By Daniel Hunter

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has called on the Government to accelerate work to deliver a brand new hub airport in the southeast. He has warned that if the new airport is not delivered in the shortest possible time then the economy of London and the UK will stagnate.

In a major speech at City Hall today (Thursday) the Mayor ruled out any expansion of Heathrow airport, and said that the only solution to the aviation capacity crisis is a new four-runway hub airport. He told an audience of aviation experts and business leaders that the scale of the site required for a four runway airport meant that Heathrow was ruled out. Realistic locations included the Thames Estuary and possibly Stansted.

The Mayor also criticised the timetable that the Government has set out for the Davies Commission, which is not currently due to report back until the next Parliament, in 2015. The Mayor believes that the programme of work is too slow and that the economy of London and the UK will suffer as a result of the delay. That deterioration in London’s international connectivity will mean the capital loses ground against its international competitors that will be difficult to recover.

The Mayor intends to accelerate his work to consider thoroughly all options for construction of a new hub airport to serve London and the south east and submit his findings to the Davies commission as soon as possible. His aim is to ensure any proposals are supported by sufficient details on all relevant factors — including demonstrating the commercial viability of a new hub airport and the environmental impacts.

The Mayor also hammered home the challenges to the UK’s economy that are posed by the lack of capacity at Heathrow, which is already operating at up to 99 per cent of its capacity. Aviation demand in Europe alone is set to grow by four per cent a year over the next 20 years according to Boeing and aviation markets across the developing economies of the Far East are set to boom.

London is the motor of the UK economy and the capital’s economic performance relies heavily on its international connectivity. However with no capacity to take on new routes at Heathrow, other European cities that have, or are already building multi-runway hub airports, are set to take advantage of the lack of expansion in the UK and win jobs and business that would have been destined for London.

The lack of capacity at Heathrow is already affecting performance at the airport, which was classified third worst for delays in Europe during August according to EuroControl. And the Mayor’s speech also highlighted the already serious noise and air quality impacts of Heathrow, which is responsible for more than a quarter of all those people affected by aircraft noise in Europe. As result he is recommending that the Government develops a new metric to measure noise that more fully represents noise sensitivities during course of a day and overnight. The Mayor is also recommending that the Government explores the use of independent panels to oversee noise management at airports.

"The Government programme to address the looming aviation capacity crunch in the UK is far too slow and I am hugely concerned that their intended timetable sets a course for economic catastrophe," the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said.

"This continued inertia is being fully exploited by our European rivals who already possess mega hub airports that they intend to use to erode our advantage. I will continue to work with the Government and the Davies Commission; but the urgency of the situation and the lamentable attention that the Government has paid to this pressing issue has forced me to accelerate the work that I will do to develop a credible solution."

Earlier this year the Government published their Draft Aviation Policy Framework for consultation. The Mayor’s speech forms part of his response to that consultation with the full response expected to be completed later this month. However the Mayor has already made it clear that he believes the Framework and the final report of the Davies Commission must lay the foundation for a National Policy Statement on Aviation, which will allow the delivery of a new hub airport for London in the shortest possible timeframe.

In his full response the Mayor will spell out how it is in the country’s and London’s interest for the Government to shorten their proposed timetable and require the Davies Commission to publish its final report by the end of 2013. He will also outline how the third, half length, runway proposed for Heathrow would not provide sufficient capacity to meet future need; and in any case would not be significantly faster to develop than a new multi-runway hub airport.

A summary document released by the Mayor today indicates that in the very short term it may be possible to explore how non-hub airports such as Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Birmingham might help serve a proportion of the long haul traffic routes that cannot be accommodated at Heathrow. However there is an urgent need to agree a site for a new hub airport to deliver a lasting and sustainable response to the aviation capacity crisis affecting London. In order to deliver the maximum possible economic benefit this site would need to be in a location where it could operate without stringent night restrictions.

The summary document also covers the need to consider passenger and business access to a new hub airport and the need to incentivise people to travel to airports by public transport. New airports that have been built around the world have benefited from being able to plan their own dedicated rail links, with speedy links to nearby cities, which allows them to carry a much higher proportion of passengers by rail than airports such as Heathrow.

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