Boris pleads for aviation capacity increase

Boris Johnson has appealed for an expansion of aviation capacity for London.

In a speech to business and aviation leaders the Mayor of London warned the Government that the nation faces “increasing economic paralysis” unless capacity is increased.
His speech at the Institute of Directors marked the publication of a second report examining why more aviation capacity is needed.

The Mayor says the latest report sets out “an undisputable economic argument” that greater aviation capacity is required both by the capital and the whole of the UK. The Mayor favours a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary over expansion at any existing airport, and concludes that such a new hub airport should become a pillar of the Government’s planning for economic growth and warns that without one the UK will lose its place at the top table of the global economy.

Heathrow at capacity

The Mayor argues that with the UK’s only hub airport at Heathrow now running at 98 per cent capacity, the UK is not being able to provide services to the destinations demanded by the world’s leading companies, who will be lured away from London by cities that can provide such links.

Key to the argument is a lack of links to the developing economies of the Far East. In a recent survey 41 per cent of UK firms were dissatisfied with links to the Far East and South America. With Heathrow operating at close to full capacity it is unable to provide sufficiently frequent direct flights to those locations. As a result European rivals with gigantic multi runway airports are stepping in to do so and providing a lure that will attract business away from the UK.

Outpaced by Europe

Heathrow currently offers just 9,000 seats per week to mainland China and it only serves two routes. By contrast Frankfurt offers almost twice the number of seats and serves four destinations, while Amsterdam already offers flights to six Chinese destinations. London remains without any direct connection to 12 cities in mainland China that are expected to be among the 25 global mega cities with the highest GDP in the world by 2025.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “London’s historic aviation links have provided the capital and the nation with great riches. However the global economic geography is shifting and distant cities are rocketing up the league tables of global trade. The old order is passing however our airports are unable to serve the young bucks that are set to drive the world forward. “

“(China) is a phenomenal market and we need our engineers to be able to hop on a plane and build their infrastructure. However their business is already being snaffled up by our friends on the continent who chortle at our continued inertia.”

London “full”

Figures released by the Department for Transport earlier this year predict that London’s airports will be full by 2030 and any growth beyond that time will have to be accommodated at regional airports.

The Mayor makes a clear case to the Government for expansion, and discounts, along with many others, the case for expansion at existing airports. However, his £50bn plan for an island airport in the Thames Estuary is somewhat more expensive than a third runway at Heathrow, the “Heathwick” plan to connect excess capacity at Gatwick with Heathrow via a high speed rail link, or Terry Farrell’s suggestion of six runways at Birmingham, Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow put within an hour of each other by a high speed rail hub at Old Oak Common, all of which could provide at least some of the expansion in capacity that the UK needs.

No mention is made of the potential effect on Heathrow of the construction of a new hub airport. The UK’s main airport is thought to sustain around 200,000 West London jobs, and any withering of its economic effect could be devastating for the west side of the capital. When East London’s docks were usurped by container ports, it took fifty years to bring even part of them back in to productive use, and several generations of east end lives were blighted. That is an unwelcome spectre indeed for West London.

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