Boris: "Stansted replete with potential"

Stansted Airport exterior Stansted airport in Essex is replete with potential according to London Mayor, Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson's plans for dealing with airport capacity in the South East have been variously described by his critics as "far fetched", "hare-brained", "insane" and "not commercially viable".

But you would fail to take the Mayor of London seriously at your peril , which is why his plans for a brand new hub airport to the east of London - impacting on our region - carry some weight.

He's brought in consultants and hired engineers in a tireless endeavour to assess the various plans. This week he revealed to MPs that all is becoming clear and he he is finally getting close to a decision.

"There are three options in the frame," he told the Transport Select Committee. "Like a tigress with her cubs, I can see advantages in all three. Each option has much to commend it."

The case for Stansted

With Heathrow almost full and the west of London overcrowded, the mayor believes looking to the east is where the solution will be found.

Start Quote

If you look at the journey times, the costs and the potential productivity in the Lea Valley, you can see huge potential for Stansted. It's got a lot going for it. ”

End Quote Boris Johnson Conservative, Mayor of London

The three proposals on the shortlist include building the four runway airport beside the Thames estuary, building in the so-called "Boris Island" in the middle of the Thames or development at an enlarged Stansted.

"Stansted is really replete with potential." he told the MPs. "If you look at the journey times, the costs and the potential productivity in the Lea Valley, you can see huge potential for Stansted. It's got a lot going for it."

But before we get too excited, he also outlined the advantages of the Thames option: "My engineers think the journey time to the inner estuary from London would be quicker than to Stansted."

Delay over decision

Mr Johnson is a man impatient for change. He attacked the "glacial speed" at which decisions were being made about building future airports. It meant that Britain was "haemorrhaging jobs and opportunities to our rivals".

Foreign companies, he claimed, were going to other parts of Europe where the air connections were better; it was time to make "the case for boldness" and develop "a better long term sustainable alternative to Heathrow".

Not everyone is convinced by his arguments. Conservative Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South), who sits on the committee, said he was finding it difficult to find reliable forecasts of future passenger demand.

"I haven't yet made up my mind on the hub," he said .

The final decision will be made, not by the Mayor of London, but by whoever is in Government in 2015. That's when the Davies commission will produce its report into air capacity in the UK.

Government time table

Some people (not least Mr Johnson) have accused the government of sweeping the problem under the carpet until after the next election but the new Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, told the hearing that, "just over two years is a reasonable time table".

When asked if his department had made any assessment of the economic implications of a lack of hub capacity, he said: "The one thing the department is not short of is numerous reports which come to us on this issue."

He won't commit himself either way for now but he did observe that in the last few months Gatwick had come up with its own proposal for building a second runway, Heathrow was redeveloping Terminal 2 and Stansted was changing owners.

"Airports are now coming forward with their own proposals... they are now competing with each other and that is an interesting development in aviation policy," said Mr McLoughlin.

As we have said before, the government would much prefer the industry to come up with its own solution to this electorally explosive issue and the Transport Secretary appeared to confirm that.

But Boris Johnson believes the politicians should be in the driving seat. He will press ahead with his own plans, all of which would have a big impact on the eastern region.

Who knows, by the time the Government comes to make its decision, Mr Johnson may be an even more influential player in the debate than he is now.

Deborah McGurran Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    A new airport anywhere on the proposed route of HS2 would make most sense. The problem with the Thames Estuary proposals is that they all ignore the impact on internationally important wetland areas and the wildlife there, or that these areas currently enjoy the highest levels of environmental protection.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    With the possibility of the current operator of Heathrow seeking to increase passenger charges to £27.50 airlines will begin to reduce service and or use London’s alternative airports, namely- Gatwick Stansted, Luton, Southend and City. Between them they could accommodate a further 37 million passengers

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Why is Boris so obessed with more airport capacity? Surely there are more pressing issues facing the position of Mayor of London rather than increasing air capacity? The unemployed, homeless, vunerable, hospitals, roads and schools all need urgent attention ahead of flying in more planes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I live near Stansted and use the Stansted Express (though that’s a bit of a lie the express bit) to get to work. I can assure you that at peak times (6 till 9 and 3.30 till 8pm) the trains are packed. I only hope they build a new line to cope.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Great idea, (but I live near Heathrow!).

    Now we have seriously fast trains, why can't we have a quick train service from central London to a rather more remote location, so a new airport can serve the travellers yet not inconvenience residents?

    If passengers booked in in London then were swiftly whisked to the remote airport no more time would be wasted than in the current crowded airports.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    It's great to see there are loads of different proposals to solve the aviation problem in the SE. The UK is already losing billion of lost trade by delays in this decision and all our rival cities are ahead of us. The best option out of all from a a business perspective is to build 1 or 2 new runways at Heathrow. It will take a lot longer to close Heathrow and build a brand new hub airport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    It would be insane to build a new airport in the southeast. The infrastructure is already at Heathrow-accessible from central London via tube and train. A fifth runway could be built and function efficiently, as does Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta, the largest airport in the world. Expanding Stansted, Gatwick or Luton, so far away from London, makes no economic or geographical sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Directly west of London is no place for an airport. To fly over the most densely populated part of the country is a massive planning failure. Time to close Heathrow and start again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    the Policy Exchange has the best proposal - a four runway airport situated immediately west (as an extension) of the current site overlapping the M25

    the island airport should be sunk!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    What ever the outcome be it expansion of Heathrow ,Stansted etc We need to do it NOW not wait till 2015. I am not a fan of Boris but the action has to be taken sooner than later or we will become a " second league" Country for flights

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    The problem with an airport to the east of london, is that it is only useful to people in the south east. an airport to the west or better still north west of london, is useful to londoners, but also to people out towards oxford, reading, and further into the UK. getting out to stansted takes ages, and is a pain - heathrow is much easier.



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