Passengers to face 16 more years of stacking & stress before a runway rival can come up
London, 16 July
Airline passengers flying into Heathrow face 16 more years of stacking and stress at the world’s busiest airport before a four-runway rival could relieve the capacity crunch, according to Boris Johnson.
As Friday’s deadline approaches for applications on increasing Britain’s airport capacity, the London Mayor dismissed adding extra runways at Heathrow and Gatwick as “intellectual cul-de-sacs”. He came out firmly in favour of a new airport on the Isle of Grain in north Kent designed by Lord Foster ~ but that would open no earlier than 2029.
Launching Transport for London’s evidence to the Davies commission, which will assess the varying options, Mr Johnson yesterday lambasted politicians for failing to provide more airport capacity earlier. "We’ve been sitting around like puddings for the past 40 years doing nothing," he said. "We have squandered decades and other countries are eating our lunch."
Until a new hub is ready, he said, London’s airport system would struggle on as it is. “There is no quick fix, there is nothing you can do in the short term that addresses the problem.”
He ruled out "mixed mode" at Heathrow, where more capacity is extracted by allowing landings and take-offs on both runways, saying: “The government has tiptoed towards that minefield and has stepped away from it”.
The commission has already attracted a bid from Birmingham International Airport, which is aiming to rival Heathrow in passenger capacity, as revealed earlier this year by The Independent.
TfL has whittled down its 16 options to three, each with four runways. "The Isle of Grain best combines regeneration with connectivity," said Mr Johnson. A rail link would reach central London in less than half an hour. Its other options are a new airport on reclaimed land in the Thames Estuary, nicknamed Boris Island, and massive expansion at Stansted. Whichever is chosen, TfL envisages a sharp increase in destinations served, with more than 100 new international routes ~ including four times as many links to China and Latin America.
Two out of three passengers using a new four-runway airport will be expected to arrive by public transport, compared with just 40 per cent at Heathrow at present. All three options call for the closure of Heathrow, with the site becoming the focus for 1,00,000 new homes in a ‘Royal Borough of Heathrow’.
A Heathrow spokesman said: “It seems extraordinary that any Mayor of London would propose forcibly buying and then closing Heathrow. The mayor’s proposals would leave 1,14,000 people facing redundancy, cost taxpayers more and take longer to deliver than building on the strength we already have at Heathrow.”