A City Born From Aviation
This city journal is set in a dystopian future – based on England in the real-world, with a lot of creative license. It follows the story of a new airport to replace the dangerously congested Heathrow. This new airport sits approximately where the current Norwich stands. For the purposes of this city journal, East Anglia is an under developed farming land, due to rich and level ground.
The huge airport attracts development, and as London brinks on the edge of collapse, many national services are transferred to this new development as it becomes the new nation capital.
It’s 2019, and London is in rapid decay. Since the economic downturn in the mid-noughties, the city has slowly been choking itself to death. Pollution rises from the streets as the relentless barrage of cars continues to increase. City funds dwindle as the commercial exodus gathers pace.
Many companies have folded here, many have moved – unemployment is skyrocketing, and the city is struggling to cope with social benefits. As the thick haze tightens each year, more and more environmental protests land on the steps of parliament. Enraged commuters battle with hellish traffic, virtually every transport network experiences strikes weekly.
There have already been two major riots this year, resulting in the deaths of over seventy people. The city is fighting to control order in what is becoming a lawless town. As public services disintegrate, the police are just about to lose their patience – this once-proud city needs a rescue plan quickly.
Heavy clouds hang over the sky on a dark February morning. The sound of traffic engulfs the city in an inescapable growl, sirens ring out from every corner, the sky is peppered with circling airliners.
Its 10 o’clock in the morning and some people are still struggling to get to their place of work. The roads are at a complete standstill. Today it’s the turn of London Underground – the crumbling network provides many delays, whether its fire, breakdown or derailment. It doesn’t help that almost half of the city bus drivers are on strike, either.
Between standstill traffic, dangerous walkways, ineffectual public transport and a draconian security presence – I’ve managed to negotiate the 5-hour commute from Reading to Central London. I’m Liam Sultham, a regional planning advisor from Manchester. Today I am at the decaying City Hall to attend a crisis summit.
This is the all-important meeting between various political leaders, business leaders and representatives. The very nature of the meeting means the Houses of Parliament are inaccessible – over 100,000 people swamp the building.
Thank you for joining us today, ladies and gentlemen. I apologize for the delays many of you experienced to get here. In particular, I apologize to our friend here from Brussels. Hopefully now you can see our situation.
As part of ongoing comm…
The speaker pauses – windows of the riot-damaged building rattle loudly, as a regional airliner passes just overhead.
As part of ongoing commitments to EU membership, I have called this meeting today to present our latest efforts to meet environmental and social targets set by Brussels. We understand that London is experiencing trouble, and that targets have not been met. London has been working hard to restore social harmony, and bring traffic levels back down to 2011 levels.
The whole city has been under immense pressure to bring down traffic and pollution levels – excessive taxation and road pricing are just two weapons the UK government has used without effect to help relieve problems in this city.
Our main source of concern is Heathrow. Despite the amount of landings being at a worldwide historic high, the economic viability of the airport is in doubt. We’ve also had various near misses with air traffic, and the obvious environmental and social impact is severely damaging to London.
The speaker takes a short pause as he places down a hefty file on the table.
A New Beginning
April 3, 2021
A British Airways Boeing 777 flies low over the Norfolk countryside. It makes a bumpy approach, lashed with heavy rains and pushed about by the stiff south eastern winds.
On its second approach, the aircraft overshoots slightly, but makes an otherwise successful landing, and promptly taxis off the runway
The first commercial flight at Britannica tests out the new technologies which have been built into the tarmac to keep surface water away
It isn’t long before more follow – a Lufthansa 747, an Air France A330, even a Quantas A380. The 777 taxis into the apron, as a flood of new arrivals touches down minute after minute.
Fresh-faced, the army of new employees put their training into action at jetways connect. Bags start moving, fuel trucks go into motion. Within the space of one afternoon, the entire airport is buzzing with activity.
The airport lies in the centre of the Norfolk countryside, in seeming remoteness. To the East is the North sea, and the midland cities are 2 hours West.
Tens and thousands of people cram the southern runway at Heathrow Airport. For the first time since 2013, the once 24/7 airport is silent. Where once the incessant noise of jet engines careened across the airfield – is now the quiet sound of cheering crowds.
World media congregates to witness the demolition of the primary air traffic control tower at Heathrow. With the flick of a switch, sparks race over the tower, and it comes crashing down in a cloud of smoke.
This iconic event marks the permanent closure of the airport. The transfer of flights to Britannica represents years of collaborative design and logistical planning effort. In one day, all flights to Heathrow were changed to Britannica. The last aircraft, a KLM 747 left Heathrow bound for Sweden.
