I had a grand idea some time ago. For several years, London has been wrestling with the issue of air travel to and from the capital. Heathrow and Gatwick are close to capacity. Should a new runway be added to one of those two? Or a new airport be built to the east of the city? I had a better idea. Enlarge Bournemouth airport and have that serve London’s growing needs. There’s plenty of land available and the runway is big enough – Concorde used to land here now and again.
Given that the airport is nearly 100 miles away from the centre of London, it might seem an initially crazy idea. But if the old disused line between Ringwood and Brockenhurst were put back into use (already looked at and deemed feasible) and extended to Bournemouth airport, then with careful timetabling (and rather substantial investment) transfer time to a London terminal could be run in less than 90 minutes. Not much more than the bus services doing the same jobs for Luton and Stansted.
There’s another benefit to having Bournemouth deal with London traffic. The weather. We see much less snow and ice than the east of the country. Indeed, I was ‘promoting’ my plan to a colleague earlier this week as the Beast from the East came in and wreaked havoc at the other end of the M3 motorway whilst we remained unscathed. Then Storm Emma came up from the south, met the remains of the Beast, and brought the west to a grinding halt. Cars, trains, planes all froze in place. My grand plan looked less grand. And Emma turned out to not be much of a beauty.
On the plus side, I’ve had two very relaxed days at work. Zero trains, no replacement buses and no taxis. My job has simply involved telling those who were foolhardy enough to arrive at the station to go home. Or walk. Take yer pick! There haven’t been too many to disappoint. Conditions were terrible, especially for pedestrians. Freezing rain came down overnight on top of the snow, adding a layer of ice to already difficult surfaces. My 20 minute walk at 5am to my nearest station was an hour long trek. Penguin impersonation was a necessity.
Snowfall also makes for a pleasant walk. We Brits might not know how to operate essential infrastructure in adverse weather, but I do have all the right equipment for a wintry walk. Warm jacket, matching gloves and hat and thermal long johns and socks. And a decent pair of Clarks walking boots, which have served me well for years.
I still think there is merit in my grand plan for Bournemouth Airport’s transformation into a major international hub. The weather argument remains valid, generally speaking. I think the reopening of the old rail line would likely be a success commercially. Indeed, it would take some pressure off of the Bournemouth to London mainline. But I’m equally sure that it’s a non starter. The initial investment is unlikely to be made available, and the line would be reopening through ‘rich people’s towns’. I don’t think they’d be fans.