Airports are looming large in my life at the moment. I’ve been bemused throughout this whole third Heathrow runway vs. Boris Island debate that nobody has thought to look south a little.
Down here in sunny Kent we have Manston, aka Kent International Airport, a former RAF base situated on the Isle of Thanet just outside Ramsgate and Broadstairs. I’m not sure of the exact stat, but the runway is either the longest or the widest in the country, and whichever one it isn’t, it is as near to being the longest/widest as makes no difference. (I believe the other half of this is RAF St. Mawgan, aka Newquay Airport, which has the longest/widest runway, whichever one Manston doesn’t have.)
For one lovely summer the airport at Manston had its own airline, the much missed EU Jet which had a small collection of flights going out to venues across the UK and Europe. Mrs. Snowolf and I were much taken with it – the terminal building was small, the parking was cheap and good and it was only 20 minutes from our front door. Unfortunately EU Jet tried to grow too fast too soon and started to do silly things, like all flights a quid. The planes were full, the coffers were empty.
Barring the occasional freight flight and plane load of package tourists who would normally have been bussed through the channel tunnel or on the ferries, the airport lies unused. It is a crying shame as those who staff it are rightly proud of their airport, and it sits slap bang in the centre of an area which has been devastated by the departure of Pfizer from the site which is practically next door. The jobs generated by the airport being used regularly would be an enormous boon to the local economy. Even the worries of noisy flights passing overhead are mitigated somewhat by the fact that the approach for landing is from the sea, it is only really necessary to approach the airport over the seaport, which will, to an extent, minimise the disruption to local residents.
So when I see this argument about Heathrow vs. Boris, (which sounds like a monster movie that needs to be made now, I can just see a giant CGI Boris stamping all over Feltham, taking bites out of the Terminal 5 building) I find myself wondering how much consideration has been given to the promotion and use of Manston.
The runway can take anything you care to land on it.
The local economy needs the jobs.
There is now a high speed line to London from Ramsgate, which would only need a spur attaching to the airport.
There is a large and functioning seaport next door to the airport which could help a cohesive freight plan.
The road links are pretty damn good with the new Thanet Way leading off the M2 straight to the door of the airport.
Yeah, sure it isn’t as close to London as Heathrow, or a man made island in the Thames estuary. But we know that the west London residents and MPs will create a stink over a third runway, and the environmentalists will do their pieces if the green light is given to the island idea. Whichever one is picked, it will be subject to court challenges, reviews, enquiries, protests and the like. Even once a decision is made it will be years before anything is actually built and ready for use. Then there’s the concerns over the number of planes in the area, if an island is built it will be increasing the traffic in the skies that are already very busy with Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and London City all adding to the mix.
Down south in Kent there’s a place, effectively sat in mothballs that could be used tomorrow. It could free up capacity at Heathrow by taking on freight flights and charter flights, that alone would make a huge difference both to Heathrow and to Thanet’s unemployment figures (it’s one of the worst unemployment black spots in the country). Why not bloody use it?
Well, looks like KLM (now part of Air France) are giving serious consideration to this, they are currently running a survey in partnership with the owners of Manston to test opinion over running twice daily services from the airport to Amsterdam Schiphol, a flight which takes 40 minutes from Thanet, the thinking being that once you’re at Schiphol you’re at a big hub airport from where you can go wherever you like. It sounds like a great idea to me.
The only real purpose of this post is to illustrate that there is an alternative to the two main options on the table, and one that could be deployed in no time at all.
The other purpose of this post is to inform you that tomorrow morning I will be jetting off for my holidays. From Gatwick, unfortunately. I’ve been beset with spam comments recently, and upon my return will be re-visiting my captcha wossname. But I’ve not the inclination to do it today, so this evening I’ll be turning moderation on for the duration of my break.
Be excellent to each other in my absence.