LETTER: Spend to improve what we have got

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I am not sure I agree with Councillor Roger Arthur’s premise that the solution to the airport problem is to build a new field in the Thames area. That will cost at least £50 billion and the figure is climbing fast.

In addition, UK’s track record of major projects is hardly inspiring: look at the time it took to build access to the Channel Tunnel link to London; examine the ongoing saga of HS2.

So I am disturbed at this continuing idea that building expensive projects is a panacea for our creaking infrastructure. It is all very well for the rich countries rolling in surplus wealth, but we should be concentrating on spending to improve what we have got first.

Shoehorn in extra rail track on the overloaded main routes in the South East and elsewhere, to give a better service to the poor punters trying to get to work etc. Let’s improve the existing roads, A 27, M 25, A 303 and many others. Make better hospital provision, before the NHS collapses. Once this is done and we have surplus money, maybe we can look at new, grandiose and very expensive schemes.

So, what about airports? Well, first let us see what we actually need. I am not convinced that we will really need all this forecast extra capacity. Perhaps a modest increase will suffice for the next 20 years or so.

Regional airports can be expanded, but commercial pressures will really only accept one main hub for UK. That is Heathrow and it will remain so for the foreseeable future. My recollection is that it was full in the mid-1970s.

But it is still going and some experts say that it can accept a bit more traffic with intelligent management. It could be expanded, but the environmental impact will be totally unacceptable.

A possible solution would be to look at Gatwick and a close-in southern runway. At the same time, look at improving connections with Heathrow, to see if the airports can work in tandem. Some sort of high speed link may be possible and this could also reduce the wasteful duplication of flights from both airports, thus freeing up slots.

However, equally important is a draconian reduction of existing and future environmental effects.

I am convinced this can be done by altering the vertical profile of flights, whilst ensuring the lateral tracks are designed to minimise noise to those who live nearby.

Especially there should be no repetition of the asinine attempt to change flight paths so recently trialled.

PETER BURGESS

(Con) Horsham district councillor for Holbrook West, North Street, Horsham