South-east airport expansion crucial for airfreight growth.

During his recent visit to China, Mayor of London Boris Johnson insisted he is still keen on the development of a Thames island airport – the so called ‘Boris Island’. Following this, prospective plans for the proposed £47.3 billion pound, six runway project have been unveiled, suggesting building could be completed in under seven years.

The Airports Commission (otherwise known as the Davies Commission) has been working since 2012 on options for increased airport capacity in and around the South-east area of the UK. Other options that have been proposed include adding additional runways to the existing Gatwick and Heathrow sites, although this would go against one of the election promises made by the Conservative party. One of the benefits on the island scheme is that it would avoid many of the problems of land-based airport developments, according to the Thames Estuary Research and Development team.

The development of such an airport as wide ranging implications for both industry and the general public alike. Even considering the fact that land would need to be reclaimed from the sea in the area known as the Isle of Grain, the airport would require much less infrastructure costs because of its proximity to central London. It would also be close to the logistics cluster created by the recent opening of the massive Thames Gateway Port.

Industry players in the UK airfreight community have largely steered clear of the argument so far, but the Freight Transport Association (FTA) have given their support to a single-hub concept, whether that be a brand new development or not. The reasoning behind their stance is to avoid airports in the South East competing with each other, whilst ensuring the UK has a freight transport hub comparable to that of its European rivals such as Paris, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam.

Chris Welsh, general manager of global and European policy for the FTA, said, “We are always open to the possibility of an airport elsewhere in the future, but Heathrow is our main hub airport now, and as it is full, the need for a third runway is obvious, and so we welcome any proposal for enhanced investment in capacity by Heathrow.”.

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