London City to Get Remote Air Traffic Control

London City to Get Remote Air Traffic Control
London City is to become the first UK airport to replace its air traffic controllers with a remotely operated digital system. Instead of sitting in a tower overlooking the runway, controllers will be 80 miles away, watching live footage from high-definition cameras.

The new system, due to be completed in 2018, will be tested for a year before becoming fully operational in 2019. It has already been tested in Australia, Sweden, Norway and Ireland.

The technology has been developed by Saab, the Swedish defence and security company, and will be introduced as part of a £350m development programme to upgrade London City Airport which will also include an extended terminal building, enabling it to serve two million more passengers a year by 2025.

It will provide controllers with a 360-degree view of the airfield via 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras which are able to pan, tilt and zoom. The cameras will send a live feed via fibre cables to a new operations room built at the Hampshire base of Nats, Britain’s air traffic control provider.

As well as being able to see it, controllers will be able to hear the airport, as if they were in situ. Unlike the old tower, the new system will allow controllers to zoom in for a better view and put radar data onto the screen to track aircraft.

Responding to questions about safety and potential system failure, London City Airport said it been independently stress-tested by security specialists. The system will use three different cables, taking different routes between the airport and the control centre, to ensure there is a back up if one of those cables fails.

Declan Collier, London City Airport chief executive, said he was “absolutely confident” that the system is safe from the threat of a cyber attack. “No chief executive is complacent about threats from cyber security,” he said. “But we are very confident that the systems we’re putting in place here are secure, they’re safe, they’re managed very well.”

Steve Anderson, Nats Air Traffic Control, told the BBC he has been won over by the technology after being initially “sceptical”. He said: “They give the controller more information in terms of what they can see, what they can hear.”

The airport is planning to decommission its traditional tower in 2019, replacing it with a new 164ft (50m) digital tower – 104ft (32m) taller than the existing one. The system made its world debut in Sweden at Ornskoldsvik Airport, where flights have been controlled by a remote tower in Sundsvall, 110 miles (177km) away, since 2015.

Nats airports director Mike Stoller said: “Digital towers are going to transform the way air traffic services are provided at airports by providing real safety, operational and efficiency benefits. “We do see this as being a growing market place across the UK and the world.”

Stansted Airport Announces New Terminal

Stansted Airport Announces New £130m Arrivals Terminal
A new £130m arrivals terminal is to be built at London Stansted Airport. The 34,000 sq m (365,972 sq ft), three-level building has been designed by architects Pascall+Watson and will be built next to the current terminal. The site will include larger immigration and baggage reclaim areas, Stansted’s owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG) said in a statement. Work is expected to take up to three years to complete, and will begin in late 2018.

The departures building will be reconfigured to provide more space at check-in and in security. The increased size of the immigration area in the arrivals terminal was “purely down to the size of the building” rather than as a result of possible future changes to the immigration procedure, an airport spokesman said.

The new building was granted planning permission by Uttlesford District Council.

The airport’s Chief Executive Andrew Cowan said the site would “transform our infrastructure and facilities to give our passengers the best possible experience”.

“Stansted is a national asset and our investment will continue to boost competition and support economic growth, jobs and international connectivity for London and the East of England,” he said. “At a time when airport capacity in the country is at a premium, Stansted is playing a vital role in supporting both the regional and national economy. This project will strengthen our ability to do this by enabling us to make the most efficient use of our single runway.”

Construction of the new building will take place away from the existing terminal to minimise disruption to passengers, MAG said. Once the site is complete, Stansted will be the only airport in the UK operating dedicated arrivals and departures terminals.

New Heathrow Runway May be Built Above M25

New Heathrow Runway May be Built Above M25
The BBC website is reporting that the third runway at Heathrow Airport could involve planes taking off from a “ramp” over the M25 motorway, the transport secretary says. Chris Grayling said this would be “cheaper and quicker” than building a tunnel for the M25 under the new runway and would cause less disruption for drivers during construction. He said many other airports around the world had built runways over motorways. There would be “a very gentle hill up which the planes would take off”.


The government’s long-awaited backing for a third runway at London Heathrow has been attacked by cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Justine Greening and sparked the resignation of Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith.

The decision is also set to face a challenge in the courts, with the Richmond council leader Lord True telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was “taking legal advice”. The Conservative peer said Heathrow was “busting air quality legal limits” and was responsible for “40% of all noise pollution in Europe associated with airports”.

