24 January 2006

Plans to axe the Gatwick Express are still there and still as daft

A release from Gatwick Express came in this morning, all about coming out on top of the Dept of Transport's 6-monthly National Passenger Survey for the fifth time in a row.... this time with a 93% satisfaction rating from its passengers.

It didn't mention it, but I wondered what happened to the threat of closure that was hanging over Gatwick Express. So I started researching... to find that it is still there. The Dept of Transport (DoT) still wants to alleviate commuter congestion on the Brighton-London rail route by sacrificing the dedicated rail link to Gatwick Airport.

I'm amazed. I thought the immediate and overwhelming reaction to such a stunningly stupid idea (it was first raised by the Strategic Rail Authority - now disbanded - in Sept 04) had caused them to quietly drop it. But no! In fact it turns out that only last week BAA and Gatwick Express had to offer a compromise timetable proposal to try and keep the DoT at bay.

Meanwhile the campaign to save the service has even had the U.S. Secretary of State for Transport telling the UK government that US airlines and their passengers think the idea stinks.

In fact, everyone thinks the idea stinks. Including, I suspect many hard-pressed Brighton-London rail commuters who must be appalled at the idea of confused, luggage-struggling air passengers mixed up with them on their trains & platforms. Imagine the scenes as jet-lagged and linguistically-challenged foreign air travellers try to change trains at Clapham Junction (what to they call it? 'The world's busiest rail junction'?) at the height of rush hour!

And how will axing a dedicated rail shuttle from our second largest London airport fit into our transport strategy for the Olympics in 2012?

I got to thinking about my own position. Living in North London, I'm pretty well placed for all the London airports, but Gatwick is probably the easiest. If the Gatwick Express was axed, it would in a stroke become my least preferred London airport. The same must be true for most Londoners and travellers passing through London.

Come on Mr Darling, stop this nonsense now.

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