Apparently the BBC’s London political editor Tim Donovan didn’t go out with Boris on his dredger last week.  We already know that Dave Hill wasn’t invited.  Who was?  Well, here’s a clue:

Speaking to The Sunday Times aboard a dredger, Johnson vowed to continue to oppose the expansion of Heathrow. He also confirmed that he aims to mount a legal challenge against the government’s decision within weeks.

I see.  The Times group have long been the receptacle of choice for Malthouse to push his airport, so it’s hardly surprising that the paper is one of the select band invited out, and lo-and-behold they have another uncritical puff-piece today, and it’s full of holes where a proper journalist would have asked some searching questions.  However, this does allow us to fine-tune our model and see if it fits in with where Boris was looking.  Let’s start with the infrastructure:

  • Four runways
  • Two islands at the mouth of the Thames (surely he’s actually proposing two airports)
  • ‘could be built in eight years’
  • Some sort of transport connection from Essex to Kent serving both islands
  • Tidal turbines to generate power (silt?  Shipping?)
  • Heathrow to stay open with two runways (why do you need four runways then?  All the major airlines will stay at Heathrow.  I make that three airports now for Mayor Not-Really-Very-Green-At-All)
  • Kent side terminal connected to Crossrail and HS1 (what if you need to get to the other terminal?  Crossrail isn’t scheduled to be ready until 2017 anyway, let alone planning an extension of at least 40 miles)
  • Widened and extended M2 (so just the one motorway then?  Heathrow has two, Gatwick and Stansted slum it on one, but this has four times as many runways)

Needless to say, there’s no plan available, nor AFAIK has there actually been anything published, as opposed to being placed in a pliant newspaper.  The cost is estimated at £40bn, which to build an airport strictly for the birds.

We also get a suggested time to get to central London – 35 minutes.  For comparison, Eurostar cover 23 miles to Ebbsfleet in 16 minutes and 56 miles to Ashford in about 30, both non-stop.  This suggests that about 65 miles is the absolute limit, at the 112mph start-to-stop speed for the Ashford run, which means whatever connection is built has to be to full 186mph standards, as do the trains, so you’re effectively proposing using the world’s most advanced intercity rail technology as an airport shuttle, not serving Ebbsfleet and Stratford (which would push the time up).  Could I tentatatively suggest that if you make people take TGVs for the first 65 miles of a journey, why not go all the way to Charles-de-Gaulle and serve other markets as well?  We need a Channel Tunnel compliant Eurostar replacement.

The real reason why this is happening is here:

Johnson has chosen to make public his vision for an alternative “hub” airport for the capital as MPs prepare to debate the future of Heathrow in the Commons this week

This bizarre proposal is best seen as an attempt by Boris to be seen as the principle opponent of the Third Runway, by spin and PR rather than actual campaigning.  He’d have been better off coming to Pro London yesterday, where he’d have found a lot of people perfectly willing to oppose it, but without having to invent airport schemes consisting of 90% BS and spin.  I’ve got some more bad news for Boris:

Coming here has put paid to talk of a fantasy island.

No it hasn’t.  If anything, what they’re proposing is even less sensible that we thought – replacing one airport with three airports at a cost of £40bn is not remotely congruent with his greenwash.

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