Oil rich sheikhs to fund ‘Boris Island’ airport in middle of Thames estuary
9.10.2009 (Mail online)
By Ray Massey
Oil rich Arab sheikhs are prepared to fund London Mayor Boris Johnson’s ambitious
£40billion plan to build an airport in the middle of Thames estuary, his supporters
The proposed project, dubbed ‘Boris Island’ and built on an artificially constructed
island site two miles off Sheerness, could be entirely bankrolled and owned by
Gulf states such as Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
But even the Chinese are showing an interest in part funding the ambitious project.
The Mayor’s deputy, Kit Malthouse, said the Thames estuary airport could be built
within 10 years.
It would replace Heathrow in the West of London and plans show it would dwarf
the capacity of the airport’s existing two runways.
Mr Malthouse said: ‘We have had an incredible amount of interest from countries
such as Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, which have signalled they would like to fund
the airport. It is possible we could build it without taxpayers’ money.
‘Who wouldn’t want to own an immovable fixed asset just off the coast? It’s
extremely valuable and the owners of sovereign wealth funds know they could bequeath
it to their children.’
Mr Malthouse said the Chinese government had also indicated it may want to put
cash into the project during discussions at the Beijing Olympics.
Supporters say the interest from countries willing to fund the airport answers
critics who dismissed the scheme as far too expensive.
The current Labour Government has dubbed the project ‘fantasy island’.
If it wins the next election, Labour is planning to increase airport capacity
through a controversial third runway at Heathrow – if it wins the next election.
The Tories are opposed to a third runway at Heathrow and favour a high speed
rail link to the North.
Mayor Johnson will publish in two weeks time the first ‘surface level’ feasibility
study into the airport, which is looking for any ‘howler" hurdles that could prevent
His deputy Mr Malthouse said it will show the two artificial islands built in
four-metre deep water and holding up to six runways will be ‘technically possible’.
The islands are to be linked to terminals on the mainland by tunnels or bridges
and the buildings would be powered by giant water turbines using the tides.
Planes would take off and land over the sea, solving the blight of noise from
engines and allowing the airport to operate around the clock.
The airport could be completed in six years – although for it to become financially
viable Heathrow would have to be closed and converted to a business park.
A review has been completed and an engineering company has been carrying out
a feasibility study.
The Department for Transport controversially approved a third runway at Heathrow,
which employs 70,000 staff.
But Mr Johnson believes that to continue to expand Heathrow would be to ‘entrench
a planning error of the 60s’.
Shuttle trains would carry passengers from terminals in Essex and Kent to runway
islands in 7 minutes.
Passenger access to runways would be via an underwater shuttle ‘tube’.
There would also be high speed rail links to the Channel Tunnel, mainland train
services and the M2 motorway.
Campaigners think the scheme could reduce noise pollution, but are sceptical
about whether it would ever go ahead.
John Stewart, of anti-noise group HACAN Clearskies, said: ‘So much money has been put into Heathrow and so many jobs would be lost
if it closed. I can’t see any Government taking that risk.’
Grahame Madge, the RSPB’s conservation spokesman, said the proposals would affect tens of thousands of migrating birds who use
the Thames estuary.
Heathrow is 15 miles from central London. Most of its 477,000 flights each year
travel over the capital. A third runway would see flights rise to 702,000 flights
a year and cost £13billion.
The Department for Transport, said previous studies had shown that an estuary
airport would be more costly than adding a runway to an existing airport.
At the recent Conservative Party Conference, generally, apart from Boris’s people,
there didn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for a Thames Gateway Airport.
The anticipated cost is now expected to be around £40 billion, with estimates
rising all the time. Back in September 2008 they were saying £10 – 30 billion