From some angles you could be forgiven for thinking that Boris is trying to kill his own estuarine creation, it having mutated and run amok. Certainly, announcing to a high profile gang of businessmen at City Hall that your pet airport scheme suddenly requires the best part of two Crossrails in public subsidy purely to create the land access is going to be filed by the Treasury under ‘forget it’ within a matter of seconds.
What’s odd is how quickly this has happened – back in January Boris was still pretending that you could build the thing in six years, but hidden in that and missed, I have to say, by everyone at the time was a little snippet:
He said that there are sovereign wealth funds around the world who would be prepared to pay for the project. Although additional infrastructure links such as rail would have to met by the taxpayer.
Let’s rewind a bit. The original estuary airport project at Maplin was projected to require two motorways and a four track rail connection, and it was the costs of this that sank the scheme. Crossrail, as the HS2 advocates point out, burns through £2bn a year – if you canned HS2 and put the money into surface access to the estuary our £30bn spend has to be over 15 years. Since you can’t open an airport if no one can get there, this, plus the public inquiries, plus the court cases plus the compensation negotiations plus the design time is the horizon we’re looking for.
I reckon 25 years would be good going. So why is Boris still flogging a plan that two minutes of arithmetic reveals to be impossible within the timescales he claims will result in economic catastrophe if not met? Well, if he still needs to oppose the Third Runway, but still needs to expand, and if he can’t have the estuary it’s going to have to be Gatwick, Stansted or both. So expect Boris4Stansted and Boris4Gatwick within months, I reckon, with a whole new bunch of Home Counties Tories to upset.
That’s assuming, and it’s a big assumption, that Boris is capable of rational reasoning, which since the election has not always been evident. Certainly he hasn’t shown many signs of throwing off the bout of being mostly away with the fairies that started in about April 2012. Perhaps he’s realised that by winning London in 2008 he lost his chance of the top job for good?
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