Reply To: London Heathrow Airport third runway U-turn ahead

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It’s important to differentiate “Boris Island” – which was an early proposal sited in the middle of the Estuary – from Lord Foster’s Thames Hub, which is illustrated in the report above. Though the error does seem to be so widely perpetuated that it’s become commonplace to confuse the two.

There is no evidence wildlife would be adversely affected, once mitigations were in place. Especially when set against the broader economic and environmental benefits of the new airport. Boris was speaking this morning about the mitigation plan which will be set out later in the year.

It is not yet possible for anyone to assert that a new hub would be “prohibitively expensive” as it hasn’t been properly costed yet. The airport itself would easily be funded by Sovereign Wealth, Pension Infrastructure or other private funds, and there’s no reason toll roads and other funding options wouldn’t bear a large part of the cost of opening up huge swathes of land ripe for development along the East London corridor to the new Transport Hub.

This is investment, not just typical “spend” and the two should not be confused.

We haven’t heard what the cost of this 3/4 runway LHR proposal would be, but it won’t be inexpensive – re-routing the M25, purchasing land, removing reservoirs, adding rail and tube stations, pollution and cost as aircraft taxi further to take off and land…the list goes on.

A larger Heathrow would also require a “huge public investment in new ground infrastructure” which would be necessary to expand LHR over some of the most high value land in the country, in an already overly congested M4 corridor, right next to the World Heritage site which is Windsor Castle.

References to “unacceptable consequences” of closing Heathrow don’t seem to consider that the land would be hugely valuable as a mixed development of housing, university, Shopping Mall and Business Park. The terminal Sheds are perfectly designed to be very easy to change use – T5 is not dissimilar to a Westfield, in more ways than I would care to note!

I don’t believe this report by the Labour controlled Transport Select Committee is a huge blow to Boris – to a certain extent “they would say that wouldn’t they” and he certainly seemed very upbeat in Today this morning.

The important report will be the interim findings of the Davies Commission which makes its interim findings at the end of 2013. My predictions are that it will recommend:

(1) a four runway hub, but not at LHR.

(2) another runway and terminal at LGW to be built, but not commissioned, prior to 2019 when the Council embargo ends.

(3) It may recommend another runway at Stansted, though the problem there is more about transport links with London than lack of runway capacity.

(4) better use of regional airports, possibly via reducing APD taxes in the regions.

Finally, why is it that adding runways at space-constrained LHR is a long term solution when four is the ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM number space will allow, and the runways must be closed 6 hours per day, instantly reducing the effectiveness of the investment by 25% vs. other options? It doesn’t stack up.

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