He added: “The fact that the government has already delayed action for a year results from our reminding them that they hadn’t yet fulfilled things which they’re required to do under the existing law.”

Lord True said he would be campaigning for Mr Goldsmith, who will contest the Richmond Park by-election as an independent with the Conservatives not putting forward a candidate against him.

HS3 Rail Link Needs ‘Kick Starting’

HS3 Rail Link Needs ‘Kick Starting’
HS3, the planned fast rail link between Manchester and Leeds, needs “kick-starting” as part of a broader plan to improve transport links in northern England, a report has concluded. The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) also called for improvements on the most congested part of the M62 to be sped up. It said the region needed “immediate and very significant investment”.


The government will commit £300m for transport projects later this week. More details are expected in the Budget on Wednesday, although almost half of the money committed was announced in last year’s Autumn Statement.

Chancellor George Osborne will commit £75m to explore plans for a new trans-Pennine road tunnel and bring forward £161m for upgrades to the M62 Liverpool-Hull motorway.

The former Labour transport secretary and chair of the NIC, Lord Adonis, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that transport improvements in the north of England were already being undertaken. He said these projects – including the electrification of the railway line between Manchester and Leeds – should be “seen as the first stage on the road” towards HS3.

Lord Adonis said electrification of the Manchester-to-Leeds railway line would bring journey times down to 40 minutes, with HS3 cutting journey times to 30 minutes.

“This is going to be a phased approach. It’s not going to be one big bang like HS2, which is the creation of a completely new line for nothing,” he told the BBC. “It will be a mixture of improving the current line and stretches of new line to deliver two objectives: big cuts in journey times between the big northern cities, from Liverpool in the west to Hull in the east, and also big improvements in capacity, so you can have much more regular trains as well as faster trains.”

In its report, the NIC said: “Leeds and Manchester are just 40 miles apart, but there is no quick and easy way to travel between the two. In rush-hour, it can take more than two hours by car; by train, it can be almost an hour.

“So we should kick-start HS3 across the Pennines and slash journey times to just 30 minutes. But we must not wait decades for change – journey times should be cut to 40 minutes by 2022.”

A plan should be drawn up by 2017, the report said.

Lord Adonis also said that improvements to the M62 should ensure that road journeys between Liverpool and Leeds would be cut by up to 20%. Other recommendations include redeveloping Manchester Piccadilly train station and incorporating key parts of the north in the HS2 train network. The NIC was set up by the government last year to advise on long-term projects to boost the economy.

A full blueprint for HS3 will be drawn up next year.

Great Western Rail Deal Extended to 2019

FirstGroup’s Great Western Rail Deal Extended to 2019
Transport company FirstGroup has extended its deal with the government to run services on the Great Western rail network until 2019.

An artist's impression of the new high-speed trains

The new franchise covers a period in which a series of upgrades will take place along the Great Western network. Those improvements include electric train services for the first time on the network, starting with services in the Thames Valley. Upgrades will also include additional train capacity at peak times.

First Great Western will pay the government about £68m to operate the franchise – which operates services between London, the Cotswolds, South Wales and the South West – from September 2015 until April 2019.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said passengers would benefit from the addition of three million extra seats across the network by 2018. It also said more services to Devon and Cornwall would be added to the timetable, and 369 new train carriages introduced to the network.

The DfT added that capacity during the morning rush hour commute to London would increase by 4,000 seats by December 2018.

FirstGroup will also be responsible for introducing the new Hitachi Intercity Express Trains between London, Bristol and South Wales and the Cotswolds from summer 2017.

FirstGroup chief executive Tim O’Toole said the rail operator was already working with the DfT and Network Rail to deliver the initial phases of the £7.5bn Great Western mainline modernisation programme.

The franchise award was long expected. FirstGroup is the longest serving of the train operating companies. In 1996, it joined a bid for one of the first railway franchises of the privatisation programme, which began under John Major’s Conservative government. It has operated the Great Western network on its own since 1998 when it took 100% ownership of the franchise.

Network Rail Boss may Take Bonus after Rail Disruption

Network Rail Boss may Take Bonus after Rail Disruption
Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne has told the BBC an internal committee will decide what bonus he should take, following recent major rail disruption. Mr Carne said he could get a maximum of £34,000, or around 5% of his £675,000 annual salary.

