Poor planning and a lack of foresight are the key ingredients of the chronic problems we now face with our infrastructure. Throw in a large measure of political cowardice, or opportunism depending on how you look at it, and it’s no wonder some of our main rival countries laugh at us.
The coalition government's killing off of the idea of a third runway for Heathrow, for example, had more to do with the political colour of the constituencies in and around Heathrow than sound economic and environmental arguments.
Throw in a red herring about building an island airport in the Thames estuary, ready in perhaps 50 years, and you get to see the full scale of the procrastination taking place. A new airport in 50 years will do nothing to tackle the current capacity constraints at Heathrow. Also, there is a fair amount of infrastructure already around the west London area to support further development so why go to virgin territory and build it all again?
A bit more vision might have seen a north-west regional airport spring out of RAF Burtonwood near Warrington, once the premier airbase for the US Airforce. Situated between Manchester and Liverpool, Stoke and Preston it would have been ideally placed. Now the M62 runs through it.
National interest does seem to come second to local interest and this is why we run the risk of falling even further down the league table of industrialised countries. One day our politicians will wake up and find that we no longer sit in the G20 group let alone the G7, overtaken by the likes of India, Brazil and Vietnam.
I am not for riding roughshod over the communities that surround Heathrow, but living within the vicinity does go with the knowledge that continued expansion and development are always a possibility. Likewise, I wonder how many of that group also depend on the airport for their livelihood. Constrain development and you constrain the work opportunities now and in the future.
Are the environmental concerns real? Of course, but the developments in more effective aero engines and airframes and the better use of the invisible infrastructure — aka airspace — are far outstripping what is happening on the ground.
If we lose our prime position we will never get it back either as a key hub for air travel or as a genuine economic power.