 station box was not designed to facilitate a connection to west London, so the costings might need to factor in a “Stratford International 2” or suchlike.
'Connectivity brought about by an HS2 - HS1 link' (more realistic)

‘Connectivity brought about by an HS2 – HS1 link’ (more realistic)

Written by beleben

August 13, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Aviation, HS1, HS2, Politics

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Scramble scandal

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An RAF Typhoon fighter was scrambled, no doubt at a cost of thousands of pounds, to ‘escort’ a Qatar Airways Airbus into Manchester Airport today after the crew received a threat about a “device” on board, the Telegraph reported (5 August 2014).

In what turned out to be a suspected hoax, Greater Manchester Police launched a “full emergency” response as officers did not “know how genuine this threat is”.

The plane involved was a A330-300 with 282 people on board and the RAF plane was a Typhoon from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

One might ask, what exactly scrambling fighter jet(s) could achieve?

The Typhoon pilot would have the ability to (i) visually inspect the airliner exterior, (ii) visually signal to the Airbus pilots, or (iii) shoot down the airliner. So which of those abilities were useful in today’s incident?

Answer: none of them. In general, scrambling fighter jets to ‘escort’ airliners is completely pointless.

Written by beleben

August 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Aviation

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HS2 and Birmingham Airport

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One of the HS2 project’s many oddities is the inclusion of a “Birmingham Interchange” parkway station at Middle Bickenhill, apparently as a result of lobbying by Birmingham Airport.

Birmingham Airport's John Morris holds a Westbourne 'Yes to High Speed Rail' placard at a photo-opp in Birmingham's Victoria Square, 2011

According to the Airport’s 2006 – 2012 Surface Access Strategy, “The high cost of rail investment make it unlikely that further significant investment by the Birmingham Airport Company, in either rail services or off-site rail facilities, would be justified“.

So the airport is not happy spending its own money on rail infrastructure, but is quite happy if someone else picks up the bill.

Birmingham Airport, surface access mode shares, 1996 to 2006

Birmingham Airport, surface access mode shares, 1996 to 2006

Written by beleben

April 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm