Saturday, 20 September 2008

Kit Malthouse to move Heathrow to 'Boris Island'

Boris Johnson's Deputy is planning to close Heathrow airport and move it to an island in the Thames Estuary.

The project to shift voter-bothering flights out of London, has already been nicknamed 'Boris Island' by the Times, and will be led by one-time failed airline hopeful Kit Malthouse.

Malthouse, whose dream of a budget domestic airline crashed before take-off, believes his new dream will be a winner:

“I think it’s madness to expand any of the other airports when there is an obvious solution elsewhere.

“We’re not proposing to switch the lights on at the new airport and switch the lights off at Heathrow, firing everyone overnight. This would be a phasing from one airport to the other. Over the space of three or four years, those [workers] that wanted to, could migrate.”

The new island would be built from landfill alongside the Isle of Sheppey in Kent and passengers would be connected to the mainland by train and ferry. According to the Times:

"Aircraft would descend over the North Sea instead of disturbing residential areas in the approach to Heathrow.

“You would have no problems with expansion or noise,” said Malthouse. “You could run a 24-hour airport.”

Now quite whether the people of Sheppey and Kent would see 'no problems' with the expansion and noise remains to be seen, but the project would certainly have to overcome many other difficulties.

Not least of these is the technical difficulties in moving Britain's largest airport onto an island in the Thames.

Island airports have been built successfully in the past, most notably in Hong Kong. However, the process is not straightforward.

Kansai International Airport for instance, became one of the most expensive civil projects in history after the island it was built upon sank over eleven metres into Osaka Bay.

Pipe Dreams

Maltouse's vision of outsourcing Heathrow was first revealed in The Times a year ago, but has so far got little further than:

  • His dream of suspending Iain Blair (he can't) 
  • His vision to build cities underground (he won't).

Now whether this latest dream will be any more successful depends largely on the bargaining power of his boss Boris Johnson.

But with all other unfunded transport projects officially put on ice, it will take more than a Malthouse vision to make 'Boris island' rise from the waves.

-UPDATE- Boris Island: the morning after


Will said...

I have a vision... of my money being poured into the North Sea. I mean it's not like we didn't just waste billions on terminal five now is it? Let's just waste a few billion more!

By the way, it looks like Kit Malthouse is holding a poll on this on his website,
with the question: "Should we bite the bullet and move Heathrow to the east of London?"

I wonder what else he wants to move to the east of London.

Anonymous said...

the idea has been considered many times before and dismissed, how would Kit make it work?

James Grieves said...

I for one really like his idea of building subterranean tunnels. Like Ken's love for massively tall buildings inverted.

And the island idea is certainly bold. Folly, perhaps. And I certainly couldn't trust Boris not to cock it up (or with billions of pounds to throw around in any other context, for that matter).

But I don't think that we should get into the habit of sneering at innovation. Even if it is coming from the people who are meant to say that we should be keeping everything basically the same.

prj45 said...

"But how would we pay for it? You may have overlooked one final benefit: Heathrow would be shut, which means the site would be open for development. More than 2,500 acres of prime land, close to the M4 with great rail links into town: perfect for housing the capital's fast-growing population"

I'd say removing a major employer from that part of West London would mean you need less housing there, not more.

Sorry Kit, I don't think this one's going to fly.

The Troll said...

James- Personally the idea of living and/or working underground sounds pretty horrific. Maybe I'm getting carried away here, but I'm thinking Morlocks and Eloi here.

Tom said...

It's worth remembering why this idea didn't fly in 1973 - the oil price shot up, there was a recession, the surface access costs to get people to and from the airport were astronomical and the projected usage figures turned out to be bogus. Add in the idea of building a large, expensive airport on low lying land in an area prone to storm surges in a climate that's getting more energetic and with rising sea levels and I'm getting rather cold feet already.

As for using the space to house people, it's a bit more pressing finding somewhere to house people now, not in about 20 years time.

Malthouse International does seem to be something of an obsession.

prj45 said...

Kit does look a bit like a mole, but I agree, horrible idea, yeuch.

Rayyan said...

Lol, Morlocks! As someone who has to use the Tube everyday, no way will I ever agree to having London moved underground. It is dank, dark, and depressing down there, and there seems to be this attitude of "Well, the Tube is shit, but let's put up with it." If our underground city was shit, I wouldn't want such an attitude to rear its head.

James said...

One issue that Kit seems to have overlooked is that some of the people who use Heathrow don't actually live in London and would find it a massive pain in the arse to have to travel to Kent to catch a flight.

Helen said...

Once my household had finished laughing we concluded that Kit needs more water in his floor polish and he watches too much Dr Who.

What he needs, right, is a massive mechanical digger so he can just dig up Heathrow in one piece and move it across.

Chris said...

This is nothing, just wait until yo see Malthouse's initial sketches.

victor allen said...

