Thames Estuary Airport Is Dead In The Water

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 44 months ago
Thames Estuary Airport Is Dead In The Water

Photo by Ian Wylie from the Londonist Flickr pool

It'd be too expensive, a logistical nightmare, environmentally dodgy and few people other than Boris Johnson really want it: the Thames Estuary airport idea has been killed off by the government's Airports Commission.

Sir Howard Davies has finally put Boris Island out of its misery, saying the concept hasn't been shortlisted as an option to provide London with new airport capacity. Just a few of the problems that were identified are a Liquid Natural Gas storage facility near the proposed site, concerns about birdstrike from the nearby wetlands, a cost to the taxpayer of £30bn-£60bn for the cheapest option, longer train journeys for passengers (an average of 19 minutes longer) and even the supposed benefit of 24 hour flying met with little enthusiasm.

Piling up all the various objections and problems, the Commission has decided the risks outweigh the advantages, saying:

"We are ambitious for the right solution... To roll the dice on a very risky project, where delays and overruns are highly likely, would be reckless."

Boris Johnson, however, refuses to take it lying down, calling the decision "myopic":

"Gatwick is not a long term solution and Howard Davies must explain to the people of London how he can possibly envisage that an expansion of Heathrow, which would create unbelievable levels of noise, blight and pollution, is a better idea than a new airport to the east of London that he himself admits is visionary, and which would create the jobs and growth this country needs to remain competitive. [The Estuary airport] remains the only credible solution, any process that fails to include it renders itself pretty much irrelevant, and I'm absolutely certain that it is the option that will eventually be chosen."

He's also threatening to continue lobbying for his pet project if he makes it back into Parliament — which, as we pointed out recently, given that an Estuary airport would mean the closure of Heathrow and that his chosen seat contains an awful lot of Heathrow employees, could make for an interesting campaign. Let it go, man. City Hall has already spent £3m from a £5m budget made up of council tax (i.e., our) money promoting this idea. Just let it go.

Last Updated 02 September 2014


Pretty sure a large number of people in West and South West London disagree that he should just let it go. Expanding Heathrow doesn't make sense.

London Marc

Finally some sense! but why should it be a choice between Heathrow and Gatwick ? Why not both? Gatwick definitely needs a second runway (if not for anything else for safety reasons) and Heathrow needs another 2 runways adding billions to our economy.
As for people complaining about aircraft noise, why buy a house near an airport in the fist place

London Marc

Sadly expanding Heathrow DOES make sense. Anyone on the planet who lives or works in a city, gets "overflown" by aircraft. We in London are fortunate to have a "hub" airport just 20 mins. away from the centre of our great city.


The solution is simple and we've been dancing around it for years.

Short term, expand heathrow + gatwick.

Long term: build something new, big, expensive and does us all proud.

For the short term, we are talking 10-15 years. We need at least 2 extra runways at heathrow, that will keep the airport competitive and it will ease it from its current breaking point. Maybe build another terminal or two while we are at it.

Long term: We need to start drawing up the plans now for a completely new airport that serves the entire south east and will relieve the pressure from London's existing infrastructure. It will have to be somewhere reasonably far, in the home counties, and where we can eventually even grow it further. So you start with 4 runways and 4 or 5 terminals. Grow that later should need arise. Then sunset heathrow, turn it into a big urban regeneration project. Sunset gatwick, do the same. Keep luton + stansted as region but rebuild/repair.

Anything other than this and the UK will be left behind as the rest of the world moves with the times...