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Tide goes out on Boris’ estuary airport plan

[ September 2, 2014   //   ]

The Government’s Airports Commission formally ruled out London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan for an airport in the Thames Estuary to replace Heathrow, on 2 September.

While the Mayor said he would fight on, insisting that the Commission’s thumbs-down did not spell the end of his vision for a Hong Kong-style airport in the middle of the Thames to replace Heathrow, Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies said the idea was unviable because of its huge cost and environmental concerns. The Mayor described the Commission as short-sighted, and predicted that plans to expand runways at Gatwick and/or Heathrow airports would fail in the face of political opposition.

Meanwhile, BIFA – no doubt relieved that the large and widely scattered Heathrow airfreight forwarding community would not have to face the prospect of upping sticks and moving 70 miles east – welcomed the Airports Commission’s decision not to include the estuary airport in its shortlist of options for providing new airport capacity by 2030.
Director general, Robert Keen, commented: “BIFA’s members hope that today’s decision will allow the commission to focus on the three most appropriate and sustainable solutions in the lead up to its final report in the summer of 2015.
“In the lead up to that final report, BIFA will continue to submit our thoughts to the Commission relative to the constraints imposed by capacity limitations, UK global connectivity, the importance of air freight and the key facilitative role played by the freight forwarder.
“We can only hope that after the general election in May 2015, the welter of evidence as presented will be such that politicians will give the green light and adopt these recommendations in full and finally get things started on an much overdue expansion of UK aviation hub capacity.”
Other business organisations are also impatient with the way the airport capacity debate has been allowed to drag on. A new report by the CBI published on 1 September reiterated themployers’ organisation’s belief that having a single UK hub with spare capacity to add new routes is critical to the UK’s long-term sustainable growth.

CBI says that with the UK’s hub capacity at Heathrow already full, the UK is falling behind on direct flights to emerging markets. The report highlights that by drawing heavily on transfer passengers, the UK’s EU competitors with their own unconstrained capacity are creating connections to new destinations such as Xiamen in China and Recife in Brazil, as well as links to the major markets of the future, like Peru, Indonesia, Taipei and Chile.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) also reminded the Commission of the crucial need to increase airport capacity for freight in London, reiterating how vital expansion in hub and dedicated air freight capacity is to the future prosperity of the UK economy. FTA is planning to submit further detailed information to the up-coming Airport Commission consultations on the importance of the London hub for UK connectivity for importers and exporters

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