x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Boris Johnson: Why London needs a new airport

With Heathrow serving fewer destinations than 10 years ago and its rivals widening their ambitions, the UK capital is in dire need of new air hub, writes London mayor Boris Johnson.

A letter from Boris Johnson, mayor of London, on London's air-transport needs.

Even on a good day, Heathrow is serving fewer destinations than 10 years ago, down to 167 from 200, while Heathrow's continental rivals are widening their ambitions.

You can fly to 238 airports from Paris Charles de Gaulle, to 248 from Amsterdam and 267 from Frankfurt and, as wealth and power shift to the east, the constrictions of London's hub airport are becoming evermore apparent and evermore damaging. Of the 20 cities that are predicted to show the biggest GDP growth between now and 2025, 13 are in mainland China; but only two of those cities are served directly by London airports.

This lack of connectivity threatens Heathrow and London and the United Kingdom economy. Until recently, London was the number one destination for foreign direct investment. Foreign-owned companies are estimated to contribute 42 per cent of the wealth created in London.

But people need to be able to come to see their investments, and the difficulties Heathrow is experiencing are among the reasons why other countries now appear to be ahead of us in the race for new markets and for the inward investment that follows.

Even if our airlines wanted to offer flights to those sprouting cities of Cathay, we have no corresponding slots to offer Chinese carriers wishing to land in London. China's biggest airline, China Southern, does not serve the UK - and cites the lack of slots at Heathrow as the reason.

That is why it is time to look at a new solution for London, and why I urge the government to develop ideas for a new airport in the Thames estuary - a clean, state-of-the art hub airport that would be a motor for growth and regeneration and entrench London's lead as the greatest commercial centre in Europe.