Is “Boris Island” a smokescreen to smooth the way for new runways at Gatwick and Heathrow?

on Wednesday, 18 January 2012. Posted in News from 2012, Mark's blog

Nobody loves a grandiose infrastructure project more than me. But, I'm also a realist, and it is quite clear that building a brand new airport on partially reclaimed land in the Thames Estuary over 40 miles from London is a non-starter. It would be too costly, the business case is very weak and would result in a fundamental shift in London's economic geography. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the new airport would need British Airways to be an anchor tenant, and that has been ruled out by the airline.

So why do we need a Government consultation into such a floored project? It reminds me of when New Labour once proposed building a new mega-hub near Rugby to effectively replace Heathrow, Luton, Stansted and Birmingham airports. This was never a serious idea, but it meant they could give the green light to other "less damaging" expansion plans instead as an alternative.

There is no question that London needs extra flights capacity, but the cheapest and quickest fixes – new runways at Gatwick and Heathrow – are major political hot potatoes for the Conservative led Government and their London Mayor. The constituencies around Heathrow are a minefield of marginals and Gatwick's environs are solid Tory territory. The solution? Present the voters with the simple choice of "create thousands more jobs here" or "decimate your local economy as everything moves to the far east (of London)".

Extra runway capacity obviously doesn't have the same cache as a headline grabbing prestige project, but I'd be voting for that over Boris's fantasy island.

Comments (4)

  • Dave Bowers

    Dave Bowers

    18 January 2012 at 11:56 |
    In a word, yes. Don't forget Boris is also fighting in the Mayoral election this year. The new airport is out of his boundary, so he's not going to lose any votes from the Isle of Grain Nimby brigade! He'll gain a lot from doing a bit of Heathrow bashing. He can walk around Richmond with his head held high saying "I'm trying to protect you from that nasty Heathrow so that Fenton can continue to chase deer around your lovely park in peace."
  • Ronald Muir

    Ronald Muir

    18 January 2012 at 15:03 |
    You should get your facts right befor dismissing this option entirely. The Rugby Airport proposal was an alternative to Birmingham and it would have meant Coventry closing.

    It only provided capacity for 60m passengers, so Luton and Stansted wouldn't have been closed.

    You are clearly failing to see the enourmous growth potential due to the emerging Asian markets which need access to Europe. India alone probably needs the equivalent of Stansted to serve it - just look at their predicted economic growth curves.

    So what we really need is both Boris Island to serve London, and a revival of the Rugby plans for the Midlands!

    Where is your sense of imagination?
  • Chris Brundle

    Chris Brundle

    19 January 2012 at 15:33 |
    You are both far too timid with your cynicism about this airport. It would put us back on the engineering map once again - exactly as the visionary architect Lord Foster has said - we wold be like the Victorians for a second time!
  • TheBoogersCaravan


    19 January 2012 at 15:56 |
    Is this the same Lord Foster who is being widely quoted predicting London passenger numbers of 400 million in 2050? Jeez - this is absolute pie in the sky, and yet all the media are using these figures without once questioning them.

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