Little Israel, big Accomplishment

Name a top-rated airport in the world and Singapore’s Changi comes to mind. Or
Dubai Intl. in Dubai. Or Schipol in Amsterdam. But Ben-Gurion in Israel?

After all, Changi has consistently garnered top billing in Travel + Leisure’s annual ranking, Dubai is relatively spanking new and Schipol has long been a top hub in Europe.

ben gurion lounge

Passenger lounge at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport

Yet, Ben-Gurion, hardly the dominant airport in its neighborhood, managed to elbow out both Schipol and Dubai to take third spot in Travel + Leisure’s list for 2017.  In fact, with a score of 79.40, Ben-Gurion came in less than one point below Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

And although Travel + Leisure doesn’t give reasons for its rankings, one reason for its choice of Ben-Gurion may be that airport’s much-vaunted level of security.  Unlike Istanbul or Brussels, Ben-Gurion hasn’t witnessed a terrorist attack in decades.

Regardless, Ben-Gurion’s high score is certainly something that both the airport and Israel can take pride in.

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Pearson is Pointing Itself in the Right Direction

Many airports worldwide already tie in air travel with rail, bus and subway transportation. Just think of Heathrow in London or Hong Kong International. Even Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, a piker among the world’s heavyweights, is directly connected to that country’s railway network.

But Toronto’s Pearson International lacks this setup. True, it does boast a rapid transit link to Toronto’s busy Union Station. But it still lacks direct connections to Via Rail, Canada’s nationwide passenger service, or to GO Transit, the commuter network that serves Toronto and its sprawling bedroom communities. Pearson also lacks any direct connection with Toronto’s subway lines.

But all this may be about to change. The airport now says it wants to morph into a mega-transportation hub with direct links to GO Transit and to the Toronto Transit Commission. The hub would also provide a berth for bus service for the City of Mississauga, the rapidly expanding city on Toronto’s western flank.

Moreover, to pay for the new hub, Pearson would allow private investors to take ownership stakes in the airport.

And although the proposed hub is just that, a proposal, it could send Pearson’s passenger numbers soaring — no small consideration, given that the airport, which in 2016 handled 40 million travelers, is Canada’s busiest.

Proposed transportation hub at Toronto’s Pearson Intl. Airport

transport hub

Africa needs the economic blast that only railways can provide

Railways have historically been generators of economic growth, connecting new markets to existing ones, finding buyers in the interior for manufacturers on the coast. North America, for example, would never have become the economic powerhouse it became at the turn of the last century, had railways not laid down a dense web of lines. Indeed, by 1900, the rails blanketed the continent., their uniform gauge making possible the quick transfer of freight from Canada to the U.S. and vice versa.

But Africa is missing out on the economic blast that only railways can provide. More than 100 years after Cecil Rhodes dreamed of a Cape-to-Cairo line, the continent seems no closer than it was then to realizing Rhodes`dream.

And although dozens of rail lines run from various points on the coast to various parts of the interior, these tracks don`t even begin to suggest the likelihood of a continent-wide railway network — a network that will be difficult to build, given the different gauges that are now being used.