Letter to Cllr. John Lodge

This week I sent a letter to Cllr. John Lodge. A copy of this letter is below:

“Since publishing its report in the autumn of 2016, the West Anglia Taskforce, which I chair, has been continuing to press the case it made for additional track capacity on this important railway servicing what is known as the Innovation Corridor between London and Cambridge. Subsequent developments along the entirety of the line have significantly added to the level of demand.

Laying extra track does not come cheap and the needs of the West Anglia line have to compete with many other calls for infrastructure investment, not least from the Midlands and the North. Of all the many good reasons for improving the quality of service, especially journey times, on our railway one is emerging that could prove potent and possibly decisive in Government circles. I am referring to capacity within the London Airports system.

Heathrow and Gatwick are virtually full. A third runway at Heathrow is unlikely to be available before 2026 and you will doubtless have noticed growing doubt as to whether it will actually go ahead. Stansted for the next seven years at least remains the only international airport in the London area with substantial spare capacity to help Britain remain open for business.

I appreciate this realisation may not be to everyone’s taste. Few people were more opposed than me to London’s third airport being established at Stansted or for that matter any inland site. But facts are facts. Stansted has become the fourth largest airport in the UK, by far the biggest employer in Uttlesford and a notable contributor to education and training facilities. After thorough consideration the Council’s former administration recognised this situation and took a pragmatic decision to approve the airport’s application to make best use of its existing runway.

I perfectly well understand the new Council’s wish to review its predecessor’s decision. Yet seven months have passed without a conclusion. Meanwhile new long-distance flights are being established at Stansted. New faster, better trains are shortly to be introduced on our railway. The need for extra track capacity is overwhelming if their full potential is to be achieved for the benefit of all rail users in Uttlesford. It is hard to see how continuing delay on the Council’s part is helping anyone. The Government needs to know that London airports’ capacity is ensured over the next few years. It augurs badly for the long-term interest of local people for their Council to be engaging in what might appear to be a public and long-running spat with the largest company in the District. At the same time the Taskforce is being denied probably the most powerful argument it can deploy in favour of a railway development of crucial importance to so many in our region.

I would be very grateful if you could assure me that the Council’s decision can be imminently expected”.