London King’s Cross station was closed on Saturday after engineering work over-ran, leaving thousands of people unable to return home from Christmas. London Paddington was also temporarily shut after work did not finish on time.

Many hundreds of people were left queuing in freezing temperatures after being diverted to Finsbury Park station in north London, which was being used as a temporary terminal, before it was closed on police advice.

The problems continued into Sunday morning, with some trains arriving into King’s Cross up to 90 minutes late. By Monday, normal service had resumed.

Mr Carne told the BBC one of the changes he had made when he started in the post earlier this year was to reduce the biggest possible bonus he could get from 160% to 20%, of his salary, or around £135,000. He apologised about the disruption caused by the over-running works. Network Rail owns Britain’s rail infrastructure, including track, stations and signals, and is in charge of maintaining and updating the network.

Mr Carne did not say for sure whether or not he would be taking his bonus. “I have reduced the bonus from 160% to 20%. We have made significant steps to defuse the issue of bonuses. We have had a very difficult time over the festive period,” he said.

Mr Carne said he had launched a review into what went wrong and who was responsible for the situation on the 27 December, adding the results would be published by 9 January. He said it was likely to be an “issue” of the projects section of his business, rather than operations. But he defended the company’s choice to run the work over the Christmas period, as half the number of people used the railways compared with non-holiday times. But the Network Rail boss added: “This was an enormously disruptive period of time.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin welcomed Mr Carne’s assurances that he and Network Rail would be learning lessons from the delays. But he added: “This must not just be warm words, however. Passengers deserve real action and I will be holding Network Rail to this commitment.”  He said it was “right” for Mr Carne to have his bonus slashed as the authority’s performance had been found “wanting”.

Sunday’s problems were caused by a signalling issue near Finsbury Park and congestion caused by the over-running work, National Rail Enquiries said.

A revised service is operating on Monday on Great Northern routes to and from King’s Cross station.

The Office of Rail Regulation is to investigate the disruption, which was part of a £200m investment programme.

Anthony Smith, chief executive at independent watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “When things go wrong, as happened this weekend, it is more difficult for Network Rail to justify performance-related bonuses.  “Perhaps it is time for these payments to be linked with passengers’ views of how the network has performed.”

Roads Funding of £15bn for Motoring Schemes for England

Roads Funding of £15bn for Motoring Schemes for England
A tunnel on the A303 at Stonehenge is among dozens of new road plans to be announced by the government, as part of a £15bn “roads revolution” for England. The money, initially announced in 2013, will involve 100 road improvement schemes and add 1,300 new miles of extra lanes to motorways and A roads. The projects include the tunnel to tackle a bottleneck at Stonehenge on the A303 and improved M25 junctions. The tunnel near the historic Stonehenge site in Wiltshire is among the 84 new projects announced, with the government saying the £15bn would be spent over the next five years.

File photo dated 22/8/2014 of motorists in heavy traffic on the M25 between junction 12 and 13 near Egham, Surrey

Labour said the coalition’s record was one of “all talk and no delivery”.

The plans are part of the chancellor’s Autumn Statement to be announced in full on Wednesday. The road plans include improvements designed to tackle congestion on the A27 along the south coast and better links into Port of Liverpool. There will also be more money to upgrade the A1 in the North East.

Announcing the plan, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said roads were “key to our nation’s prosperity” and had suffered from under-investment for too long. “Today I am setting out the biggest, boldest and most far-reaching roads programme for decades. It will dramatically improve our road network and unlock Britain’s economic potential,” he said.

Chancellor George Osborne said it would “transform some of the country’s most important strategic routes”.

This is a large amount of money and a large number of schemes. The big question now, from many I’ve spoken to in the industry, is will they see it through? They are designed to tackle congestion and fix some of the most notorious trouble spots on the country’s roads, the government said.

Among the major plans are:

South West: £2bn to make the entire A303 and A358 to the region dual carriageway, including a tunnel at Stonehenge
North East: £290m to make the A1 dual carriageway all the way from London to Ellingham, 25 miles from the Scottish border
North West and Yorkshire: Completing the “smart” lane on the M62 from Manchester to Leeds
North West: Improving links to the Port of Liverpool
South East: £350m of improvements to the A27 along the south coast
East: £300m to upgrade the east-west connection to Norfolk, by making sections of the A47 dual carriageway and improving its connections to the A1 and A11
London and South East: Improving one-third of the junctions on the M25
Midlands: Improving the M42 to the east of Birmingham

Motoring groups welcomed the plans. RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: “This is not about concreting over the countryside with new roads but upgrading many existing routes which have been the source of misery to motorists for years if not decades. “That the government is investing money along whole lengths of roads and not just a mile or two here and there is to be welcomed.”

