Heathrow expansion preferred to Thames Estuary airport – says poll


Building a third runway at Heathrow appears to be a more popular way of solving London’s air capacity issues than setting up a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

One in four members of the public surveyed by ICM on behalf of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said they would prefer to expand Heathrow, while 21 per cent lent their support to a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

However, more people believed the government was right to oppose expansion of London’s busiest airport than those who said they were wrong.

The public’s preference for the expansion of Heathrow has been echoed by London-based independent travel management company West End Travel.

David Segel, the company’s managing director, said it was “absolutely vital” that a solution to the capital’s air capacity shortage is found.

He said: “If the problem not addressed as a matter of urgency, not only will Heathrow lose a share of its British market but more importantly it will lose out to Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt, all of which are vying to become major European hubs.”

Segel was sceptical about the benefits of building a new airport in the Thames Estuary, despite the idea winning the enthusiastic support of mayor of London Boris Johnson.

“I am not by any means convinced that a new Thames Estuary airport, miles away from London, is the answer,” said Segel.

“In my opinion, it will take many years to create a new infrastructure and build the airport and my feeling is that it will not produce the desired effect.

“I firmly believe that a third runway at Heathrow is crucial and, despite the problems, logistics and objections, only expansion there seems to be the long-term solution and guarantee that Heathrow maintains its position as the number one airport in Europe.”

Doubts over the viability of a Thames Estuary airport have also been expressed by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ aerospace and transport committees.

The committees found the cost of the airport would be compounded by the investment required in the road and rail infrastructure, while concerns over the environmental impact of the facility were also raised.

A potential airport in the Thames Estuary would also be on the wrong side of London for most of Britain, leaving travellers from the West, the Midlands and the North to travel through or round London to get to it.

The Institution’s head of transport Philippa Oldham said: “However the Thames Estuary airport is not the solution, as it would be an expensive, impractical and – as this poll reveals – unpopular white elephant. The government needs to urgently rethink its decision to rule out any potential expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted, which all offer more sensible and cost-effective alternatives.”