Government Announces Funding for Rail Link to Heathrow Airport

The British government will be partnering with the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (TVB LEP) to finance improved rail access to London Heathrow Airport.

The partnership will be investing around GBP500 million in the Western Rail Access to Heathrow (WRAtH) project, to connect locations as far away as South Wales and the South West, in addition improving access to the Thames Valley.

Steve Lamb, the chairman of the TVB LEP, said, ‘This is great news for a number of regions across the UK. A common piece of feedback we hear from local enterprises and organisations looking to move to the area is access to Heathrow is a significant business benefit as it opens the door to the rest of the world’s emerging markets. The WRAtH project will give confidence to our businesses in the Thames Valley which is the most productive sub-region outside of London and is worth nearly GBP30bn.’

The new project has been estimated to offer better and more direct transportation to Heathrow Airport for an additional 12 million people from across several regions.

Ruth Bagley, the chief executive of Slough Borough Council, said, ‘WRAtH will provide a huge boost to the UK economy, generating an additional GBP1.5 billion economic activity, with GBP800 million of that and 42,000 jobs generated in the Thames Valley alone. A modal shift from road to rail will remove over one million car journeys from some of the most congested roads around Heathrow, benefiting businesses and residents in the area, and reducing CO2 emissions at the same time.’


British MPs Warn of Airport Gridlock during London Olympics 2012

Members of Britain’s Parliament have warned of a possible gridlock of British Airports during the London Olympic Games, which commence in July this year.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons is warning of overcrowding at UK airports during the London Olympic Games. Two members of the committee, Therese Coffey and Gerry Sutcliffe, are said to have attended a BAA (operator of six British Airports) briefing where the company expressed its concerns over handling the departure of international athletes after the closing ceremony.

The members of parliament have claimed that while much has been done for accommodating ‘unusual sporting equipment, arranging special lanes for the Olympic family, and welcoming arrangements for competitors and Olympic ambassadors’, there still exists an issue of dealing with long queues at the airport immigration desks.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA), the agency responsible for passport control counters at UK airports, has, in recent times, reduced its task force by around 25 percent, and the MPs are concerned that this could result in a negative impact on Britain’s tourism industry, as visitors may be discouraged from visiting the UK due to long queues at the airport, leading to delayed flights and overcrowding at the terminals.

The members have also felt an acute absence of any kind of contingency plan to deal with airport overcrowding, and hence gridlock remains a heightened possibility.

A letter to culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, signed by committee chairman, John Whittingdale, said, ‘We are aware that our sister committees, on Transport, and Home Affairs, have a strong interest in these issues and, may raise them with the relevant departments before the start of the Games. However, we wished to draw our concerns to your attention, as Minister with overall responsibly for the success of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.’

Only 1 in 5 people feel informed about the aid given by the UK Government to developing countries


Latest results from IDS’ UK Public Opinion Monitor (UKPOM) suggest that low levels of public awareness of how aid is spent is damaging public support for UK Government aid spending. Survey results reveal only 21% of people consider themselves informed about UK aid, yet the Government has committed to increasing aid spending to 0.7% of GNI from 2013 onwards.

Published today, the research also finds that overseas aid is the most popular good cause for UK public charity donations, with respondents indicating that they give more regular donations to overseas aid and disaster relief charities than to any other good cause.

The importance of awareness

Awareness of aid and poverty issues clearly has a big impact on the public’s views about aid. For example, when asked about the UK Government decision earlier this year to continue to provide £280 million per year in aid to India, 58% of people thought the UK should give no aid to India at all. Reasons given for this include people’s perceptions of India’s space programme and the number of rich people in its population.

However, just 4 out of 10 people knew that India had more poor people than any other country in the world, and more than the whole of Sub Saharan Africa combined. Once informed of this, 30% of the previously unaware respondents changed their view and decided to support the £280 million India aid commitment.

Professor Lawrence Haddad, IDS Director said:

‘It’s heartening to see that the public hasn’t lost its appetite for giving, with a positive response to recent humanitarian disasters, and with overseas aid standing out as the most popular charitable cause to donate to.

‘But this research makes clear that improving public awareness and understanding of aid would really help encourage public support. At a time when the Government is committed to protecting the UK’s aid spend, it’s more important than ever that we communicate the experiences faced by poor people around the world, and the success stories of aid having a positive impact on people’s lives.’

Other key findings

The research also examines the public’s views about three humanitarian crises: the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2010 Pakistan floods and the current Horn of Africa famine. The analysis appears to show that complex humanitarian crises that unfold over longer time periods (e.g. famines) provoke less public support than sudden crises (e.g. earthquakes). Respondents expressed more extreme concern about the Haiti earthquake in its immediate aftermath than they expressed over the Pakistan flood at the time of the disaster or recently over the current Horn of Africa famine.

People also claimed they had given the most in charitable donations to Haiti, in comparison to Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. This is supported by data from the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) that show that the Haiti earthquake was the second most popular appeal in the DEC’s history, with the Horn of Africa ranking third and Pakistan floods fourth.

Foreign Secretary condemns violence against Syrian citizens

Foreign Secretary William Hague comments on the ongoing violence against citizens in cities across Syria. Speaking today the Foreign Secretary said:

“I condemn the violence against Syrian citizens in Hama, Deir e-Zour and other cities that shows no signs of ending. Hama and Deir eZour have been under siege for days by regime forces who have reportedly even used an anti-aircraft gun. This brutality exposes the regime’s claims to be committed to a reform process as an utter sham.

“I deplore the arrest of the political activist Walid al-Bunni and his two sons.  Their arrest show the regime’s disregard for meaningful dialogue. I call on the authorities to release them immediately.

“We must not watch in silence while hundreds are killed and thousands more detained and tortured. I therefore welcome the strong condemnation by countries across the Arab world and Turkey of the regime’s actions and am urgently working with partners on increasing the pressure further on President Assad and those around him. I discussed this with German Foreign Minister Westerwelle today.”

The Foreign Office advise against all travel to Syria, and British nationals in Syria are advised to leave now by commercial means whilst these are still available.

Prime Minister congratulates South Sudan

Prime Minister David Cameron congratulated President Salva Kiir and the people of South Sudan on this “remarkable achievement”.

Speaking after South Sudan formally seceded on 9 July, the Prime Minister said:

“Today the Republic of South Sudan becomes independent, and the world’s newest country. This is an historic day, for South Sudan and the whole of Africa. The UK is proud to have been a witness to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to be among the first to recognise South Sudanese independence. We welcome South Sudan into the community of nations and look forward to building ever stronger links between the UK and South Sudan in the months and years ahead.

“I have asked the Foreign Secretary to convey my congratulations to President Salva Kiir and the people of South Sudan on this remarkable achievement. Reaching this moment has required leadership and statesmanship from all sides. The actions of the government in Khartoum in recognising South Sudan’s independence have been significant, and I hope that today marks the beginning of a new and peaceful chapter in relations between North and South.”