Boris: foreign cash can pay for airport

A NEW airport for the Thames Estuary could be built in as little as six years and backed by sovereign wealth funds, Boris Johnson claimed yesterday.

Raising cash for the project – expected to cost up to £50bn – would not be a problem, according to the London Mayor, as he called for a display of the “political will” displayed in Hong Kong, where it took just six years to build an airport.

“There are sovereign wealth funds around the world that would be only too happy to invest in a significant long-term yield from a British airport,” Johnson told the BBC.

“The difficulty would not be in financing the airport per se... the difficulty obviously would be in the infrastructure, connectivity between the airport and central London.”

Johnson said Britain could not continue to compete with hubs in France and Germany over the supply of flights to emerging markets nations.

David Cameron is set to launch a consultation on aviation in the spring, with a likely start date of March. Sources suggested it will include “a variety of options”, including the so-called Boris Island near Whitstable, and Lord Foster’s plans for a £50bn hub airport with four runways on the Isle of Grain in Kent, handling 150m passengers a year. It will not, however, consider a third runway at Heathrow.

Any new airport is expected to face opposition from the Liberal Democrats, as well as environmentalists and people living near the sites under consideration.

Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, is said to be against the idea while Cameron, although supportive, will make a decision after the consultation. Last night Downing Street said no decision has been reached.

Some Conservative MPs with seats in Kent and Essex have spoken out against the Estuary idea and Victoria Borwick, a Tory London Assembly member, said the time for the airport “has passed”. She called for a fast rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick.

Business leaders have begun to show support, however, and Martin Roberts, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said the scheme “must be worthy of serious consideration.”