AA president Edmund King said the UK’s roads carried 86% of passenger journeys and more than 90% of freight, and problem roads could no longer be ignored.

But shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said it was “yet another re-announcement” on road improvements, and in reality “no additional money has been announced”. “We know David Cameron’s record on infrastructure is one of all talk and no delivery. Infrastructure output has fallen significantly since May 2010 and less than a third of projects in the Government’s pipeline are actually classed as ‘in construction’. “If ministers were as good at upgrading roads as they are at making announcements about upgrading roads, life would be considerably easier for Britain’s hard-pressed motorists who have been consistently let down by this government.”

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, told the BBC’s Today programme: “It’s not the money that’s being presented as new, it’s the detail of the roads itself. What people want to know is, is this bottleneck going to be dealt with?” He said the government needed to legislate to make sure the money was available to spend in the future no matter who was in power.

The documents also outlined more detail on the plan to turn the Highways Agency into a government-owned company. The government said the move would mean funding could be allocated on a longer-term basis, saving the taxpayer at least £2.6bn over the next 10 years.

Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure and transport at the consultants KPMG, told the BBC what was new was these changes to the way roads would be planned in the future. “We have heard about some of these road schemes before. The real news is the government is fundamentally changing the way we build roads in this country,” he said. “What the government is saying now is lets have a really long-term plan. By making the Highways Agency a bit more arms-length from government it allows it to plan ahead and invest for the future. It should drive down the unit cost of road building in the future.”

There was also £100m available to improve cycling provision at 200 key locations across the network, as well as a commitment to cycle-proof any new schemes being developed.

Five Northern Cities set to Outline £15bn Transport Plan

Five Northern Cities set to Outline £15bn Transport Plan
Five cities in the North of England are to unveil a £15bn plan to improve road and rail connections in the region. The joint One North report will include plans for a new 125mph inter-city rail link, faster links and better access to ports and airports. It has been developed by an alliance of five cities – Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.

It comes after George Osborne said faster links could create a “northern global powerhouse”. The report will be presented to the chancellor in Manchester later.

In a speech in June the chancellor said the cities in the north of England were individually strong but were “collectively not strong enough”. He said better road and rail links would allow cities across northern England to “take on the world”, as London had done.

Speaking earlier, Mr Osborne said: “We need to make sure we have got a northern powerhouse so that our economy in this country is not unbalanced – we are not wholly dependent on the success of the global city that is London. “But we have across the North of England individual cities that are better connected, that have a better quality of life and that are able therefore to generate economic activity across our United Kingdom.”

Shadow Treasury minister Shabana Mahmood said: “We welcome this report and the city regions of the North of England working together to strategically plan to deliver the growth and jobs we need. “But only Labour will properly back our city and county regions with ambitious plans to devolve more funding and economic power to them.”

BBC Look North reporter Sarah Corker said the One North report would describe how faster links from east to west in northern England could provide a huge boost to the economy and create jobs. She said it was an “ambitious transport plan with the aim of transforming road and rail connections between the northern cities and unlocking the area’s economic potential”. She added that council leaders in northern cities had argued for years the transport links in the region have been far too slow and inferior compared to those in the south of England.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said the government could not forget the North if it was serious about rebalancing the economy. He said: “When we talk about economic powerhouses, Manchester and Liverpool, if you just take those two cities in the North together, of course we are one economic powerhouse, it is just we haven’t got the connectivity.” He said £350m was being invested in building a super-port which would allow freight from the east to come directly to the UK. Mr Anderson went on: “We want the capacity, the ability to ship that freight further north, east and across to Hull and the Humber. “It’s right that if we are seriously talking about rebalancing the economy, that we have to create better connectivity between our northern cities.”

In June, the chancellor said a so-called HS3 should be considered as part of a review into the second phase of the HS2 high-speed rail project. He said HS3 could cut the journey time between Leeds and Manchester from about 50 minutes to 30 minutes, with trains travelling at up to 140mph, compared with the current maximum of 90mph. The plan for a high-speed rail link connecting the cities could cost up to £7bn – but could be cheaper if existing rail lines were updated, he added.