12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
On the back of the September issue of Business Traveller magazine is an advertisement ”Timing is Everything”. (see http://www.abtn.co.uk) Have a guess who placed it. Gatwick Express. It goes on to say that the fastest way between central London and Gatwick Airport is by its recently upgraded train service. Sadly the Gatwick Express had not been told that the people who provide the rails, the badly named Strategic Rail Authority, want to bar the service. This latest qango plans to literally dig up the rails. Its latest strategy, published for consultation last week, calls for the Gatwick Express to make a stop at East Croydon and continue after the airport to the coast. The claim is that the four trains per hour are not being used sufficiently whilst for the commuter trains it is standing room only. It is a classic example of twisting the facts to suit the story. The slow commuter trains to Gatwick cost ”8 whilst the splendid, brand new non-stop operation charges 50% more.
Under this proposed ”improvement” services will no longer start at Gatwick, meaning that passengers will have to board a through train which will stop at the airport”s station for only 90 seconds. Health and Safety will then become involved due to platform congestion causing more delays and confusion with passengers for whom English is not the first language. Has this move been really thought out? What about luggage? As things stand these can be easily loaded or unloaded. There is plenty of time. Luggage takes up space on the trains and just gets in the way of commuters. Do any members of the Strategic Rail Authority travel standard class on these services? Will more people just transfer to the overloaded road system?
If this new idea were to happen there might be a case for the Advertising Standards Authority to look into the naming of the Gatwick rail link and at the same time ask the operating company how it can justify the name Stansted Express between Liverpool Street, London, Tottenham Hale and Stansted. It is hardly an express and unlike the Heathrow link from Paddington does not even have its own dedicated track. It is in effect a branch line off the one time intercity service between London and Cambridge.
Gatwick Airport station is a poor gateway to the United Kingdom. Compare what is offered by Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam, two competing airports. A great deal of the blame should be pointed at BAA Plc, only interested in the bottom line, a monopoly, although to be fair to them it cannot be easy dealing with ever changing station authorities and government policies. This latest idea, the Gatwick slow train, is just another knife in the back of airlines that are trying to stay alive but are more and more shackled by events and decisions totally outside their control. Maybe Downing Street should appoint a proper Minister of Aviation with real authority. The airlines (and airports) are the lifeblood of the country in the 21st century. They want help not hindrance.