London mayor Boris Johnson has backed a report calling for a brand new south-east England airport.
Overseen by Transport for London deputy chairman Daniel Moylan, the report said the UK economy would suffer and London lose jobs to its European competitors unless a new hub airport was created in south-east England.
The report does not specify a particular site for a new airport but another Johnson-commissioned report later this year will consider a range of locations for new airport capacity. This will include options for a new airport which could be in the Thames estuary, as well as consideration of existing sites with the exception of Heathrow.
While the coalition Government has ruled out new runways in south-east England, Johnson has long favoured a new airport in the Thames estuary. His backing for expansion not only puts him at possible loggerheads with the Government but also with those opposing airport growth, including residents’ groups and conservationists.
Heathrow ‘losing out’
The report said the number of destinations that can be directly accessed from Heathrow was now 157 compared to 224 from Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport and 235 from Frankfurt. It said that this showed that London’s only hub airport was losing out to other European airports, which if sustained could have long-term damaging effects for the economies of London and the UK.
The report also said that runway use was typically 70% to 75% at major European hub airports, but at Heathrow and Gatwick airports it was approximately 99%, which was causing delays and reliability problems. Heathrow is handling up to 75,000 more passengers a day than it was built for, it added.
The report said the Government was forecasting considerable growth in aviation demand within environmental limits. To ensure that this growth was accommodated to the benefit of the economy of London and the UK without harmful environmental consequences, the report called on the Government to adopt a fresh approach and develop a comprehensive strategy for aviation growth for London and the UK.
“No other city even approaches the volume of passengers handled at London’s airports but we need to start planning for a brand new airport that can help meet the ever-increasing demand for aviation and act as a hub, particularly to the rest of the UK,” said Johnson. But he reiterated this cannot be at any cost and reaffirmed his opposition to expansion of Heathrow.
Boris on ‘collision course’
Anti-Heathrow airport expansion group Hacan has claimed that Mr Johnson is “on a collision course” with the Government over his aviation policy and that there is no business case for a new airport.
London Assembly Green Party member Darren Johnson said: “There has been significant opposition to this idea from local people, politicians and from environmental campaigners. The mayor would better represent Londoners’ interests by pushing for investment in alternatives to aviation, such as improved and more affordable rail services.”