There's no reason in principle that non-toxic landfill couldn't be poured into the North Sea to provide more land as the coasline is being rapidly devoured by the North Sea, in any case.
However, in order to complete a landfill even large enough to put a shed on would take years. In addition, I'd have thought that the GLA were supposed to supervise planning inside the GLA area and might not have jurisdiction over the North Sea.
Supposing all the technical problems are overcome, what transport infrastructure will be put in place to cope with the switch. The Kent branch lines wouldn't be able to cope, the St Pancras Channel tunnel link isn't designed for that volume of traffic. Anyone trying to get onto the A2 or A20 on aa Friday evening would know what I mean by the roads. You can at least get to Heathrow by tube.
The economic situation has of course helped just by the fact that some airlines are no more, but air travel isn't best for this planet and it's one thing people going on their annual holidays, another flying empty planes around just to keep franchises.
In addition, the idea that the final hurdle would be a ferry to the airport means that there will not only be delays (what if the ferries can't run because of the weather?) but there would also be need for a massive car park/ train terminal/ bus stationon the mainland.
I would be surprised, frankly if we hear more about this one.

Tom said...

The original 1970s Maplin plans proposed something like two motorways from London through Essex and a four-track high-speed rail line (from King's Cross, coincidentally).

You'd still need something like that. Obviously all traffic from the west of London/Midlands would have to drive round the M25 unless you spent money extending rail services from Reading/Oxford/Birmingham through the capital and out.

The final insult would be to all the international hi-tech companies (Oracle, Microsoft etc.) that set up along the M4 in Berkshire because it was close to Heathrow. They're going to be *thrilled* at the prospect of a two-hour slog round the M25 and out into the countryside, or a rail trip into Paddington, change to Crossrail to Farringdon, change to Thameslink, change to St. Pancras Airport Link or whatever. Why do you think Terminal 5's road access faces *west*?

Of course, it could all be a secret plan by the Essex Illuminati to propel Chelmsford back to the top of the international technology industry.

Mr. Stop Boris said...

Oh dear. Ironically, Kit Malthouse's web site uses the same beautiful typeface in its graphics as I used for all the Stop Boris materials (although I made rather less use of Caps Lock). I feel dirty now.

Aren't Kent and Essex mainly full of Tory voters? I wonder what they'll make of Conservatives pushing (ridiculous) plans to fly noisy, dirty aeroplanes in their vicinity 24 hours a day.

Karl said...

If you go into the Jobcentres, from Harrow and continue south, you'll be hard pressed to find a job advertised that isn't at Heathrow. I know, I tried once. And that's without taking into account the tens of thousands of secondary jobs that rely on Heathrow - Hotels, shops etc etc. It's hilarious, but threatening the livelihoods of tens of thousands of voters on that end of the doughnut is something that will come back to haunt him, i think.

Tom said...

Actually, it's the Tory voters of West London and Berkshire that this is aimed at (unless Malthouse is moonlighting away from his proper job of sorting out the police because he's still involved in a aviation in a business capacity). Because of prevailing winds, although planes will land from the east, they'll take off (which is noisier, albeit over a shorter distance and not as intensively) over the Thames Gateway. That alone, I should think, would preclude 24 hour use (you can't advertise flights 'at 3am if the wind's in the right direction').

By the way, Mr. Malthouse's website poll is currenty 53%-47% against moving Thiefrow.

Alex said...

But the westerly operations would be over Labour voters in the East End. Case closed, I think.

Further, has anyone given any thought to the air traffic control implications? As far as I can make out, this arse awful proposal would have Stansted, LCY, and Southend (fwiw) within the same area defined by Boris International's STARs. In fact you'd have t/os from Boris conflicting with approaches to LCY. The ATC position is bad enough as it is.

Ah. I see; that should be "has anyone given any thought to this whatsoever?"

Helen said...

Malthouse said in the Standard: "I think it's madness to expand any of the other airports when there is an obvious solution elsewhere. If we can build St Paul's, the Gherkin, the Channel Tunnel and all the rest of it, then we can do this. We just need a bit of courage."

St Paul's?! Design work started in 1668 and it wasn't completed until 1708. Courage, or stupidity, Kit?

The Troll said...

More reactions to Boris Island.

Tom said...

We had several goes at the Channel Tunnel as well - this is only Attempt Two at the airport scheme.

Alex - the original Third Airport plans addressed the ATC issues by closing Luton and not having Stansted and LCY at all, since they weren't built. This does, as you say, pose a problem, but it's a long way from any of them.

Actually, the East End get off lightly, there's no point flying over that for destinations in Europe, Scandinavia, Africa, Middle East, Far East and Australia when you can do what Heathrow does and perform a sharp turn left or right after takeoff.

This would be over either Chatham (Labour) or Southend (Tory), so hard-a-port it is. Ireland and the US, perhaps would require you to go straight on, but the damn airport is so far out of town that you'll be forty miles downrange before upsetting any eel pie merchants. Even a heavily loaded Airbus can struggle up high enough not to be a nuisance from there, and the routes that would need to go that way won't be that heavy (i.e. not Far East or Australia, which regularly used to growl over at not very high up when I lived about six miles from the end of 09R a few years ago)