London Mayor wants to close Heathrow and build new airport

September 21st, 2008 - 11:57 am ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 21 (IANS) London Mayor Boris Johnson was never fascinated by Heathrow. He has called it “a planning error of the 1960s” on many an occasion and is now proposing its closure to build a new airport.His officials are drawing up plans for a new, 24-hour airport located on an artificial island in the Thames estuary.

His choice location for a new airport is about two miles north of the Isle of Sheppey where the estuary is only 10 ft-13 ft deep. An artificial island could be created from landfill. It would be connected to the mainland by a railway bridge and ferry terminals would link it to both Kent and Essex.

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

The airport would be connected to the high-speed Channel tunnel rail link to transport passengers into central London in about 35 minutes. And the Continent would be just a short train ride away in the opposite direction, cutting out the need for many shorthaul flights.

Officials at London’s city hall believe the airport could be built in as little as six years and ultimately envisage Heathrow being closed and turned into a high-tech business and residential development area.

“I think it’s madness to expand any of the other airports when there is an obvious solution elsewhere,” said Kit Malthouse, one of Johnson’s deputies, who is overseeing the Thames airport project.

Johnson’s team has conducted a preliminary review and now plan a more detailed feasibility study, involving an engineering consultancy.

The mayor’s proposal comes in the wake of biting criticism of the way in which Heathrow is being run. The recent opening of Terminal 5 only increased the chaos with complaints of queues and baggage losses and flight misses.

Also, the proposal comes when the government is expected to decide by the end of the year whether to allow a controversial third runway to be built at Heathrow, at a cost of up to 13 billion pounds.

Internal Department for Transport documents, obtained by the Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act, show there is a “high risk” that a new runway would breach noise and air quality targets set by the European Union.

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