Articles, LondonUnlockedEditor1 Comment

200809221030.jpgIt would seem that every transport editor was given the same briefing on Saturday, as the Mayor tentatively dipped his toes into the water and suggested that building a new airport might be more than just a throwaway line in his manifesto.

From The Times (although the wording appears almost verbatim in The Telegraph, BBC Online and The Daily Mail):

Boris Johnson, the London mayor, has described Heathrow as “a planning error of the 1960s”.

Now his officials are drawing up proposals to close it and replace it with a 24-hour airport located on an artificial island in the Thames estuary.

“If you look at what is going on in other countries around the world - in Hong Kong, in Washington - it’s not impossible to move the capital’s biggest airport,” Johnson has said.

It may at first sound implausible, but proposals for an airport in the Thames have endured for almost 40 years.

Johnson favours a four-runway hub off Sheppey in Kent, which could easily be expanded to six runways because of minimal planning constraints.

The airport would be connected to the high-speed Channel tunnel rail link to transport passengers into central London in about 35 minutes. And the Continent would be just a short train ride away in the opposite direction, cutting out the need for many shorthaul flights.

Officials at London’s city hall believe the airport could be built in as little as six years and ultimately envisage Heathrow being closed and turned into a high-tech business and residential development.

We applaud this move - it's bold, and in its early stages, but right for London. A new airport, fitted with modern, efficient, transport links, would bolster London's standing in the business community, significantly cut carbon emissions, allow 24 hour flights, and could provide high-speed links with the rest of the UK, discouraging short-haul flights.

LondonUnlocked argued for the building of a new airport in our Transport Manifesto, and still hold that position. However, given the news earlier last week that BAA is to sell Gatwick, we believe that the market should be allowed to settle before any final decision is made.

However, the Mayor is right to be doing the early work on this project now, before air travel in London reaches a crisis point. We welcome his determination.