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Do UK logistics work?

Do UK logistics work?

Our World | On 12, Apr 2012

The UK is one of the oldest and still leading industrial and developed countries and a significant travel hub with several international airports, ports and of course a cross channel rail link. We do however know that we have an ageing rail network and if you have ever been stuck on the M1, M4, M6, M25 a seriously congested road network. There has of course been significant investment: the high speed East Coast line gets from Yorkshire to London in 90 minutes, the Heathrow Express is a dream and St Pancras is a revelation.

However scratch beneath the surface and some of our major prestige travel infrastructure seems to have been planned in total isolation. We have modern international class facilities at Heathrow T5 and a superb rail link to Paris from St Pancras but no direct link between them. Similarly Gatwick has a great rail link to Victoria, but not to St Pancras or Heathrow. I live in Milton Keynes and a Virgin Train can get you to Euston in 30 minutes, but I need 2 trains and 2 tubes for Heathrow making it quicker to drive. In fact our major airports and long distance rail services have no direct connections. The west and east coast lines do not go near our airports. Our Airport rail links do not meet at the same hub. This is where I think our logistics fail and why investment is needed to make what we already have, work better. Surely a train link from Gatwick to Heathrow easing congestion on the M25 and creating a better connection for international business and leisure travelers would not only make sense but make London a more attractive hub bringing jobs, revenue and investment.

We are about to embark on a £30bn investment in HS2 to take 20 minutes of the journey to Birmingham and yet the queue to pick up and drop off at Luton airport can be over an hour at 7am in the morning. Suggestions like Boris Island are just part of a raft of multibillion pound schemes and proposed developments to help ease and speed up London and the UK’s increasing land and air congestion, but you cannot take a direct train from any 2 airports in the UK. The message from the environmentalists, the energy experts and the economists is consistent and clear, use public transport – so why not spend the £30bn on creating train lines that go where people want to go, or at least creating genuine links between them not just independent unlinked points spread across half of London.

I’m sure the government have taken the advice of highly paid logistics experts, but it would appear that if their best solution to our problems is HS2 at £1.5bn a minute on what is actually an already well serviced link, then perhaps they need an average traveler to explain that making what we have work might be a much more satisfactory and productive first port of call for our £30bn – unless of course said average traveler is a government logistics expert living in Birmingham with a desperate need to spend an extra 20 minutes in bed!

Nigel Cooper