London Mayor Boris Johnson backs call for hub airport

London Mayor Boris Johnson has backed a report calling for a new airport in south-east England.

Overseen by Transport for London bosses, it claims the economy will suffer and jobs lost to European competitors without a hub airport.

Mr Johnson said for London to remain at the centre of global business "we need aviation links that will allow us to compete with our rivals".

The government said it was working to develop more sustainable aviation.

But passenger demand for London's airports is forecast to increase from 140 million passengers a year in 2010 to 400 million passengers a year by 2050, according to the report.

The report argued it would be possible an additional 85 million passengers could travel through London's airports each year, within the environmental targets the government has adopted.

Mr Johnson said: "The capital's airports are full, our runways are rammed and we risk losing jobs to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Madrid or other European cities should we fail to act.

"We need to start planning for a brand new airport that can help meet the ever-increasing demand for aviation and act as a hub, particularly to the rest of the UK."

'Losing to Europe'

Addressing the seminar, he said Thames Estuary should be looked at as a possible location.

But Rodney Chambers, the leader of Medway Council in Kent, said: "I believe it is time that Boris Johnson realises that his pie-in-the-sky Thames Estuary airport plan will never get off the ground.

"It has already been rejected by the government and the aviation industry - with nine out of 10 air carriers saying they oppose the scheme.

"Yet, despite this, the mayor seems intent on carrying on regardless, wasting public money to try and get support for his project."

Daniel Moylan, deputy chairman of Transport for London, oversaw the report which was released at a seminar on south-east England aviation capacity attended by business leaders.

According to the report, Heathrow handles up to 75,000 more passengers a day than it was built for, with runway utilisation operating at about 99%.

In terms of destinations served by worldwide international airports, Heathrow had fallen from second in 1990 to seventh in 2010.

The number of destinations that can be directly accessed from Heathrow stood at 157 compared to 224 from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and 235 from Frankfurt, it said.

It concluded London's only hub airport was losing out to other European airports which, if sustained, could have long-term damaging effects on both the London and UK economies.

But in May plans for a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow were scrapped when the coalition government took office and Mr Johnson has been accused of being at odds with the government's aviation strategy.

A Department for Transport spokesman said the mayor's suggestions would be considered with regard to its aviation strategy.

But he said: "We have made clear that we do not support the construction of additional runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.

"That is why we are working with interested parties to develop a new framework for aviation which is more sustainable but still supports economic growth."

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