Monday, 22 September 2008

Boris Island: the morning after the flight before

After emerging from the blue skies of Sunday, Boris Johnson's plan to move Heathrow to the Thames Gateway has come crashing through the grey clouds of Monday.

The Financial Times reports that Virgin Airways are less than impressed and The Telegraph says that British Airways are flat out opposed.

Peter McKay at the Mail thinks it is a distraction, and the Evening Standard think it is unrealistic.

Even Boris's Deputy for Spin, who for eight long paragraphs tells us all how wonderful it would be, then at the last reluctantly admits that it will never happen.

Meanwhile the Mail reports the airport would cost £30 billion, while the Standard reports it would cost the capital 77,000 jobs.

But with Boris's feasibility study already ahead, and with mixed messages continuing to emerge from the Tories on Heathrow, just what will be the end result of Boris's expansion into international aviation?

Fantasy Island?

Well as Tom from Boris Watch points out, building a major airport in Kent would be controversial and costly but is still clearly a possibility (although an unwise one). 

And with Boris's u-turn on City Airport, there are obviously other alternatives to further expansion at Heathrow.

But with Terminal Five only just open, and with huge investment already sunk into the area, it seems fantastical that any government bar a Boris Johnson one would do anything but keep Heathrow where it is.


Anonymous said...

Isn't the likeliest result of this that under the Tories that we get the 'worst of all worlds' i.e

-Heathrow stays as it is and may even expand if and when Cameron crumbles

-City Airport expands along with other smaller airports.

-billions are piled into Boris island anyway.

Isn't this this just another way of softening us up for massive airport expansion all round?

Will said...

"building a major airport in Kent would be controversial and costly but is still clearly a possibility. "

Only in the sense that building an airport anywhere is a possibility. moving London 50 miles north would be a possibilty but it doesn't mean that anyone in their right mind would do it.

This is bonkers Boris plain and simple. Malthouse thinks he is Howard Hughes but if this goes ahead he will go down as the man who outdid the millennium dome.

Even if it was possible, it isn't going to happen so why are they wasting all this money to find our what everyone is telling them for free? You know if even Heathrow residents don't believe it's going to happen then it isn't going to happen.

Tom said...

Better make clear what I meant - it's perfectly possible that you can put a large international airport on reclaimed shallow water in the Thames Estuary and have sufficient room to fly lots of planes in and out with much less noise bother than at Heathrow, since most of the approach and departure paths can be arranged over water or countryside. We've got the technology and the geography.

What you can't do is get people there and back economically in both time and money. This was the case in 1973 and is the case now, since London hasn't actually moved downstream much in the meantime (yes, I know, Docklands has shifted it a mile or so). It's hard to think of a *worse* location - in the original Roskill report the huge surface access costs (two motorways, four rail tracks, London terminal for the latter) completely scuppered the Maplin plan. In short, you can build it, but you can't actually operate it.

A quote regarding warfare is appropriate - amateurs look at technology, professionals look at logistics. A swift glance at the latter shows why it's a no-go. Malthouse is a moonlighting amateur and he really needs to concentrate on the police, since that's what he's appointed to do.

Political Animal said...

There doesn't seem to have been any mention as yet anywhere as to what effect the Boris Island proposal would have on the viability of the Crossrail project. Providing a fast link between the City/Docklands and Heathrow is a key part of the financial case for the scheme and whilst the potential for improving access to employment opportunities for some of London's most deprived areas and easing Tube congestion are obviously incredibly important, they won't pay the bill by themselves. Indeed, as I understand it, the deal thrashed out by the government and the former Mayor to leverage agreement on a supplementary business rate to fund Crossrail was heavily dependent on the need for Canary Wharf to have a faster link with Heathrow. If Heathrow were to be doomed by Malthouse International, would the financiers and bankers be as happy to stump up the cash?

I guess the Docklands branch of Crossrail could be extended beyond Abbey Wood to the new airport via the currently freight-only Isle of Grain branch, but it wouldn't exactly be quick...!

The Troll said...

It's a good point. I suppose it all depends on how seriously anyone takes the suggestion that Heathrow will be closed. However, it's certainly true to say that further uncertainty is the last thing that the Crossrail project needs right now.

Tom said...

Some kind of slow speed connection out to the airport is almost certainly essential given the costs involved in trying to get everyone there by high-speed rail. However it's seriously stupid to start mucking around with Crossrail right now, there are enough pressures.

By the way, various people are pointing out that there's a sunken ship with 1400 tons of bombs that nobody dares touch sitting just west of where the airport would be...

The Troll said...

"By the way, various people are pointing out that there's a sunken ship with 1400 tons of bombs that nobody dares touch sitting just west of where the airport would be.."

Could this project get any more doomed? All we need now is a public uprising in Sheppey and it will be complete.

Alex said...

So there is! The Richard Montgomery, isn't that the name? I'd almost forgotten..

The Troll said...

"Critics of government assurances that the likelihood of a major explosion is remote argue that there is a possibility that over time a partially flooded fuze in at least one of the 2600 fuzed fragmentation devices will become less stable owing to its lead azide constituent reacting with water vapour (rather than liquid seawater) to form hydrazoic acid. This will react with copper in the detonating cap, to form extremely sensitive copper azide.[4] A knock, such as caused by the ship breaking up further, or a collision on the busy shipping lane, could cause the copper azide to explode, triggering an explosive chain reaction resulting in the detonation of the bulk of the munitions."

So as long as no plane misses the runway, it should be fine.

Tom said...

My Google Maps effort now shows the exclusion zone round the Richard Montgomery, by the way.

Let me know if that works.

BenSix said...

Come on then, who'll be first to make a Gilligan's Island joke?

The Troll said...

Damnit i thought we could make it all the way through without going there!

Tom said...

"Come on then, who'll be first to make a Gilligan's Island joke?"

I already did 'Gilligan's Ire Lands', which opens up whole new vistas.