Previously on Unfinished London Eh, Eh, Eh, Eh, Eh, Eh, Eh, Eh, Eh, Eh, Eh [♫♫♫] London has six airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Southend, City But the biggest and most important by far is Heathrow. Here it is in 1945. It used to have six runways arranged in this shape, and here it is in 2014 Two of the runways have been embiggened so that today’s massive planes can use them The terminal has been completely rebuilt and new ones added Here, here, here and here The four old runways haven’t been used for decades because they’re too short now, but they can still clearly be seen. From above you can see just how huge Heathrow has now become. Today Heathrow has become the busiest international airport on the planet. [MILD APPLAUSE] More than a third of the 70 million passengers who use Heathrow every year are not even visiting London. They’re changing planes on all sorts of improbable journeys From Hong Kong to Honduras, Moscow to Miami and Aberdeen to Abu Dhabi. Why should we care about all these people who use our airport without even popping in to say hello? Well… They bring in cash from the airport tax, [KA-CHING] They bring in cash for British Airlines [KA-CHING] Passengers with a long wait for their connecting flight will spend a night in London, contributing to the local economy, [KA-CHING] And it makes London the best place to do business [CASINO JACKPOT] [BALLOON BURST ] But not for long. Heathrow with its two runways is starting to fall massively behind its rival hub airports in Europe Such as Paris Charles De Gaulle which operates 24 hours a day Madrid-Barajas, which has four huge runways and Amsterdam Schiphol with a staggering six runways and still room to expand further if it wants to Everywhere you look around the world, this is what modern airports are supposed to look like in 2014 And Heathrow is starting to look helplessly small. Poor Heathrow can’t expand because its location In what’s now become the middle of the suburbs means it’s hemmed in by thousands of disgruntled neighbours. So what’s it like living next door to the world’s busiest airport? Well as you can imagine, it’s impossible… [JET ENGINE NOISE] …and human sacrifices. To placate the residents of Hounslow, Richmond and Windsor… [JET ENGINE NOISE] SHUT UP! The British Aviation Authority has a number of restrictions on the airport. No flights are allowed between 11pm and 5am, so the locals can get some sleep [BEEP] [JET ENGINE NOISE] But during the day planes can take off every 46 seconds. If the slightest delay occurs, the knock-on effects can go on for hours. And landing is really tricky too. In such a crowded airport, planes often have to go round and round in circles waiting for the runway to be free. Isn’t that just typically British! Just like with our trains and our sport, we got there first and now we’re the worst! In 2001, a plan was put forward to get Heathrow back in competition. And it was one of the most controversial British plans in British planning history plans. They suggested building a third runway north of the current two. All they had to do to make room for it was destroy an entire village. Very unsurprisingly the local residents were furious and terrified. A massive Don’t Expand Heathrow campaign was started Backed by Greenpeace, the Conservative Party and celebrity impressionist Alistair McGowan. So the designers apologized and came up with a better plan Extending the current runways to the west, where the only things in the way are the M25 and a reservoir. Again, why didn’t they just think of that in the first place? But the protesters still weren’t happy. The point was, an expanded Heathrow would become the biggest producer of CO2 in the country, A pretty irresponsible move given how serious we now know the issue of climate change to be. “Expanding Heathrow would be a disaster!” But if Heathrow stayed at its current size it would lose its hub status within a decade. If Heathrow falls behind, London falls behind And if London falls behind, the UK falls behind And that simply couldn’t be allowed to happen Ow! A massive Do Expand Heathrow campaign was started, Backed by airlines, trade unions and celebrity business beard Richard Branson “Not expanding Heathrow would be a disaster!” [PUNCHING] It seems that no matter what the government decide to do they’ll be pissing off a lot of people. How on earth do you reconcile the demands of the locals, the economy, the airlines and the environment? One man who thinks he has the solution to everything is Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Ah! Ah! I propose that we open an airport in the sea [UNINTELLIGIBLE MUFFLED SPEECH] Boris Island, like many other things named after him, wasn’t actually his idea, But I have to admit it is a really catchy name. It’s basically the same idea as the one suggested in the 1970s by Captain Stupidname And building an airport on reclaimed land in the middle of the sea has been done loads of times before The Japanese do it all the time. Kansai, Narita, Chubu, Nagasaki The advantages of Boris Island can be most clearly seen from Google Earth. The site is huge! There’s space for four runways, plus plenty of room in the sea for a few more. Planes can take off and land 24 hours a day because it’s over water rather than land So there’s no one nearby to complain about the noise. At least, no one who matters. But the scheme has plenty of disadvantages too. Boris Island raises more questions than it answers such as… How are people going to get from London to the new airport? More trains onto the already crowded High Speed 1?
A new motorway? There’s not much room for either of those. What about the environment? The Thames Estuary airport is no better for CO2 emissions than an expanded Heathrow In fact it’s a lot worse. How long is it going to take? If Boris Island does go ahead it won’t be finished for at least another 30 years, and I don’t plan to live that long. And finally, the biggest question of them all, who’s going to pay for it? Sources estimate that the entire scheme will cost more than a hundred thousand pounds. While the politicians bicker about whether or not Boris Island will ever actually be built There’s something I’m particularly fascinated by that no one seems to have mentioned. If Boris Island replaces Heathrow and Heathrow gets closed, What are they going to put in its place? We’ve already seen what happened to London’s first generation of airports that closed in the 50s, But Heathrow different from all of these because it’s [BEEP]ing huge! It’s 3,000 acres of totally flat land served by the Piccadilly Line and Crossrail and the M4 and the M25, And millions of people already living nearby So, what would you do with Heathrow? Farming mostly, west London needs a green lung A massive lawn with an angry guy telling you to “Get off my land!” A house big enough for your mum Solve our prison overcrowding problem by building an offender’s village An airport? Hahahahahahaha! Game of Thrones land! Dun dun dada dun dun This is all nonsense. It’ll basically be another Canary Wharf. I’m a geography teacher Nando’s! hashtag Nando’s, hashtag I love Nando’s Disappointingly it turns out that if they built Boris Island, Heathrow is staying open anyway. So if Boris Island is too radical, and expanding Heathrow is too unpopular, Then what else could we do to solve the capacity problem? Stansted and Luton have both offered themselves up for enbiggening, Arrogantly thinking they can replace Heathrow Gatwick wants to build a second runway and there’s even talk of connecting up Gatwick to Heathrow with a new railway in the naive assumption that travellers will be willing to use both airports as a super inconvenient double hub. There is a fourth option: doing nothing. After all, is London justified in wishing to remain an international hub? If you actually look at the economic argument, it’s all built on potential future business Suspiciously, everybody who says that London needs an international hub stands to make quite a lot of money from it. Is it just possible that Heathrow’s future as a decent sized airport really wouldn’t be so bad? In any case it’s not up to me. Going on right now as we speak, is a commission to answer the question once and for all Sir Howard Davies, the modern-day equivalent of Roskill has until the general election in 2015 to come up with the answer. Whatever he decides, we won’t know if he’s made the right decision until about 2053, when it’ll be really obvious what he should have done. The future has always been about flying. A simulation that the future doesn’t look right unless it’s got things whizzing through the air. But what does the future really hold for air travel? Will there be bigger planes? Vertical take-off? Space travel? The end of civilization before technology has time to improve? We have no option but to guess. We’ve been getting it slightly wrong for the last hundred years and it looks like we’ll continue getting it wrong for many years to come. [♫♫♫]