Monday, 26 January 2009

Boris Island(s): Come for a holiday. Stay forever...

Usually when people find out how spectacularly expensive and problematic something will be, they reconsider. Not with Team Boris:

"It's going to happen, I just know it," enthused his deputy Kit Malthouse, when we spoke on the phone that evening. Malthouse has, as he puts it, "brought to prominence" anew the old idea of a whole new airport in the Thames Estuary and was among those on the dredger Brabo inspecting the proposed location. On learning of the nasty weather I'd texted him, asking if anyone had thrown up. I got no response to that, but his later reply informed me that the sea was "full of clobber."

The fact that the sea is 'full of clobber' is apparently a good thing. As are the bad conditions, the long distance of the airport from land, and well everything else really. It's all good:

"Malthouse explained: the shallowness would make the engineering easier and the "clobber" showed that this stretch of water is far from environmentally unspoiled. As for the eyesore factor, he assured me that both the Kent and Essex coastlines were mere "thin lines" in the distance."

We've been watching this boondoggle for a while now and I'm beginning to think that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that could dissuade Kit and Boris from thinking this is a good idea. Try it out for yourself.

Threat to wildlife? Environmental nonsense.
Threat of birdstrike? Totally exaggerated.
Local opposition? Easy to overcome.
Government opposition? Easily voted out.
Conservative opposition? Easily persuaded.
The fact it's not in London? A minor technicality.

All of which reminds me of what a certain Barack Obama said about the Republicans during the presidential elections:

"It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.

"You know, they think it is funny that they are making fun of something that is actually true. They need to do their homework. Because this is serious business."

And it is a serious business, because when things go wrong, they can go really wrong. Take the building of the Kansai off-shore airport in Japan:

"When Kansai international airport was completed in 1994, it was hailed as an architectural marvel - a 24-hour gateway to Asia that would revitalise western Japan.

"Five years on, the terminal building remains as spectacular as ever. But the artificial island on which it perches is sinking into Osaka Bay, its business strategy is in tatters and its financial position looks increasingly like a black hole..."

Read on and there's plenty more out there as well. Take the supposedly successful Hong Kong Airport, also reclaimed from the sea:

"Seven months after Hong Kong's new $20 billion airport opened amid a riot of lost luggage and rotting cargo, a Government commission today laid most of the blame on the airport's Western managers.

"Describing them as ''overconfident,'' the report said the executives should have asked the Hong Kong government to delay the opening by two months to fix bugs in the airport's flight information screens, baggage-handling systems, and its vast cargo terminal.

"Shortly after the airport opened on July 6, its display screens went dark, luggage went astray and crates of cargo -- including fresh fish -- were left to rot on the runway. Though most of the glitches were soon solved, it was a stinging embarrassment for a city that prides itself on Swiss-watch efficiency."

Of course it wasn't particularly becoming for those Western managers either. I wonder who they could have been?

"Among those harshly faulted are Henry D. Townsend, an American who was the airport's chief executive, and Douglas E. Oakervee, a British construction expert who was the project manager. Both have retired, and they could not be reached for comment."

It's funny, because since he's come out of retirement, he seems much more willing to comment:

The senior engineer behind Hong Kong's island airport claims Boris Johnson's plan for a Thames Estuary airport would be easy to deliver.

"Douglas Oakervee, who is carrying out a feasibility study for the Mayor, said it was “quite clear” it would be “relatively straightforward” to build a new airport. After visiting the site with Mr Johnson, he said he was “encouraged” that the project — which has been dubbed “fantasy island” by critics — was possible.”


AdamB said...

A couple of hat tips/further reading for you that I didn't manage to fit in.

One for Tom for his recent drubbing of the airport plans and one to the Yorkshire Ranter who first pointed out to me the Dunning-Kruger nature of Team Boris. Incompetence and terrible ideas. It's choppy waters out there London.

Tom said...

Another one for you - my continuously updated attempt to work out what Kit'n'Boris are doing with their Etch-a-sketch:

No, I'm not exaggerating (much), that's about the size you need for two twin parallel runway airports with a central terminal area each, plus sufficient area around the boundaries for whatever storm defences you need. Note that Boris's trip out on Friday ended slap bang between the islands. I still reckon Southend will get a lot of noise under that plan.

AdamB said...

It's certainly a hell of a lot further out than I thought it would be. Why not just go the whole hog and put it in Calais?

prj45 said...

What are they going to do about storm surges in the north sea?

Helen said...

I'm amazed that a Civil Engineer could say it'd be "relatively straightforward" without a detailed geological survey.

AdamB said...

Storm surges? Pah! They'll keep the planes clean.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it time we formed a solidarity campaign with the s/s "Richard Montgomery"


AdamB said...

I think the Montgomery has more in common with Boris - an old warship sunk in the mud and liable to go off at any time.

Tom said...

If it was really like Boris it would be sitting there immobile and rusting while putting out press releases announcing that it was in fine fettle and just going for a jolly sail round the bay.

Alex said...

Just full of 7,000 tonnes of pies, rather than artillery shells.

prj45 said...

"Just full of 7,000 tonnes of pies,"

That explains why kit and Boris were so keen on the boat trip!

Tom said...

'Do you want champagne with your cockles, Sir?'