Video: London Mayor's aviation advisor resolute on estuary airport plan

Daniel Moylan, advisor to London Mayor Boris Johnson for aviation, tells Infrastructure Intelligence why neither Heathrow nor Gatwick hold hub solution.

"Imperative that we make a decision now", Moylan pointed out ahead of his presentation to the recent RunwaysUK conference. "Expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick is impossible" and a decision by the Sir Howard Davies' Airport Commission to back either of these solutions would make him "irrelevant". 

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Airport Commission publishes Inner Thames Estuary Feasibility reports

Moylan’s comments were made ahead of publication last week by the Davies Commission of a new set of feasibility reports into the viability of a new airport in the Inner Thames Estuary which are open to consultation until 8 August.

Specifically this consultation asks two questions:

is there information in the reports which is factually inaccurate?

is there any new information or evidence that you wish us to consider before making our decision?

This work to produce the feasibility studies was undertaken by consultants on behalf of the Airports Commission to address the questions set out in the Terms of Reference for the Inner Thames Estuary as published in March 2014.

The Terms of Reference called for the following four studies:

  • Study 1–Environmental / Natura 2000 impacts;
  • Study 2 – Operational feasibility and attitudes to moving to a new airport;
  • Study 3 – Socio-economic impacts; and
  • Study 4 – Surface access impacts

The findings and links to the full reports are below: 


Feasibility study 1 – environmental impacts

According to the report by Jacobs “an airport development on the Hoo peninsula is likely to result in large scale adverse effects on international nature conservation designations, principally the Thames Estuary Marshes special protection area (SPA) and Ramsar sites and Medway Estuary Marshes SPA and Ramsar sites”.

The work highlighted that any proposed airport in the area would “need to demonstrate that there are no feasible alternative solutions for meeting development objectives in accordance with the HRA process required under the Habitat Regulations”.

Should this test be passed a large area of compensation habitat creation would be required “on a scale unprecedented for any single development in Europe”. The cost of delivering this compensation habitat is put at between £148M and 2.04bn.

And while technically possible to create large scale habitats, the report warned that there were considerable risks involved in meeting the needs of all species affected not least in providing the appropriate geographic region to support the species affected. Further extensive studies would be needed over many years. 

Feasibility study 2 - Operational feasibility and attitudes to moving to an estuary airport 

The report by LeighFisher examined the impact of an estuary airport across a number of operational areas including flood risk, wind, fog, bird strike, the SS Montgomery, airspace issues, impact of the energy facilities, transition from old airports to new and the general attitude to the proposals by local businesses and stakeholders. 

Examined individually, the report said there were “significant but perhaps not insurmountable challenges and risks to the successful development of an airport in the inner Thames Estuary”. 

However, considered together “they appear to present a substantial risk that would incur large costs, in the order of billions of pounds, to appropriately manage”

Part of that risk, it added, may not be mitigated or costed to a reasonable degree, “including the risk to safety, the on time delivery of the airport, the consequential impacts on local and regional economies, the attractiveness of the airport to airlines and their customers, and ultimately the success of a hub airport located in the inner Thames Estuary”.

Feasibility study 3- Review of the evidence on socio-economic impacts

The review by PriceWaterhouseCoopers identified that to make an inner Thames Estuary airport commercially viable revenues per passenger would have to be significantly higher in real terms than at Heathrow and competing European hub.

It also points out that between £13.5bn and £21.5bn would need to be paid tpo Heathrow in compensation for moving it business.

The report highlights that approximately 98,000 additional jobs  could be dcreated by a Thames estuary airport in 2030 across the six local authorities closest to the proposed airport

However, it also highlights that Heathrow airport currently employs 76,600 people directly on-site, creating GVA of approximately £3.3bn plus between 114,000 and 123,000 jobs in the local area with a total GVA of £5.3bn to £6.2bn. 

“Many of these local jobs would be lost if the airport close,” it warned

Feasibility study 4 - Surface access impacts

The report by Jacobs looked closely at the various plans put forward for surface access to new airports in the Inner Thames Estuary and attempted to assess in terms of both capacity and cost.

Of the various rail options proposed, the report estimated the likely cost at some £27bn should additional and necessary dedicated services to London be indlcuded alongside extensions to existing routes.

To enhance the road network the report also quotes figures of between £10bn and £17bn to provide the necessary capacity by 2050. An additional £2bn would also be needed to provide a new lower Thames crossing.

The report warns: “Even with mitigation the proposed surface transport access routes would generate new environmental impacts and increase the cumulative effects from the development of a hub airport in the ITE. In particular, there would be wider ranging impacts extending long distances from the proposed airport development”.

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