Now, I’m always happy to stand up and be counted so I have to put my hands up here and admit that as ideas go, I was rather taken with the one for Boris Island as it provided tangible opportunities to build airport capacity for the future rather than, as the nickname suggests, being a vanity project for the London Mayor and would be Parliamentary candidate.
There have been numerous criticisms of the project which include:
- It would lead to a derelict Heathrow which would lead to a rather desolate region to the west of London and the doomsday scenario of no jobs.
- It would mean a huge spend on a new transport network to get you to the hinterlands of the Thames Estuary
- It would disturb a natural wildlife habitat
- It would not be easy
- It would mean additional travel time for most of the population
- It means London remains the premier international airport hub
If government and infrastructure planners were serious about building a viable new hub, the location (wildlife concerns aside) isn’t a bad one given that it could be linked both north and south to each bank of the estuary which in turn would provide access to motorway networks and doesn’t that feat of engineering known as the channel tunnel rail link actually pass fairly close by?
Let’s imagine, instead, that the planners had given more than a passing thought to the Mayor’s ongoing fancy…
Heathrow is already surpassed in capacity by Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt and there is an ever growing appetite for air travel in the UK but, crucially, we just don’t have the capacity in our hub airport to meet demand.
Any regular travellers to Heathrow will be familiar with the unpredictable nature of getting there on the M25, the time it takes for the Piccadilly line to meander its way through central London and back out the other side and the cost involved in taking the Heathrow Express which is inconveniently located (for those on the South, East and North of the capital) in West London. And now the planners are taking a serious look at increasing Heathrow capacity via the building of additional runways??
I live around 40 miles away from Heathrow and have rarely done the journey (which is mainly dual carriageway and motorway) in less than an hour. I always plan for it to take more than two to get there.
Given the futuristic plans to build a new hub from scratch in the estuary, why didn’t anyone take one step further and think of a plan to link Heathrow to Boris Island? A fast track, minimal stop rail link between the two which connects to Crossrail and the Thameslink?
This could then give us two hubs with plenty of additional capacity and clearer skies over London if Heathrow’s flights tended to go west and Boris Island’s went east, with Gatwick retaining its position as the leisure destination airport.
There is going to be a huge spend anyway as to put more capacity into Heathrow means more pressure on the local area, the additional travel time could be negated if the train link was fast enough and would be augmented by Crossrail in any case and it would give us the opportunity to truly plan for the future.
As for the job situation, a dual East-West hub would have no effect on this in the slightest and the new airport could serve other parts of the country by air as it would have additional capacity to service domestic flights.
And, you never know – a fast, efficient, underground rail connection could even take the pressure off the M25.