The Mayor of London, in China on a trade delegation with a number of other senior figures, has used a visit to Hong Kong’s airport to push his Estuary Airport concept.
Hong Kong’s Chep Lap Kok was built on land reclaimed from the sea, and replaced the former Kai Tak airport which was in the heart of the city.
He used this as an example to show that a new hub airport is achievable, given the political commitment and resources. He drew parallels between Kai Tak, which was directly surrounded by homes in tower blocks, and thus unable to expand, with Heathrow.
While he is right that ambition is sometimes a casualty of political expediency around aviation decisions, there is plenty of space around Heathrow to allow the physical expansion required, as the airport’s submission to the Davies Commission shows. It is the fears over noise that block expansion at the UK’s current largest airport, and the biggest engine for jobs in West London.
Sir Howard Davies is likely to say, in his interim report, that expansion is necessary, but will not say where he thinks that should be until after the next general election, by which time, as Boris has pointed out, China will have built over 50 new runways around the country.
Boris Johnson said: “The Chinese authorities have clearly figured out that aviation is absolutely key to economic growth and they are building a legion of mega-airports that will link them to every market in the world. It is hugely impressive yet also devastatingly depressing when you consider that, as long as the vision for aviation in the UK remains steadfastly wedded to Heathrow or a make do solution, we will not be able to access many of the mega-airports opening here or in the many other dynamic economies building new airfields around the globe.
“The people of Hong Kong overcame their doubts and delivered a fantastic hub airport at Chep Lap Kok that has since turbo-charged their prosperity and economic success.”
An estuary hub airport would mean the closure of Heathrow, it is thought. A recent report suggested that the closure of Heathrow would take 250,000 jobs out of the West London/Thames Valley economy.
Heathrow will form a large part of the discussions at Place West London on Tuesday October 22.