Briefing notes for the Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home on Concorde, June 1964 (PREM 11/4612)
Concorde had its first flight in 1969 and entered service in 1976.
C.P. (64) 125 and 134
There were always doubts about this project, as regards both cost and utility. Now the cost is put at £275 Billion (at least) – nearly as much as the cost of two Channel Tunnels. There are many snags to be ironed out: the engine, operating costs, the sonic bang, etc. The return for this vast expenditure will depend on sales. Those to B.O.A.C. will give them yet another unwelcome and uneconomic aircraft, and the sooner the Concord is available to them the shorter the life of the VC-1O, which will be displaced by it. (The Select Committee on Nationalised Industries in a Report published yesterday are highly critical about relations between the Government and B.O.A.C. over the VC-1O.)
The rational course would probably be to drop the Concord. We could then go ahead with the Channel Tunnel and the United States would pursue their own supersonic project in a more leisurely way (which might open up a market for VC-1O, for there is no other new sub-sonic aircraft in prospect). But the French are, apparently, determined to go ahead with the Concord and it has become so much a symbol of modernisation in the United Kingdom that it would not be practical politics to throw it overboard now.
What I do suggest is that a complete commitment to the revised Concord project should be avoided for the time being. This could be done by inviting outside experts to assess its economics – though this might involve difficulty with the French. Faute de mieux [for want of anything better] we may have simply to avoid enthusiasm in endorsing the revised project and be ready to review it in the late autumn. No more than £30 to £50 million will have been spent by the end of this year and it would be possible to write off our (half) share.
June 24. 1964.