Thames estuary airport plan costly and risky and a potential failure says report
One of three reports prepared for Airport Commission highlights commercial and infrastructure concerns over ‘Boris island’.
More doubt has been cast on the prospect of the “Boris island” Thames estuary airport plan going ahead.
Favoured by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, the estuary scheme, involving a new four-runway airport, is being studied by the Whitehall-appointed Airports Commission.
One of three reports prepared for the commission published on Friday has said of the estuary plan: “Overall, the challenges to transition are considerable and amount to a significant cost and risk to the taxpayer in terms of commercial negotiations, infrastructure development and potential failure.”
Another of the reports said Heathrow airport would have to close if the estuary scheme went ahead and that Heathrow’s owners would have to be paid compensation of between £13.5bn and £21.5bn.
The third report cited possible transport improvement costs associated with the new airport of between £10.1bn and £17.2bn.
The reports follow the recent publication of an environmental report prepared for the commission, which estimated that moving affected wildlife away from the new airport could cost as much as £2bn.
The London assembly Labour group transport spokeswoman, Val Shawcross, said: “We have always known that Boris’s plan for a Thames estuary airport was pie in the sky, but four expert reports inside a week have now confirmed this.
“Whether it’s environmental problems, expensive transport links or the decimation of employment at Heathrow, we now know for sure that this project poses a devastating risk to the taxpayer.
“Boris has already wasted millions of pounds on this vanity project. He needs to accept that the evidence is now totally against him and that no more public money should be spent pursuing a Thames estuary airport.”
Two new Heathrow runway schemes and one new Gatwick runway project made it on to the commission’s shortlist, announced at the end of 2013. The commission promised to look further at the estuary airport plan and it is expected to make a decision later this year.
The commission’s final report, which recommends where airport expansion should take place, will come out after the 2015 general election.
Johnson’s chief adviser on aviation, Daniel Moylan, said: “Our team will analyse these reports in detail, but it appears they confirm the huge benefits to the country’s prosperity that would flow from moving Heathrow to a new location and prove that there are challenges, but no show-stoppers to achieving that.
“Of course there are risks, but all the proposals being considered by the commission carry risk, not least the clear risk to human health and the education of children already imposed by Heathrow on great swaths of London.”