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.