Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has given the go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow despite opposition from local residents and across the political spectrum. Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hoon told MPs the new runway would create jobs and boost the UK’s competitiveness.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson has previously signalled his opposition to further development of Heathrow. In December Mayor Johnson warned that a third runway at the airport “could have serious environmental consequences, and it is imperative that the Government consider alternatives to it, as I have been doing.”
The Mayor has appointed Doug Oakervee, Executive Chair of Crossrail, to conduct a preliminary feasibility study into locating a new airport in the Thames Estuary.
In a statement issued after Mr Hoon’s announcement the Mayor said Ministers had “singularly failed to deliver a convincing case for expansion throughout or adequate solutions for the nightmare problems this would cause.”
Mr Johnson said he was “deeply concerned that the proper processes of coming to this decision may not have been followed” and promised to support any legal challenge if this was proven to be the case.
The Mayor challenged Prime Minister Gordon Brown to defend the decision at People’s Question Time session due to be held on the 21 January in Hillingdon.
Speaking earlier this week, Green party Assembly Member Darren Johnson said the UK had “lost our tradition of using sleeper trains, which is still a big part of the culture on continental Europe. The train is a viable alternative for all Heathrow’s short haul passengers, so we have to think imaginatively about how we can use the existing rail system better.”
Mr Johnson called for greater co-operation between the Mayor and Ministers, commenting: “instead of expanding the Airport, or worse still building an even bigger replacement in the Thames Estuary, the Mayor and Government should work together to end all unnecessary short haul flights. If the Government placed a ban on flights to these destinations, space would be freed up for essential long haul and business flights and the airport could also begin to contract.”
Accusing the Government of “utter hypocrisy” Liberal Democrat MP Susan Kramer said the decision “was the big test of Gordon Brown’s commitment to the environment – and he has failed.”
Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat Assembly Transport spokesperson, called the decision “a huge insult to Londoners”, pointing out that the three ‘main’ candidates in last May’s Mayoral elections opposed an additional runway.