The airfield will soon be dismantled, building by building. Historic status on some structures has been made irrelevant, and by 2022, the entire site is expected to be razed. By Summer 2022, councils expect the site to be completely grown over as a massive public common.
Environmental groups celebrate with caution. Whilst this congested, inefficient airport was closed, fear remains the new colossal airport could open the gates to a higher number of flights. This is despite new EU-wide legislation which will dampen excessive air travel:
• Each country is divided up into a respective amount of regions. Britain is divided into Scotland, Wales, North, North Midlands, Midlands, East and South. Travel between neighbouring regions is not permitted by air, and existing licenses for these journeys have been revoked
• Every EU member must sign up to a new transport initiative which connects each country by rail services which meet the criteria of the new Britannica Directive. France, Germany, Italy and Spain already meet this criteria – Britain has now been included following the opening of Britannica Airport with its new transport links
• Various financial controls
The British and European media has been feverishly covering details of a large new airport being constructed in the heart of the English countryside – and today, I get to visit this new airport.
It seems the few rail services which are serving Britannica today are all fully booked, and the only coach services from this region depart from Victoria in London. Therefore, I shall be driving to the airport today.
Electrification has not been completed on the new rail lines serving the airport, and temporary diesel trains have been drafted in to provide some basic coverage until electrification is complete.
Travelling up the new M14 (which branches off the M11), the airport draws closer. This motorway is specifically designed with airport travelling in mind – multilingual signs, passive fatigue protection technology, and so forth.
Despite being peak season, and with a lack of proper bus or rail services, the new M14 and M65 routes hold up well
It’s not long before I’m slowing down, and joining slow-moving traffic for the airport. Compared to traffic in the strangled London, queues here are minimal. Tolling of these routes has been suspended until rail and bus operations are fully implemented, current projections show a reduction of road traffic by 30% after 1 month of the electrification of rail lines.
The design of this airport concentrates radiating terminals around a single square patch of land. This makes for a much more clean and solid layout, and much friendlier to tired foreign drivers. I’m heading for the secondary control tower, which is located at the main amenities hall between Terminal 1A and Terminal 2.
Each terminal atrium has its own parking zone for short term use, which is a walkable distance to the terminal itself. Light rail connects all terminals with all parking zones
Up ahead is the sign I want, for “Terminal 1A Parking, Terminal 2 & Parking”. The airport is designed to minimize the distance spent driving around, whilst keeping a logical and robust design.
It only takes a few minutes before I am in the multi-storey looking for a free space. The parking charges are a bit steep, being charged half-hourly, but that’s one of the effects of new EU legislation.
Passing weary new arrivals, I descend to ground level and walk through the light rail station into Terminal 1A atrium
Plazas and walkways criss-cross the airport, making it possible to walk anywhere
Whilst the design of the building is nice – bright, airy, spacious, there are still signs of its ongoing completion everywhere. Decorating crews scatter the cavernous halls – painting joists and panels. Electricians are wiring in customer amenities, and the occasional builder can be seen carrying out some minor construction work.
Lessons have been learned from Heathrow, and one idea I’ve mentioned to the developers has been put through. Unfamiliar with the airport, I’ve found an information point. I took the idea for these from a shopping mall in Melbourne some years back. The large touch screens provide animated 3d maps to direct even the most tired traveler clear direction information. Besides which, the modular layout of this airport means you could probably just wander until you found what you were looking for.
A downside, I find, is that the terminal buildings are so very long, you feel like you are doing more travelling than you actually are. Electric buggies haul 4 or 5 passenger trailers up and down the terminal buildings, in their own designated areas. Moving walkways fill the air with a warm hum, shifting hundreds of people each minute.
I don’t have to walk far – the tower is located at the ‘indoor park’, just a short walk from the entrance.
After a security check, I’m allowed up – from where I have a grandstand view of the airfield.
Dozens more gates than heathrow – yet doesn’t use too much more land. Smart land use, combined with new technology allows longer, more compact terminal buildings
The rest of the party is not here yet, but the senior controller walks me round the tower, allowing me to gaze out with binoculars.
(Yes, I forgot Zoneria in this shot)
Not long after, I’m called to a room one floor below the main control room, where the rest of the party is waiting for a presentation from the airport manager, Peter Mandelson. Booklets with the airport logo are handed out as the lights are dimmed.
Thank you for reading my first entry of my City Journal. Please do comment if you wish.
This 'introduces' my city journal, its format, etc. If you noticed my old CJ, Osaio, you will understand the format this will take.
Edit: I have gone through and given the entry a facelift to make it much more readable