We've known for a while that those who were expected to be living closest to the proposed 'Boris Island' airport were none to happy about the idea - the Leader of nearby Medway Council going so far as to call it "unaffordable and unnecessary."
Now, a poll by the same Council (commissioned to run across the UK) has found that some 76% of adults never want to see the £70bn project break ground. Perhaps that's why the Mayor is reportedly rolling back from his originally enthusiastic stance over the airport. (UPDATE: Oh no he isn't!) (UPDATE 2: "worth exploring" but not his preferred option)
So what now for the Mayor's dream?
It's clear that there is a capacity problem, and one which will only grow over time. Arguments can, and are, made by both sides as to the actual merit of having an airport hub that competes with Madrid and Amsterdam. Heathrow is at capacity and local residents understandably against expansion (which the Government has ruled out) or increasing the number of flights and time they are able to fly from the airport.
So, is a high speed line between Gatwick and Heathrow the answer? The FT (£) examines the options:
" Building a 15-minute link between Heathrow and Gatwick could increase the price of landing slots at the latter, and eventually force low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet to move to Stansted. This could free up more slots at the new “Heath-Wick” hub for an expansion of regional capacity, an idea which has caught the eye of cabinet ministers.
"The Department for Transport said a draft aviation policy would be published for consultation in the spring.
"“We are seeking views on the key issues which need to be addressed, including the importance of a UK hub airport and whether it might be possible to create a ‘virtual hub’ by improving connectivity between existing airports,” it said. “This proposal will form a useful contribution to the debate.” "
This is certainly a fascinating prospect - and one that we've suggested in the past. Travelling the 35miles between Heathrow and Gatwick in around 15 minutes, the link would establish a 'grand hub' for London - perhaps not one as suited to the task as a purpose built estuary airport, but certainly an improvement on the current situation.
We'll flag the consultation when the Government publishes it - hopefully it will give the option to consider every available choice and, perhaps more interestingly, the Government's impact assessment, detailing their costings for completing the schemes.