London’s mayor reacts to Heathrow owners’ dismissal of new airport

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has strongly criticised Heathrow Airport Holdings, the owners of Heathrow airport, over its objections to the possibility of a new airport being built in the Thames Estuary to address London’s need for more aviation capacity.

Heathrow’s owner has stated that a third runway on its site would be less expensive and available sooner than a completely new airport, and that a new airport could also result in the closure of Heathrow with thousands of workers forced into redundancy or relocation.

Boris Johnson, a supporter of the new airport option, commented in the Evening Standard on the Heathrow owners’ ‘short termism.’ He said, ‘They say they want a third runway ‘now’ and then maybe a fourth runway ‘later’. Of all the miserable, useless, cynical examples of corporate short-termism and greed, this takes some beating. It would need about 15 to 18 years, with a fair wind and favourable judges, to build a third runway in London’s western suburbs.

‘As soon as a third runway was completed, Heathrow would be clamouring to compete with its continental rivals (to say nothing of Dubai or Mumbai), and we would find ourselves having the same arguments over again, about the need for the fourth runway, but with the position a hundred times worse; with west London jammed with traffic and the skies of the greatest city on earth filled with planes.

‘It is time to end the madness, and back out of the intellectual cul-de-sac. We need to do what all our competitors are doing or have done. We need a 24-hour, four-runway hub airport, preferably to the east of London, so planes can land without causing misery to millions.

‘We need room to expand, and we will never find enough at Heathrow.’ He added: ‘It is utter nonsense to claim that a new airport would mean some kind of economic devastation in west London. On the contrary, Heathrow accounts for about 3 percent of the jobs in what is one of the most dynamic and competitive parts of the UK.

He also said, ‘We face a crippling housing shortage in London – and here is a whole beautiful new borough waiting to be called into being. We are looking at an area the size of Kensington and Chelsea, with the potential for tens of thousands of homes, hi-tech industry, university campuses and, if need be, a vestigial airport.’

‘Yes, the new airport is a big project, and will involve some dislocation, and immense political drive and leadership. But it is infinitely better than desperately pretending we can go on with a third runway at Heathrow, or a second runway at Gatwick, or ‘Heathwick’ or any other half-cock solution.

‘I don’t blame the Heathrow bosses for their short-termism, or for trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes about the real agenda. They have no fiduciary duty to their shareholders – most of whom are overseas – to take account of the quality of life of the people of London or the long-term needs of the UK economy. They are there, like all good business people, to make as much money as they can over a 15-year time horizon – which is as far ahead as businesses can think.

‘We need to think long-term, and think big, about what is in the interests of this city and this country, and the first step to sanity is to reject the third runway at Heathrow.’