Mayor welcomes inner estuary hub airport being taken forward

17 December 2013

The Mayor of London has welcomed news that the Davies Commission have decided to take forward an inner estuary hub airport to provide much needed new aviation capacity for the UK. He believes the compelling logic of the interim report issued by the Davies Commission clearly shows that the Government now faces a straight choice between a horror option of expanding Heathrow, or building a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary.

Today (17 December) the Mayor agreed that his team will work alongside the Davies Commission with a view to providing further conclusive evidence that plans for an inner estuary airport should be taken forward.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Howard Davies’ recognition of the importance of a hub airport to the economy and his decision to include the option of a new hub in the inner estuary on the Isle of Grain is both sensible and pragmatic, and is welcome news for Londoners and for the future competitive needs of the UK population as a whole.

“It is clear that Gatwick is not being considered as a hub airport, meaning a second runway there would only provide temporary relief to Heathrow. And that means he has effectively told the Government it has two choices – proceed with the creation of a monstrous Heathrow, on a constrained site that won’t solve our capacity crisis, but would inflict untold misery on hundreds of thousands more Londoners through the din of many more jet engines in parts of the capital and home counties that have not so far experienced it; or proceed with the construction of a new hub in the inner estuary that can be built for the same cost as a four runway Heathrow, and would bring new jobs, homes, and long term competitiveness.

“A new airport in the inner estuary is the only credible hub option left, and the only one that would uphold this country’s claim to be the natural financial, commercial and economic capital of Europe. By keeping it on the table Davies is saying you have a choice – between a damaging u turn or a radical new vision for expansion. We will be fighting the former and hailing the latter, and I’d urge the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to do the same.”

A new hub airport at the Isle of Grain on the Hoo Peninsula in the inner estuary is close enough to London to provide smooth and fast access by public transport, yet ideally located so as to allow take-off and landing over water with impact on as small a population as possible. It would be close to the new DP World London Gateway Port and lay the foundation for a logistics heartland of the UK.

The Davies Commission have recognised that the plan has potential and the Mayor’s team will work alongside them to ensure all of the necessary information is provided that will mean it can be taken forward. The Mayor’s team were pleased that the Commission acknowledge that a new airport on the Isle of Grain could effectively solve the problem of airport noise, whilst bringing a scale of benefits greater than any of the other options the Commission has considered. If we give realistic treatment to the scale of future demand growth that the Commission have identified and acknowledge the benefits of a hub airport, a four-runway hub is fully justified. The rate of progress in making aircraft quieter is slowing fast, and the Commission are clear about this in their report. It is therefore simply not true to say that a new runway at Heathrow would not expose a great many more people to noise.

His team were alarmed at the Commission’s cost analysis of the different options. The Mayor’s team do not recognise the cost figures and the extra levels of risk and optimism bias that the Commission have assigned to an Isle of Grain airport option; and feel that the Commission’s assumptions about the level of surface access investment needed for new runways at Heathrow or Gatwick are woefully underestimated. £112 billion to build a four-runway hub airport is far in excess of the costs experienced in many other countries that have completed similar projects, and is contrary to independent assessments of experts and private financiers.

The Mayor’s team look forward to working with the Commission in the New Year to demonstrate clearly that the cost of a new four-runway hub airport would cost no more than building two new runways at Heathrow. The Mayor’s team were surprised to find that the potential of Stansted to become a hub airport was not recognised in the Commission’s interim report and will consider the reasons for its exclusion in detail. They remain adamant that any new runways at Heathrow would be a huge mistake that would be environmentally catastrophic for west London. It would greatly exacerbate the immense pressure on local roads and rail services, and the noise created by extra flights at an airport that is already the noisiest in Europe, would blight the lives of hundreds of thousands more Londoners.

A new four runway hub airport on the Isle of Grain would have the potential to support 388,000 jobs nationally by 2050 and generate a cumulative GVA impact of £726 billion between 2015 and 2050 – about £20 billion each year. The additional business connectivity offered from the new airport would permanently add 0.5 per cent to the UK GDP by 2050, which would currently be valued at £6.9 billion.

The Mayor of London’s Chief advisor on aviation, Daniel Moylan, said: “The clear conclusion is that the Commission recognises the importance of a hub airport, however we are now in the midst of a crucial battle to ensure it is in the right place. The proposals we have submitted are the only ones to have been grounded in a clear understanding of the needs of the city and its residents, not merely in the commercial or operational imperatives of the aviation industry.”