Cameron attacked over rail and aviation policy

Airport Aviation policy has divided politicians and the public

If there's one thing that gets people going in the South East it's transport.

Understandably so.

Hundreds of thousands of people commute into London on a daily basis for work, so rail links and fares are hugely important.

Aviation is also a big issue. Gatwick is the second biggest airport in the UK.

But with business clamouring for more aviation capacity in the South East could Gatwick provide an answer with a second runway, which could be built after 2019?

Or could Manston airport in Kent help offer a solution to the lack of capacity?

According to Theresa Villiers, the former Transport Minister, it could.

But she's now left the department - as has the former Transport Secretary, Justine Greening.

Both have moved on but left a major headache behind.

Rail debacle

It was revealed this week that rail franchises, including Thameslink, have now been put on hold, after ministers found "significant flaws" in the bidding process on the West Coast Main Line.

The government has admitted getting its figures wrong - the fiasco could cost the taxpayer £40 million - and three civil servants have already been suspended.

Labour has accused Ms Greening and Ms Villiers of being asleep on the job.

David Cameron The rail franchise reversal is hugely embarrassing for the government and David Cameron

But this is also hugely embarrassing for the government.

It's the last thing David Cameron needs as he prepares to face delegates in Birmingham for the Conservative Party's annual conference.

When I spoke to him he didn't hide his anger.

He reassured customers that the railways would continue to run as normal.

But he said: "Clearly this is very disappointing. I'm extremely angry about how this was allowed to happen. Clearly there has been a fault in the department.

"We need to get to the bottom of that and that's why a review will be carried out."

He warned that if mistakes have been made people would pay the price for that.

His problems didn't end there though.

Aviation controversy

He and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, may be former school mates and went to Oxford together, but his old friend is not scared of making trouble for the Prime Minister.

In the run up to conference he launched his strongest attack yet on aviation policy in the South East.

He said: "The government programme to address the looming aviation capacity crunch in the UK is far too slow and I am hugely concerned that their intended timetable sets a course for economic catastrophe."

Virgin train The way that rail franchises have been handled has come under attack from government critics

The criticism is damaging for the Prime Minister as critics accuse him of dithering over the big decisions.

The aviation review will not report back until 2015 - after the next general election.

He also appears to be presiding over a Department for Transport which is in disarray - unable to decide future aviation strategy but now unable to award rail franchises.

This has led to Holyrood's Transport Minister branding the department as "shambolic".

The new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has a lot to get to grips with.

He's already ordered two independent reviews into railway franchising.

He'll also have to give evidence to the Commons Transport Committee within weeks when he's likely to face some very tough questions.

Louise Stewart Article written by Louise Stewart Louise Stewart Political editor, South East

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  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Wisley? (Ducks for cover.....)

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Don't let the NIMBYs take over the agenda. I have lived within earshot of Luton Airport all my life and I see no problem with expanding Luton Airport.
    The extra jobs and economic activity is much needed since the decline of manufacturing in this area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    1 - Heathrow's 3rd runway is aircraft stands for Terminals One and Two. LHR had SIX runways, the missing four now too short.
    2 - Heathrow isn't 'full'. Private airlines make profit, not national interest. LHR's 20 daily trips to New York keeps others out. If China wanted slots, who'd say 'go to Manchester?'
    3 - why duplicate short-haul ops when Chunnel under-used?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    When Heathrow was opened after the 2nd world war it had THREE runways, so where is that third one?.As to the fiasco with the rail franchising, it just shows that wee do not have a coalition Government but more like a Coagulation, slowly blocking any chance of this country getting out of the recession. We have to think of the long future too,not just a stop gap measure

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Lyneham and Brize Norton are logical possabilities, agreed. Many countries utilise military airfields for civilian aircraft use.Civil aircraft usualy taxi via appropriate non miltary areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Lets think out of the box ~ spare runway capacity at Lyneham or Brize are significant assets to the west of London either could be supported with fast train link from Heathrow. Rather than build from scratch utilise runways that can cope and have building space around them for easy development. If you hub at Stanstead consider Mildenhall or Lakenheath.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    7. SaChingford
    "London Manston" sounds a bit like a Ryan Air destination. To make any sense of it you would need to expand it significantly, would need a second runway, new terminals and significant improvements to road links and a new rail connection to London. Which London Station would you use? Please don't say London Bridge! Heathrow already has the road and rail links, so does Gatwick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Jeanette (8) - how correct you are. Next local elections I shall definately be voting to remove our current bunch who seem to want to block the whole thing on the ASSUMPTION that the majority are against it and without considering the benefits, yes there are disadvantages but Medway and Kent as a whole NEEDS a POSITIVE future, so lets plan for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Get the airport built in the Medway ASAP. New jobs, new roads, new rail links internationally, new prosperity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    It would be interesting to hear peoples thoughts on Manston.It is capable of taking in reasonable size aircraft and would need investment in terms of infrasctructure.It has reasonable road connections and rail could be linked quite easily.also the local economies of Margate & Ramsgate could well do with a lift.

    what do people think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    This has to have been the most appalling government of all time. So many U-turns they are in a spin. Promises broken; Rail Franchise an utter mess. The NHS being sold piece at a time, with little interest on the patients needs! Their only interest is will this cost me votes! If there is the remotest chance it will then it will fall into the post 2015 'bin'. No way to run a country!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    We need some proper investment in rail in the South East to alleviate congestion and provide new routes. Some radical thinking is needed like BML2 which would open up transport corridors between Gatwick, Stansted, Brighton, Eastbourne, Tunbridge Wells, Canary Wharf and Stratford

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    If capacity requires another runway then build it at Luton Airport. There are existing motorway and mainline rail links to London and, just as importantly, to the Midlands and beyond. There is also plenty of room to expand in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    In answer to your question about Gatwick the last Labour administration favoured a third runway at Heathrow but if this could not be delivered for environmental reasons, then they concluded an extra runway should be provided at Gatwick.
    I agree as this strategy was supported by thorough technical analysis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    We have a government that are hiding from the big decisions. Honesty and openness is what's needed. If these decisions need to be made, then make them, explain them and get on with it. 2015 in unacceptable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Funny how no-one ever mentions expanding Biggin Hill - nothing to do with Boris' brother being the local MP...



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