Yes, the first holiday charter flight I ever took was – this despite living around 150 miles away at the time – from Luton Airport. It was the original gateway to the world of package holidays, even when the plane was a Monarch Airlines Bristol Britannia which took three and a half hours to reach Palma de Mallorca. But now, someone has had the whizzo idea of making it the latest New London Mega Airport.
Bit like this, only inland
Indeed, the ostensibly reasonable idea has been trailed in the Standard, under the headline “Heathrow battle: how Luton could be ‘England’s airport’”, which will have come as a surprise not only to the town’s residents, but also everyone involved with the current airport operation. The latter will be especially surprised, as they may have been involved with the Masterplan for its development.
And that Masterplan, although it envisages some development of the airport to make more use of the runway and build up the capacity of the site to a potential for handling around 18 million passengers per annum, categorically excludes any new runways – the artist’s impression in the Standard piece shows four, three more than at present – and even rules out lengthening the one they already have.
Why this might be can be explained by looking at the ownership and management structure of Luton Airport: although it is run by a private consortium, ultimately the buck stops with the owners, the local council. Thus the sensitivity to any over-development and associated increase in aircraft activity, together with the attendant noise and particle emissions that would result.
This, though, does not appear to have troubled the Standard, which talks of Crossrail 2 somehow appearing at the airport, although it is currently slated to come no nearer than Epping (this is a long way from Luton). London First is seeking to modify the nature of the Crossrail 2 project in advance of a review of the currently protected route, but again, this is no guarantee of it happening.
And whoever dreamt up the Luton mega-expansion idea may not have visited the place: the airport is perched on top of a hill to the south of the town, with any significant extension of the runway meaning several millions of cubic metres of infill to enable it to happen. The scale would dwarf that needed for the second runway at Manchester Airport. Put directly, it isn’t going to happen.
Whatever the solution to London’s air transport needs, it will require a little more than an architect from the Ron Hopeful school, an identikit futuristic four runway mock-up (this one does look more than a little like the Boris Island impression), and stories of new road and rail links. For starters, it might just involve a little consultation with the people who actually own the place before sounding off.
So that’s another pipe dream for the bin. No change there, then.