People living in the vicinity of London's Heathrow Airport have long been wondering if and when a third runway would be built, further disrupting their lives. It looks as if a "yes" or a "no" could come before too long. Last week the decision of Transport Minister Ruth Kelly to resign her post at the next reshuffle, which is thought to happen sooner rather than later, means that there will be a new person to take on the Heathrow headache - a headache because the airport is running at almost full capacity off its two existing runways.
Today has seen another item of news that could have a huge bearing on Heathrow's future. At their annual conference the Tories have declared that they would not build a third runway if they came to power, they would upgrade some of our railways instead. Of course saying something at your party conference doesn't necessarily equate with what you might do in power but the third runway thing is of such fundamental concern to environmental campaigners that it would be very difficult surely for Cameron to change tack if he got into Downing Street.
I've stated before on this blog that I'm very against taking ever more land to extend airports. Making increased use of the existing airport infrastructure at such places as Exeter and Newquay doesn't bother me so much, it's the grabbing of extra land and demolition of homes that irks me.
The importance of Heathrow for business travellers is one of the reasons I've seen advanced for expanding the airport and the thought crossed my mind "I haven't heard anything about London's City Airport for a very long time. Is it still functioning?" Well I've just looked at the wikipedia entry on that very subject and it appears to be going from strength to strength. It now has a railway connection giving rapid access to the financial heart of the capital. I think that its original short runway has been extended a little but it is still quite restricted on the size of planes that can use it.
We seem to have an insatiable appetite for travelling and it's interesting to note ever increasing use of the railways so any upgrading of the system would be welcome in principle. However what didn't come over to me was whether the Tories were looking at a totally new track between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds (I think they were the cities specifically mentioned) or whether it was a matter of just improving what was there already. Improving the railway system in this country would get my vote if the choice was between that and making Heathrow bigger.