Last updated: 11:30 AM ET, Mon March 21 2016

London Mayor Pitches Idea for Massive New Airport

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | March 21, 2016

London Mayor Pitches Idea for Massive New Airport

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

London mayor Boris Johnson is revisiting a plan he'd championed once before of building a brand new airport in the Thames Estuary, despite that plan being rejected in 2014 by the government's airport commission.

Johnson's latest attempt to get the airport built comes as England’s government stalls over a decision about which of London’s airports deserves funding for a major runway expansion. Claiming it's the only way to secure the number of new flights and new routes needed to keep his city relevant in the world economy, Johnson envisions this new airport having as many as four runways.

There is some logic to Johnson’s plan. The location of the new airport, in the Thames Estuary, would expose fewer people to airplane noise and force fewer relocations. This is a major concern for many of the opponents of any planned expansion projects at Heathrow and Gatwick.

A new presentation created by Johnson's office explains why the Thames airport would be a better option than building a third runway at Heathrow, arguging that a new airport would have the same  issues as any of the proposed expansion projects, but would be able to accommodate more passengers and provide the infrastructure necessary to bring more flights to the U.K.

READ MORE: Heathrow Had Record Year in 2015

Building a new airport would cost £20 to £25 billion. The cost of the Heathrow expansion is estimated at £18.6 billion. Johnson claims that his new hub would be able to accommodate more new flights, but opponents of the new airport idea claim that his £20-£25 billion figure is very low.

Most importantly, Johnson's plan does not include a budget for the necessary rail and road links, which could double the cost of the entire project. Johnson has countered with the argument that infrastructure improvements would eventually need to be made at Heathrow too if the airport is to avoid significant traffic and public transit congestion brought on by higher capacity.

Johnson has been known for his colorful personality. He will be stepping down as mayor in May, and many people see this as his last attempt to push his unique and sometimes unusual ideas. Others, however, think that the new airport idea is a good one, especially if the hub was built in an out of the way place that would not bring up any issues with airport noise or require the relocation of homes and businesses.

One of the reasons that anyone is taking Johnson’s idea for a new hub seriously is that parliament has repeatedly put off the decision about which airport expansion projects to fund. A final decision is now due in June, but ongoing procrastination has some people in the air travel industry uncertain if a decision will actually be made then.

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