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Tuesday 17 December 2013

Boris Island Becomes Norwegian Blue

The Davies Commission looking at options for airport expansion in the South East has reported (see HERE [.pdf]), and it is at once bad news for those opposed to expansion of Heathrow, where an additional runway has made the shortlist, and London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his super whizzo idea of a new airport on the Isle of Grain, which has not.
Er, cripes chaps ... oo-er ... yikes!

While Bozza tours the studios and splutters into his coffee, and tells anyone in earshot that the only true way forward for London’s airport needs is the proposal favoured by Himself Personally Now, he is missing the simple facts of the matter: his pipe dream would be eye-wateringly expensive, require a public subsidy possibly north of £60 billion, and as a result potentially an economic disaster.

Moreover, Bozza’s other favoured solution, a massive expansion of Stansted, might abstract from other airports which have better transport links, while its own connection to London would need significant work doing on it (the rail link would need fully four-tracking at least as far as Broxbourne, which means years of disruption and a lot more money). Heathrow and Gatwick therefore come out ahead.
Heathrow Airport

Even then, there is a caution over the ability to get passengers to and from Gatwick, with the report noting capacity limitations on the Brighton main line, and congestion issues on the M25 and M23. Similarly, Birmingham Airport does not make the short list, as HS2 has not yet been built and so it would be too distant. Then there is the problem of competition versus coordination.

Davies notes that the New York Airports System allows categories of flights to be concentrated at particular airports: short-haul and business at La Guardia, and long-haul at JFK, for instance. With London’s airports now run by independent and to an extent competing companies, this approach is effectively unavailable. Thus the wonders of free market capitalism.

The report also points out that it is not possible to move Heathrow’s operations to the Isle of Grain without significant effect on the population of West London, tens of thousands of whom depend on the airport for their livelihood. Bozza’s new airport would be over 30 miles east of the capital. Commuting time and expense would be prohibitive for many workers – if there were capacity to carry them.

Heathrow, on the other hand, is well connected by road, rail and tube, with Crossrail to come. The problem for Bozza, and so many Tory MPs, is that they have all declared their opposition. Well, fine: they want the capacity somewhere to the East of London, they can persuade their private sector pals to pony up for it. That won’t happen. Boris Island is an ex-proposal. It has ceased to be. It’s a stiff.

It has run down the curtain and joined the choir invisibule. It’s dead, that’s what it is.

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