As the coalition debates whether to expand airport capacity, which is the best option?


Tim Yeo

Britain needs the third Heathrow runway because Boris Island is too expensive, too late and in the wrong place. Building Boris Island requires billions of taxpayers’ money. Expanding Heathrow does not require a penny. No aircraft could take off from Boris Island before 2030. The third runway could be operating in 2020 if the go-ahead is given now. Waiting another decade to bring our transport infrastructure into the twenty-first century will weaken our economy, while our European competitors tie up the inward investment and export business that China and other Asian tigers have to offer. Anyone living west of Paddington would have to cross London to fly from Boris Island, another 100,000 more people fighting their way through the capital every day. So if you want a project that is on time, free and cuts congestion in London, Heathrow is the only choice.

Tim Yeo is Conservative MP for South Suffolk.


Huw Thomas

Connectivity is the lifeblood of Britain’s economy. But to remain competitive, we must comprehensively tackle the issue of aviation capacity – not just in the short term, but for future generations. A third runway at Heathrow, which can only be a short one, is a temporary fix. It will reach full capacity within a decade, with no means to expand. A purpose-designed aviation hub in the Thames Estuary would satisfy capacity and connect Britain to the emerging economies that will drive growth. A world-class airport with four full-length runways in the Estuary would take 14 years to complete, only two years longer than expanding Heathrow because the planning process is the same. What’s more, the £20bn cost of the new airport can be met by private funding. But investment can only follow from confidence, which relies on political will to act.

Huw Thomas is a partner at Foster + Partners, the architect firm founded by Lord Foster, which developed the Thames hub proposal.