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Monday 10 October 2011

Yikes Chaps, I Still Want A New Airport!

Occasional London mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has today used the pulpit offered him by the Maily Telegraph – also yielding £250k a year of “chicken feed” – to bang the drum for another of his vanity projects. Having saddled London’s council tax payers with the tab for the unnecessary BozzaMaster and the equally spurious cable car, he is now pitching for an airport.

Actually, it’s not a new project that Bozza is batting for, but a restatement of his ambition for what has already been christened BorisPort. The idea is to plonk a huge new airport out in the Thames estuary, on reclaimed land which of course would be named Boris Island. This whizzo wheeze has not taken into account the wildlife, the cost, or of course the SS Richard Montgomery.

The last named, a Liberty Ship, was wrecked in the estuary in 1944 with well north of 1,000 tonnes of now unstable explosives on board. The last time someone tried to recover the cargo of a ship with that much explosive on board, off Folkestone in 1967, the resulting detonation yielded a local tremor of 4.5 magnitude and brought panic to the town.

It would be interesting to see Bozza’s proposals for disposing of the Richard Montgomery, given the estimate that, if the thing went bang, it would break every window in nearby Sheerness and probably cause structural damage. The fallout would, of course, be in addition to the £40 billion airport construction cost, as would work to relocate colonies of wildlife – if possible.

The presence of the Richard Montgomery cannot be stressed too highly: the wreck could not just be left there, next to a busy operational airport. If the ship had not exploded before construction, that work could set it off – with potentially deadly consequences – and if it survived construction, operation with it still there would not pass muster with any responsible authority.

None of this, though, is allowed to enter Bozza’s world of needy London having to get another airport. Nor is the thought that, with improvements to transport links like the building of HS2, much domestic traffic could be shifted away from air, nor that there is potential for more capacity enhancements at Gatwick and Stansted. Bozza has to have his pet project.

So much so that he misses the point of his final analogy: “When London lost the docks in the Sixties, there was a collapse of employment and population as the ships went elsewhere” he tells. Yes, Boris, they went to places like Felixstowe and Southampton. Places better suited to turning round container ships. Places that already had ports. We didn’t need new ones, and don’t need a new airport now.

1 comment:

Tom said...

The Richard Montgomery only really affects airport sites right off Southend/Sheppey - the 2009 era Borisport plans were way, way further out (as in 'a third of the way to Holland' out). More recently the Cliffe idea appears to have resurrected itself, which isn't really a floating airport (it's got serious noise and environmental issues that the whole estuary airport idea is supposed to avoid) but is well on the London side of the Richard Montgomery danger zone.

One other issue with the sunken ship is that for the most plausible reclaimed airport sites accessed from the southern side of the estuary it's bang in the way of the obvious access routes, necessitating lengthy diversions. For northern estuary sites you have well built up Southend in the way, leading to the rather extravagant ideas mooted for Maplin of a sunken motorway out to sea off Southend (which itself comes perilously close (2-3000m) to the Montgomery unless you take out the Pier). Northern access precludes using much of HS1 for the links, too.

In short, what the Montgomery does is force all possible outer solutions to variations of 'well out to sea off Whitstable with a southern access route taking a big wide loop south of Sheppey/Gillingham', or, in other words, not a great place for an airport.