In Context - Giants grapple over transport

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome into the ring the contenders for the bout of the century!

Sir Peter Hall: "Lord Foster is 76 and Sir Farrell is 72, which should have kept them from the ring". TheArches photo
Sir Peter Hall: "Lord Foster is 76 and Sir Farrell is 72, which should have kept them from the ring". TheArches photo

In the left corner, Norman Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank, world-famed British architect, designer of almost too many iconic buildings to mention, but notably the new Wembley Stadium and 30 St Mary Axe aka The Gherkin! On my right, none other than Sir Terry Farrell, equally fabled British architect, likewise designer of iconic buildings, as well as masterplanner for the regeneration of vast swathes of west London!

Ladies and gentlemen, what exactly is going on here? Why are you here? Why am I here? Why, in particular, are they here? Well, since you devoted wrestling fans may not have followed this too closely, Foster has unveiled a plan for a new four-runway London airport in the Thames estuary! And Farrell has comprehensively rubbished it! Farrell said the airport would become obsolete in 20 years and that the only long-term answer to easing pressure on congested airports in the South East is a rail "superhub" at Old Oak Common in west London. As we know, Old Oak is where the future Crossrail and proposed High Speed 2 rail lines will interchange, allowing passengers to whizz off to any airport they choose: Heathrow, Luton, Stansted - even Birmingham - and all in no time at all.

Ladies and gentlemen, recent events that have disgraced our cricket fields compel me - in a spirit of total transparency - to declare certain of our contenders' allegiances. Foster is adviser to our well-beloved London mayor, Boris Johnson, whose enthusiasm for a Thames estuary airport is known to all, while Farrell is consultant to the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, where Old Oak happens to lie. But that in no way detracts from the passion, nay ferocity, with which they argue their case.

I must also declare that Foster is 76 and Farrell is 72, which under normal circumstances would have barred them both from the ring tonight. Alas, a legislative drafting error has allowed this unfortunate spectacle to proceed. To compound matters, your referee is 79 and only desires a quiet night at home.

The referee therefore declares that both contestants have an excellent case. West London is the right place for a rail superhub and the Thames estuary perfect for the airport. So he declares a draw. Please disperse quietly before I ask the police to close the arena.

Sir Peter Hall is Bartlett professor of planning and regeneration, University College London.

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