The Daily Telegraph’s splash this morning that there will be a formal consultation on a new London airport in the Thames estuary makes for great politics. The original announcement was supposed to be made at the beginning of January to link up with the HS2 plans – a mega transport plan for the future. However, Nick Clegg blocked it, according to Robert Winnett’s report, because he thought it was being rushed through. The announcement does, of course, provide a great boost to Boris Johnson’s mayoral re-election campaign. No wonder he was being so matey on the Today programme earlier – even calling the PM ‘Dave’. We will see how these tensions play out in the build up to an announcement on government aviation policy in March.
There had been complaints that this government’s aviation policy was unsustainable. You can only go on for so long saying that existing airports can be improved, ruling out more runways, without addressing capacity problems once and for all. But although the London mayor pointed out this morning how quickly airports have been built elsewhere around the world from scratch, no-one is claiming Boris Island could be constructed, having overcome all the obstacles which will be thrown in its way, for at least a decade. A new London airport would quell business fears that Britain will lose out long-term to European rival hub airports like Frankfurt and Schipol, but I can’t see how it will kill off calls for more runways around London as a short-term solution.