Boris Johnson’s estuary airport suffers a ‘death blow’
Boris Johnson's hopes of building a new airport in the Thames estuary suffered a "death blow" today, after the Airports Commission released several more reports throwing doubt on the future of the scheme.
The studies found that City Hall have dramatically underestimated the costs and overestimated the benefits of moving Heathrow airport to the estuary.
The new airport would struggle to make sufficient revenues to remain viable, while tens of billions of pounds would need to be spent on road and rail infrastructure to service it.
Consultants hired by the commission also found City Hall had wildly overestimated the amount of people who would travel to the new airport by train.
They found that up to £8 billion would need to be spent on widening and constructing new roads on top of around £26 billion for new rail links.
Even with that investment, the road access would still struggle to cope with demand.
The reports also found the case for the estuary airport rested on the assumption of attracting significantly higher revenues per passenger than Heathrow.
This seems highly unlikely given the reductions in revenues from car parking and increased construction costs implied by the plans.
Failure to achieve that greater revenue would push up charges, giving a competitive advantage to other European hub airports, and therefore defeating the central purpose of the new airport.
The economic benefits of the scheme have also been overestimated, the reports suggest.
The mayor's plans failed to take into account the fact that a new estuary airport would inevitably lead to the closure of Heathrow and the loss of thousands more jobs in the wider area.
The new airport would also struggle to attract a workforce given its location and the shortage of housing and other infrastructure in the area, they suggest.
The reports also highlight how the airport would interfere with the flight paths of two existing airports in the South East..
While they conclude these problems are not insurmountable, they would pose a significant challenge.
The findings follow another Airports Commission report earlier this week which detailed huge environmental and safety risks attached to building a new airport in the estuary.
Critics said the scheme had been handed a "death blow" by the Commission.
"These latest reports are a potential death blow to the Mayor's dream of creating a massive airport located in the Thames estuary," Liberal Democrat London Assembly memebr caroline Pidgeon said.
"It is bad enough that the Mayor has spent millions of London's taxpayer's money promoting his fantasy project.
"Now his proposals have been exposed as being based on wildly inaccurate estimates of the real cost of locating an airport in the Thames Estuary."
"The Mayor for a long time has had a dream of a Thames Estuary airport. It is time he woke up to reality."
Labour also urged him to give up his hopes of building the airport.
"We have always known that Boris’ plan for a Thames Estuary airport was pie in the sky, but four expert reports inside a week have now confirmed this," Labour London Assembly member Val Shawcross said.
"Whether it’s environmental problems, expensive transport links or the decimation of employment at Heathrow, we now know for sure that this project poses a devastating risk to the taxpayer."
"Boris has already wasted millions of pounds on this vanity project. He needs to accept that the evidence is now totally against him and that no more public money should be spent pursuing a Thames Estuary airport."
The Airports Commission are due to release their final shortlist of options for expanding airport capacity in the UK later this year.