Thames Estuary airport plans ‘too uncertain’ says commission

PUBLISHED: 08:44 17 December 2013 | UPDATED: 08:44 17 December 2013

Expansion at Heathrow or Gatwick is looking likely after a new report by the Airport Commission found that an extra runway must be in operation in the South East by 2030, with another needed by 2050.

Boris Johnson’s dreams of a Thames estuary airport, dubbed Boris Island, appear to have been grounded for the time being after the commission ruled that there “are too many uncertainties and challenges surrounding them at this stage”.

The Whitehall-appointed commission, chaired by former Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies, said it had not shortlisted proposals for expansion at Stansted or Birmingham Airports but it added: “There is likely to be a case for considering them as potential options for any second new runway by 2050.”

The London Mayor is bitterly opposed to expansion at Heathrow. He said: “It is clear that Gatwick is not being considered as a hub airport, meaning a second runway there would only provide temporary relief to Heathrow.

“Proceed with the creation of a monstrous Heathrow or proceed with the construction of a new hub in the inner estuary that can be built for the same cost as a four-runway Heathrow, and would bring new jobs, homes, and long-term competitiveness.

“A new airport in the inner estuary is the only credible hub option left, and the only one that would uphold this country’s claim to be the natural financial, commercial and economic capital of Europe. By keeping it on the table, Davies is saying you have a choice - between a damaging U-turn or a radical new vision for expansion.

“We will be fighting the former and hailing the latter, and I’d urge the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to do the same.”

This is the first of two reports that the commission will make. The second, when definite runway decisions will be taken, will come in the summer of 2015 - after the next general election.

Launching the report, Sir Howard said: “Decisions on airport capacity are important national strategic choices and must be based upon the best evidence available.

“The capacity challenge is not yet critical but it will become so if no action is taken soon and our analysis clearly supports the provision of one net additional runway by 2030. In the meantime, we encourage the Government to act on our recommendations to make the best of our existing capacity.

“The commission will now focus on the challenge of appraising the three options, further assessing the case for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and delivering a robust final recommendation to Government in summer 2015.”

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