Former Tory transport ministers attack Coalition over Heathrow and HS2

The Telegraph, as part of its campaign for a Heathrow 3rd runway, has located three old Tory grandees, who used to have senior roles in transport, many governments back. John Stewart commented on Twitter that “For the Sunday Telegraph to wheel out Cecil Parkinson in support of a 3rd runway is desperate even for an August story”.  The Telegraph has Lord Parkinson, Steve Norris and Christopher Chope saying they believe the Government’s delay over its airport policy is damaging Britain’s economic interests.They realise an airport in the Thames estuary is unrealistic financially. Steve Norris enthused about a “twin hub” of  Heathrow and Stansted, with Heathrow to a major hub serving the US and South America and Stansted as a hub servicing Europe and Asia. They all also opposed HS2. This is just part of a campaign to get rid of Justine Greening.  Then Steve Norris replied, irritated by the Telegraph, pushing his idea about Stansted being developed – with 4 runways – as the new hub airport.


Former Tory transport ministers attack Coalition over Heathrow and HS2

Three former Conservative transport ministers have attacked the Government’s airport and rail strategy, urging the Coalition to press ahead with a third runway at Heathrow and abandon the controversial £32 billion HS2 rail project.

[The three they have chosen are:
Cecil Parkinson.  Minister for Transport 24 July 1989 – 28 November 1990
Steve Norris. Minister for Transport 1992 to ?
Christopher Chope. Minister for Roads and Traffic 1990-92 ]

By , Deputy Political Editor (Telegraph)

4 Aug 2012

Lord Parkinson, Steve Norris and Christopher Chope believe the Government’s delay over its airport policy is damaging Britain’s economic interests.

They fear plans for a new super airport in the Thames estuary would come at an unacceptable cost to the taxpayer.

The Tory grandees, who served as ministers in the Thatcher or Major governments, also have a range of concerns about the proposed high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. One said the project was based on “ludicrous” assumptions.

The criticism adds to the pressure on Justine Greening, the current Transport Secretary, who last month delayed publishing the Government’s consultation on how to expand airport capacity in the South East until the autumn.

David Cameron ruled out plans for another runway for Heathrow shortly before the 2010 General Election.

However, the Prime Minister said recently that he had an “open mind” about how to increase airport capacity in the South East and that there was a “range options and possibilities”.

His comments were interpreted as a clear signal that the Tories may reverse their previous opposition to expanding Heathrow.

Liberal Democrats would fiercely oppose any about-turn. However, it is understood that George Osborne, the Chancellor, and other senior Tories are convinced that expanding the airport is the only way to cope with an impending “capacity crunch” in south-east England.

Lord Parkinson said he expected the Government would change course on Heathrow expansion “relatively quickly”.

“I think the Treasury is looking at the cost of the alternatives and realising that the cheapest and most straightforward medium-term solution is to have another runway at Heathrow,” he said.

The peer also cast doubt on the future of an airport in the Thames estuary, saying the chances of the project happening were “virtually zilch” due to the high costs not just of building it, but also of providing the necessary road and rail links.

Mr Norris said a “twin hub” of London Heathrow and Stansted was now a sensible solution because adding a spur off Crossrail, the new train line being built under the capital, could reduce travel times between the two airports to around one hour.

“We could build up Heathrow to a major hub serving the US and South America. Stansted would be a hub servicing Europe and Asia. It would be a far more cost-effective option, costing in the region of £5 billion,” he said.

The former ministers also spoke out against about the proposed new rail route between London, Birmingham and ultimately the North, which would carry trains travelling at more than 200mph.

A hybrid bill for the line is expected to be put before Parliament next year.

A High Court judge last week granted opponents the right to seek judicial review of the project. If the challenge succeeds, the Government will have to rerun the consultation process, delaying the scheme by at least two years.

Lord Parkinson said estimates of how many passengers would travel on the new line were “ludicrous”.

“I am very sceptical about the whole thing. I see it as of limited value and almost unlimited expense,” he added.

Christopher Chope described HS2 as “an extremely expensive example of political folly”.

“We would get a lot more bang for our buck from this £32 billion in some new motorways, bypasses and upgrading the existing rail network,” he added.


One of the many comments:

Steve Norris was a road industry lobbyist so you won’t get any sense out of him.  Parkinson was just ludicrous and who on earth was Chope?  Between them they made such a pigs of privatising the railways they now cost the taxpayer more than BR did.  Sold off in one block like Gas would have made sense, split into bits just to line the pockets of their city friends did not.  If these three clowns are against anything  it must be a good thing.


John Stewart, on Twitter, said:

For the Sunday Telegraph to wheel out Cecil Parkinson in support of a 3rd runway is desperate even for an August story


Poor journalism from Sun Telegraph. Implies 3 former Tory transport ministers support 3rd runway. Only one says he does



And then Steve Norris got in a response to the Telegraph story:

Stansted Should Be the New Hub Airport

Steve Norris is annoyed with the Telegraph for misrepresenting his view on coalition transport policy.

By Steve Norris

5 Aug 2012

[It is rather long, but the bit about Stansted says:

…. Which leaves us Stansted, home to Ryanair and few others, ignored by most seasoned travellers not least because of its poor rail connections and a motorway that is two lanes wide in places.  Twenty years ago Stansted looked distinctly unappealling as a second hub – but how times change.  London now has Crossrail to look forward to.  Long overdue, the new railway opens up new opportunities for jobs and development in the whole Thames Gateway.  And it can do more.  As experienced rail planner Michael Schabas has pointed out, a new line from east of Stratford, first in a 10K tunnel to Fairlop Water and then tracking alonside the M11 to Sawbridgeworth and straight into Stansted is now practicable, buildable and compared to all other options, affordable.  Adding the widening within highway land of the M11 to 3 lanes would still cost around £5bn in total.  Capacity exists to run a train every 7 or 8 minutes direct from the airport to Stratford, then Liverpool Street and then much more significantly, to Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street and if necessary right through to Heathrow without the passenger ever having to change trains.  The west end stops would be half an hour from the airport.  Added to which, the blunt truth is that Stansted is the only London airport on which four runways could be built without disproportionate damage to the surrounding area.  Note I don’t say no damage.  Such a plan would be fiercely and passsionately opposed.  But if there has to be a new runway and perhaps another in a decade’s time, then the least worst option is Stansted.