Chinese state to fund new London airport

China is set to add another British asset to its portfolio, as London mayor, Boris Johnson, is preparing to approach China and South Korea for state funds to build the Isle of Grain airport in north Kent.

The Mayor’s advisers have reportedly held talks with Chinese sovereign investment fund, China Investment Corporation (CIC), and officials in Seoul to fund the project. Other institutional investors, including City-based pension funds and infrastructure firms, have also said that they would consider funding the Isle of Grain scheme, which has been called the Thames Hub Airport. CIC is already a minority shareholder in Heathrow Airport Holdings.

According to architect company, Foster+Partners, the project is estimated to cost £24bn.

Last week, Johnson discarded the plan for ‘Boris Island’ airport and endorsed the option of building a new airport on the Isle of Grain. He also proposed the closure of Heathrow, which he said the government should buy for £15bn and turn into a town housing 250,000 people.

In addition to the Isle of Grain project, the Mayor also commissioned feasibility studies on a new artificial island in the Thames Estuary and on an expansion of Stansted. All of the options would require four runways, he said.

‘Ambitious cities all over the world are already stealing a march on us and putting themselves in a position to eat London’s breakfast, lunch and dinner by constructing mega-airports that plug them directly into the global supply chains that we need to be part of,’ he said last week.

The report comes as China’s sovereign wealth funds bought $4.7bn worth of British assets last year. Chinese institutions are also being approached for several other new UK projects, including a new ‘super-sewer’ under London and the next generation of nuclear power stations.

London mayor proposes Heathrow closure, new hub

London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, has proposed closing Heathrow airport, one of the busiest in the world, and replacing it with a major new hub to the east of the capital.

Johnson also put forward three proposals to end Britain’s severe air capacity shortage, saying that a new four-runway airport would create thousands of jobs and enable London to compete with international transport hubs.

‘For London and the wider UK to remain competitive, we have to build an airport capable of emulating that scale of growth,’ Johnson said. ‘Anyone who believes there would be the space to do that at Heathrow, which already blights the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners, is quite simply crackers,’ he added.

The proposals come amid contentions that giving Heathrow another runway would lead to intolerable levels of noise and air pollution for people who live nearby. Despite being one of the world’s busiest airports, Heathrow in west London has only two runways and is running at 98.5 percent of its capacity.

Johnson’s plans include a four-runway hub on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary, previously dubbed Boris Island. The other two ideas are to expand Stansted airport northeast of London, which currently has one runway, and to build an airport on the Isle of Grain in Kent on the River Thames.

The new hub could open by 2029 and would cost approximately USD75 billion or EUR58 billion, including the construction of road and rail links to the airport, Johnson claimed.

‘Of all the three, I still think the Isle of Grain seems to me to combine the regeneration with the connectivity and with the ease of communication to London,’ said Johnson. British politicians had been ‘sitting around like puddings for the last 40 years doing nothing’ while rival countries built up their air capacity, he added.

Johnson said that a new hub airport would be able to support more than 375,000 new jobs by 2050 and add GBP742bn to the value of goods and services produced in the UK. Up to 100,000 homes could be built on Heathrow’s site, as well as a new university campus, he said.

‘There is a fantastic opportunity here for London and the United Kingdom,’ he said, adding that the plan would help to solve London’s ‘catastrophic housing shortage’.

Commenting on the proposals, deputy leader of Hounslow Council, Colin Ellar, said: ‘Closing Heathrow is sheer lunacy. Boris’s plans to solve London’s housing crisis and replace the thousands of jobs lost appears to be based on a wing and a prayer.

We and many sensible commentators don’t seriously think Boris Island, wherever it is in the estuary, will ever take off.’

The plans will be submitted to the government-appointed Davies aviation commission by July 19. The commission, chaired by ex-Financial Services Authority chief, Sir Howard Davies, will consider a number of options to maintain the country’s status as an international hub for aviation. It is due to give its recommendations on the future of British air transport in 2015.


Emirates launches aviation experience in London

Emirates Airlines has launched an interactive aviation experience under its Air Line cable car in North Greenwich.

‘The Emirates Aviation Experience is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of technological wizardry and gizmos that will give people of all ages a real insight into the wonders of flying,’ said mayor Boris Johnson at the launch. Emirates CEO, Tim Clark, was also present at the occasion.

The highlights of the London event include aircraft simulators and educational displays covering all aspects of aviation, with the main draw being four flight simulators, including two A380 superjumbo cockpits and two B777s. The interactive and educational displays also include:

*A Rolls Royce Trent 800 jet engine partially built in Lego, and a virtual wind tunnel application, where visitors can test the aerodynamics of an aircraft wing and its effect on lift, drag and efficiency.

*A touch-screen game showing the complex elements in the turnaround of an A380, where visitors must beat the clock unloading and reloading passengers, luggage, fuel and food.

*A 3D movie showing a bag’s journey through the complex underground handling system and onto the plane at Dubai airport.

*A replica of Emirates’ A380 economy class seating, with a range of aviation themed videos displayed on the seat back screens.

*A scale mock-up of the A380 cockpit showing what a pilot does in the air, including a photo opportunity in the captain’s seat, which can be shared on social media.

The launch also brought to the fore the ongoing issue of London’s airport capacity. Both Clark and Johnson urged the need to address the capital’s short and long-term aviation capacity issues. ‘It’s a decision that has to be taken very quickly, you’re doing yourselves no favours by dilly-dallying and also contemplating projects that have timelines that possibly won’t do the job in the short term,’ Clark said.

‘The message for the government is, whatever you decide about those runways, get on with it, because Britain really can’t afford to hang around,’ Johnson said, adding, ‘It’s not a matter of engineering, it’s not a matter of money, it’s a question of political will.’

‘I hope very much that members of the cabinet will be the first to take their kids, or come themselves and enjoy this fantastic experience,’ Johnson remarked.

The Emirates Aviation Experience also features a gift shop, cafe and outdoor dining area underneath the Air Line cable car, leading down to the river. Located next to the Greenwich Peninsula terminal of the Emirates Air Line cable car, the event will be open daily from 0800 to 1900 from July 6, and has a capacity of around 120.

For advance online booking, the simulator experience will start from £45 for a 30-minute slot. Entrance to the Emirates Aviation Experience alone will be £3 for adults and £1.50 for children under the age of 12.