Boris Island: Why Boris Johnson’s airport was always a bit bonkers


A four-runway Thames Estuary airport capable of handling 150 million passengers a year – looks expensive and it is/was (Picture: PA)

It’s bad news, Boris. The London mayor’s bright idea of building a massive new airport in the Thames Estuary has been given a firm thumbs-down – on the basis that it’s just a little bit bonkers.

Howard Davies, head of the airports commission set up by ministers to figure out how to expand the capital’s airport capacity, is spending the day explaining exactly why ‘Boris Island’ is a no-go.

While building an airport in the middle of a huge river would prevent more noise pollution for voters in west London, it would be a real pain for travellers wanting to get to anywhere else in Britain. Or, for that matter, central London.

The real problem, though, is that turning a river into an airport is going to cost rather a lot of money.

Rivers are wet, full of fish and water and nasty things Londoners have dropped in them.

Airports mostly involve concrete and duty-free shopping and inappropriately dressed people still wearing shorts.

The two do not mix. They are not compatible in any way, shape or form.

Turning one into the other would cost taxpayers up to £60 billion more than the alternative options.

£60 billion! That’s more than HS2 is going to cost. It’s how much the public sector spends on Scotland alone every year.

You could replace Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent twice over with that much cash – and it’s not like the Treasury is rolling in it right now.

All of this makes Boris Johnson look pretty stupid.


Boris Johnson’s island airport has been scuppered (Picture: AP)

His firm support for the idea has always raised eyebrows but now it’s been rejected he should be feeling very embarrassed.

That wouldn’t be the mayor’s style, though. He’s made clear he thinks Davies is the crazy one.

His commission’s other options – adding another runway to either Heathrow or Gatwick – are admittedly not as exciting.

But, as the Davies commission, apologetically points out, ‘we need to focus on solutions which are deliverable, affordable, and set the right balance’.

What Boris needs are the same kind of advisers around him who are prepared to point out when he is making a terrible political decision.

Winston Churchill had them. He wanted to fit engines to icebergs in World War Two in order to make do-it-yourself aircraft carriers – before it was gently pointed out to him he was being just a little bit unrealistic.

Boris needs to learn when creative, blue-skies thinking crosses the line into fantasy land.

If he wants to one day follow Churchill into No 10, backing outlandish ideas like Boris Island isn’t the way to go about doing it.