The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'heathrow'
Britain's Tory-led coalition government has undergone a reshuffle. Among the changes: Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary who tried to rubberstamp Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of the rest of Sky TV, is now minister of health; which is somewhat troubling given his outspoken beliefs in homeopathy, and statements defending the NHS's funding of homeopathic “medicine” (which had, in the past, been roundly denounced in Parliament). Meanwhile, Conservative Chairman Lady Warsi, a fierce opponent of secularism, has been demoted to a newly created “Ministry of Faith”. Whether this is a sinecure intended to keep her out of trouble or a shift towards a more muscularly religious politics in Britain remains to be seen. And so, it looks like the Conservatism the Tories are bringing to government is one hearkening back to a time before the Enlightenment, when faith trumped evidence and reason.
In other news, transport minister Justine Greening, an opponent of the proposed third runway at Heathrow and passionate advocate of high-speed rail, has been replaced by Patrick McLoughlin, who was aviation minister in the ideologically anti-rail Thatcher government, but on the other hand. Given that there is pressure from segments of business for rapid expansion of Heathrow and opposition in the Conservative heartlands of the Cotswolds to having a high-speed railway run through their arcadian idyll, it'll be interesting to see whether the government's (until now commendable) transport agenda does a U-turn.
And finally, meet the new Minister for Equality, Maria Miller:
Though, to be fair, the Racial and Religious Vilification Bill would have acted as an all-faiths blasphemy law, criminalising speech offensive to religious sensibilities and acting as a chilling effect on criticism of, say, misogyny or homophobia in religious garb, so one can't really criticise her for having a part in its well-deserved death.
Apparently the UK and Scottish governments are in discussion on building a high-speed railway line from Scotland to England. The details of the line aren't known, though it'd be built to Eurostar specifications, and would connect London to Glasgow. It would take a decade or so to build, and
prices costs start at £9bn.
Where in London it would terminate is another question; one high-speed rail proposal involves making Heathrow the national high-speed rail hub, with Eurostar trains and trains going elsewhere in Britain terminating there. Which sends the message that, if you're travelling from, say, Glasgow to the continent, you're going to be changing at Heathrow anyway, so you may as well fly; not exactly encouraging environmental responsibility. (Of course, this is assuming that flying remains affordable; if not, then siting a major rail terminus at a site with an airport and not much else is just stupid planning.)
The colossal, ongoing cock-up of Heathrow's new Terminal 5 has been a boon to London's homeless community, who have taken to disguising themselves as delayed travellers and sleeping in the terminal:
Each night, scores of London's homeless men and women take advantage of modern travel delays by posing as stranded passengers in order to sleep in a warm and safe place. They play a cat-and-mouse game with police, often donning floral shirts, fanny packs and other travel accessories to blend in. And their increasing creativity — and ability to disappear in Heathrow's swelling crowds of delayed passengers — has prompted the airport to try a new approach.
"Rough sleepers," as homeless people are known in Britain, disguise themselves at all major airports, says Sandie Cox of Heathrow Travel Care, the social care organization overseeing the one-year pilot scheme. Indeed, Chicago's O'Hare airport instituted a homeless outreach in the 1990s. But while the problem may not be unique to Heathrow, several factors make it easier for rough sleepers to blend in. It is the busiest airport in Europe, has more delays than other major hubs, and while it doesn't serve Europe's low-cost carriers, it has still seen the effects of the democratization of air travel: gone are the days when you could identify a British air passenger by their suit and shiny shoes. Indeed, on Wednesday, the two scruffy passengers curled in the corner of a remote bathroom turned out to be holding tickets to LAX; they had chosen their spot because it was the only place they could find an outlet to charge their hand-held video game console.