Professor Roger Vickerman, a leading specialist in transport economics at the School of Economics, says the debate over Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s proposal for a new hub
airport in the Thames Estuary will continue to ‘cast a blight over north Kent’, despite its rejection
in a new MP’s report.
The House of Commons Transport Committee warned that any new estuary hub airport would
entail ‘huge public expense’ and would also require the closure of Heathrow.
Professor Vickerman said: ‘I agree fully with the report’s findings that there is a need for additional runway capacity, that the urgent priority is for this to be part of a hub-airport strategy, and that the government’s current timetable for taking a decision is too protracted for the scale of the problem.
‘The most controversial aspect of the report is its clear recommendation for the expansion of Heathrow and its rejection of a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary. The main concern is that the report makes a clear case for a third runway at Heathrow, but if Heathrow is really to work in the long-term it needs a thorough re-modelling into a four-runway airport.
‘This would take much longer to achieve and it is on these grounds that the appeal for a completely new airport rests. The Committee has helped to narrow the realistic choices faced by the Airports Commission, but I suspect the Heathrow versus Thames Estuary argument will continue to rage – and cast a blight over large parts of north Kent – for some time to come.
Professor Vickerman is Professor of European Economics at the University of Kent’s School of Economics and Director of its Centre for European, Regional and Transport Economics. He is also Dean of its Brussels School of International Studies.