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Boris belies bellicose Baker

LONDON: Mayor of London Boris Johnson has told the UK's Airports Commission that it risked missing a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to build a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary following "blinkered and make-do philosophy that had led to decades of haphazard expansion."

The Mayor says closing Heathrow could provide 90,000 jobs and 80,000 new homes, adding £7.5 billion a year to the UK economy.

Johnson's latest submission follows comments earlier in the week by Qatar Airways' CEO and Heathrow non-executive director Akbar Al Baker who suggested too much fuss was being made about noise pollution at the airport.

Thames airportIn addition to being a major shareholder in Qatar Airways, Qatar's sovereign wealth fund holds a 20 percent stake in Heathrow and has an obvious interest in its future expansion.

A recent study by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority shows that a third runway at Heathrow would expose "severe noise" to more than one million people should a go-ahead be given.

By contrast, Qatar's new four-lane Hamid International Airport, officially opened on April 30, 2014, is built on reclaimed land further away from Doha city and incorporates a noise-abating flight path.

With London forecast to grow to 10 million people by 2030 and 11.3 million people by 2050, Johnson says his proposal would support around 400,000 jobs throughout the UK with the benefits from additional flight connectivity alone worth nearly £7 billion a year.

"The Airports Commission has been asked to consider a subject that is of vital importance to our country's prosperity and place in the world. It is not a small matter and their work will have ramifications for decades to come. That is why it is crucial their considerations take into account the future requirements of this country in 40 or even 50 years time."

He points out the Airports Commission's figures show that a three-runway Heathrow would effectively be full shortly after opening, with limited slot availability and very poor resilience, while a second runway at Gatwick would fail to address noise problems and be unable to function as an effective hub.

Gatwick is ultimately controlled by Global Infrastructure Management, part of Global Infrastructure Partners who retain a 42 percent stake in the airport. Other shareholders are the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the National Pension Service of Korea, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and the Future Fund of Australia.

In addition to Qatar, other Heathrow shareholders include the sovereign wealth funds of China and Singapore and Spanish infrastructure company Ferrovial.

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