2 Sep 2014

Boris Johnson angry after airport ‘island’ rejected

Boris Johnson accuses the Airports Commission of setting back the debate on the capital’s airport expansion by half a century, ahead of an announcement that plans for his new airport would be shelved.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Mr Johnson accused Airports Commission chief Sir Howard Davies of being “guided by the Establishment”.

The Airports Commission said the idea to build a new airport in the Thames estuary, nicknamed Boris Island, had not made the shortlist of options it is considering to expand Britain’s runway capacity.

It will now make a final recommendation by summer 2015 from three remaining options, including two plans to expand Heathrow airport and one to expand Gatwick airport.

The mayor of London Johnson told of his disappointment ahead of the news being made official, but said he will press ahead with his plans and added that he remains confident his scheme will eventually come to fruition.

‘Only credible solution’

“In one myopic stroke the Airports Commission has set the debate back by half a century and consigned their work to the long list of vertically filed reports on aviation expansion that are gathering dust on a shelf in Whitehall,” he said.

“It remains the only credible solution, any process that fails to include it renders itself pretty much irrelevant, and I’m absolutely certain that it is the option that will eventually be chosen.”

‘Realistic forecasts’

Responding to the Airport Commission’s decision to rule out the inner Thames estuary option, Nathan Stower, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association (Bata), said: “Britain needs additional runway capacity in the South East of England, but not at any price.

“The proposals must be cost-effective and offer value for money. There needs to be a credible funding mechanism based on realistic forecasts and today’s passengers must not be expected to pay for tomorrow’s infrastructure.”

Sir Howard, also the former head of the Financial Services Commission, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We think it’s too risky. The logistical challenges of shifting an airport 17 miles across London are immense. The surface access requirements to it are very complicated and we simply think that there’s a strong chance that you would never actually get it built.”

While Labour’s Transport Secretary, Mary Creagh said that Mr Johnson’s “fantasy island” airport plan would have closed Heathrow and caused longer passenger delays.