What do you think of the Thames Estuary Airport (aka Boris Island)?

on Saturday, 14 January 2012. Posted in News from 2012, James's blog

The government has said it will consider plans for a Thames Estuary Airport

I remain unconvinced for all the obvious reasons - it will be too costly, too risky, and it will alter London's geography too much. It is was replacing one airport, like Foster has done in Hong Kong, then the case might work out, but when London already has so many airport, investing in one super-hub seems unlikely to be able to pay its way.

That is why I think an extra runway at Gatwick is inherently more sensible, even if it isn't such a headline grabbing prestige project.

I've outlined my arguments in favour of Gatwick here.

Update 18th January

The government has announced today that they will begin yet another consultation on these proposals, after they were firmly rejected in the 2003 'Future of Aviation' White Paper. So what has happened to the industry since then?

Essentially, project demand for flights looks a lot less steep than it did then, not so much because of economic challenges, but because of the rising cost of oil - something many commentators, including myself - pointed out at the time.

Predicting demand over a 30 year period is still a risky business as there are so many variables - but the likelihood is that London may benefit from one extra runway. It is highly unlikely that such a vast new airport could pay for itself.

If, however, this project is taken seriously, then it is time for the engineers of HS2 to get their protractors out and rotate plans for the new Euston through 90 degrees. There is going to be a huge need for rail access to this airport, and this is likely to use the HS1 route and its connection to the new lines.

Comments (5)

  • Harry Akins

    Harry Akins

    14 January 2012 at 18:31 |
    You are clearly an accountant type who lacks ambition. What about all the opportunities this new airport would provide. It would settle all arguments about who has the biggest airport - London would dominate once and for all, a single superhub to serve all of Europe, a massive growth opportunity for Essex and Northern Kent, an eco town on the old Heathrow site could be Europe's largest new town - bring it on I say!
  • Oscar Young

    Oscar Young

    14 January 2012 at 18:37 |
    Harry, that attitude is typical of the kind of 'we're bigger than you' willy waving so beloved of our out-of-touch politicians! James is right on this one - expanding Gatwick is a much more logical choice, providing it is properly linked by an improved rail service.

    However, I don't think even this will happen - wait till Caroline Lucas and her green brigade start spouting out about the little hedgerows, sorry car parks and retail parks get displaced! Also, look at the challenges the industry faces - high price of oil, tax tax and more tax, then ETS on top, economic uncertainty etc.

    Then again, by 2019 this may all have blown over - although I doubt global warming will have solved itself by then. so yes, if London does need an extra runway, this is defo the place.
  • James Milward

    James Milward

    18 January 2012 at 16:42 |
    If BA say they want it, then I will get worried. Until then, it is a non-starter. Far from making Boris look like a serious candidate for a second term, it just makes him look like a complete fool - which is a shame, I am Conservative myself, and he is otherwise quite a likeable chap, and he has a great sense of humour. Unlike, well, you know who!
  • Gill Moore

    Gill Moore

    19 January 2012 at 20:23 |
    Alongside the RSPB and a broad coalition of millions, we are wholly opposed to the construction of an airport anywhere in the Thames Estuary because of the immense damage it would cause to the area’s internationally important wildlife and the wider environment. We find it sad that developers, the Mayor of London, his team and others are so ill-informed about the Thames Estuary and its internationally protected wildlife habitats. The whole issue was exhaustively investigated between 2002 and 2005 in the Government’s Aviation White Paper. ALL the key players, including the aviation industry, contributed. The idea of an airport in the Thames Estuary was conclusively ruled out and upheld by the High Court. In addition to the unprecedented environmental damage and the resulting massive legal implications, the investigation found that an estuary airport did not make sense economically, would not meet the requirements of the aviation industry and presented a significantly higher risk of 'bird strike' than at any other major airport in the UK. It would potentially be the single biggest piece of environmental vandalism ever perpetrated in the UK and any attempt to build an airport in or around the Thames Estuary will be fought with relentless vigour
    Friends of the North Kent Marshes
  • James Avery

    James Avery

    20 January 2012 at 00:05 |
    Gill, The only thing that has changed between the 2003 White Paper and now is that most growth projections for the industry have been revised downwards, whilst Heathrow has continued its building programme.

    I take the view that London might benefit from one extra runway, not 4, and I agree that a business case which is built on closing Heathrow, considering all this extra investment, is very weak. I would like to know just who these investors are who are expecting a return, because I certainly can't see it lasting long in Dragon's Den - not with all the inherent risks of building on such a site.

    And all those issues would need to be considered before trying to get an EIA done!

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