UK

Boris Johnson Attacks Airports Commission For Rejecting 'Boris Island' Airport Idea

02/09/2014 07:48 BST | Updated 02/09/2014 14:59 BST

Boris Johnson has said the rejection of his plans for new airport east of London are only a "temporary setback" and he has challenged other politicians to "man up" over the issue.

The thumbs down for the plan, which could have seen a four-runway brand new airport dubbed "Boris Island" built to the east of London, came from the Whitehall-appointed Airports Commission.

Mr Johnson said he will press ahead with his plans and added that he remains confident his scheme will eventually come to fruition.

boris johnson

Boris Johnson said the Airports Commission rejection of his idea was 'a temporary setback'

Speaking on LBC radio this morning, Mr Johnson said that the decision to rule out the estuary option was "a gigantic smokescreen for a U-turn on Heathrow".

He added that politicians "have not got the guts" to admit the real reason for the estuary plan being rejected and said they had to "man up" to give their solution for how to cope with

Mr Johnson said Sir Howard Davies, head of the commission, had ruled out the estuary project "because he has not got the support in Whitehall to go ahead with it".

He added that Sir Howard had been subject to "continual shrieks of panic from Whitehall", where politicians were favouring Heathrow.

Asked on LBC about Mr Johnson's comments today, Sir Howard said: "I wish I had his speechwriter. I am not sure that this kind of colourful prose takes us very much further forward."

Earlier, Mr Johnson criticised the commission's decision.

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'Boris Island' - Proposed New London Airport And Transit Hub

"In one myopic stroke the Airports Commission has set the debate back by half a century and consigned their work to the long list of vertically filed reports on aviation expansion that are gathering dust on a shelf in Whitehall," he said.

"Gatwick is not a long term solution and (commission head) Howard Davies must explain to the people of London how he can possibly envisage that an expansion of Heathrow, which would create unbelievable levels of noise, blight and pollution, is a better idea than a new airport to the east of London that he himself admits is visionary, and which would create the jobs and growth this country needs to remain competitive.

"It remains the only credible solution, any process that fails to include it renders itself pretty much irrelevant, and I'm absolutely certain that it is the option that will eventually be chosen."

The rejection of the estuary scheme will leave three options - two additional runway plans at Heathrow and one at Gatwick - still on the table for consideration by the commission, which is charged with recommending where airport expansion should come.

BOJO:

Headed by former Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies, the commission is due to make its final report to ministers in summer 2015 - after the general election.

For many, the favourite option is expansion at Heathrow - an idea that has been totally rejected by Mr Johnson.

The added complication for Mr Johnson is that he is now seeking the Tory 2015 general election candidacy at Uxbridge and South Ruislip - a constituency that borders on Heathrow and which contains many people who depend on the west London airport for their livelihood.

Last December the commission shortlisted the Heathrow and Gatwick options and said it would look further at the estuary option while admitting that it was extremely expensive.

Since then the commission has published reports showing the possible environment cost of the estuary plan.

The shortlisted options:

  • Gatwick Airport: At this site the commission's analysis will be based on a new runway over 3,000 metres in length spaced sufficiently south of the existing runway to permit fully independent operation.

  • A new 3,500-metre runway constructed to the north west of the existing airport proposed by Heathrow Airport Ltd.

  • An extension of the existing northern runway to the west of Heathrow proposed by Heathrow Hub Ltd, consortium including former Concorde pilot Jock Lowe. This scheme would see the runway lengthened to at least 6,000 metres, enabling it to be operated as two separate runways: one for departures and one for arrivals.

Mr Johnson's chief aviation adviser Daniel Moylan said yesterday that not short-listing the estuary option would be "a sadly short-sighted decision but far from the end of the process".

He went on: "Airports policy has been stalled for nearly five decades, ricocheting like a billiard ball between Heathrow and Gatwick.

"We have one opportunity to break out of that but it seems the commission has taken us back to the same old, failed choice. But the final decision will lie with the Government and a key question now is whether the commission will play much of a role in that."

Responding to the Airport Commission's decision to rule out the inner Thames estuary option, Nathan Stower, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association (Bata), said: "Britain needs additional runway capacity in the South East of England, but not at any price.

"With the Thames estuary option sensibly ruled out for good, the Airports Commission is free now to concentrate on scrutinising the business cases of the three shortlisted options.

"The proposals must be cost-effective and offer value for money. There needs to be a credible funding mechanism based on realistic forecasts and today's passengers must not be expected to pay for tomorrow's infrastructure."

Mr Davies said the risks and costs of the project were too high.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We think it's too risky. The logistical challenges of shifting an airport 17 miles across London are immense. The surface access requirements to it are very complicated and we simply think that there's a strong chance that you would never actually get it built."