Newspaper article International New York Times

Plan for London Airport Is Rejected as Too Costly

Newspaper article International New York Times

Plan for London Airport Is Rejected as Too Costly

Article excerpt

Britain's Airport Commission said the logistical and financial risks of the project were too great and that the city's future needs could be met by other alternatives.

A British commission on Tuesday rejected as too costly a proposal backed by the mayor of London to build a new four-runway airport on an artificial island in the estuary of the River Thames.

In an interim report submitted to the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, the Airports Commission said the logistical and financial risks associated with the project -- which it estimated would cost as much as 90 billion pounds, or about $150 billion -- were too great to justify consideration.

The commission said London's future airport capacity needs could be amply served by other, less complicated alternatives.

"We think it's too risky," Sir Howard Davies, the British economist who was appointed head of the commission in 2012, told BBC radio. "We simply think that there's a strong chance you would never get it built."

In a statement, Mr. Davies said the commission would choose among three remaining airport options by next year. Two of those proposals would involve expanding existing capacity at Heathrow Airport, to the west of the capital, while a third posits the building of a second runway at Gatwick Airport, to the south.

The estuary airport proposal -- nicknamed Boris Island after its most high-profile champion, the Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson -- had long faced challenges from numerous constituencies, including environmentalists, business leaders and airline executives who argued that London could not afford to wait the 20 to 30 years that a new hub would take to build.

The alternatives under review foresee at least one new runway in the London area that could be operational within 15 years.

The debate over expanding aviation capacity in and around London, which is already served by six commercial airports, stretches back decades. It pits London's business leaders, who argue that new runway capacity is vital for Britain's global competitiveness, against environmentalists who warn of the implications for the country's carbon emissions and residents who are already among the Europeans most affected by airport noise. …

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