Not grounded - but not cleared for take-off either

Not grounded - but not cleared for take-off either

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, December 17 2013

It is being seen as a sop to Mayor of London Boris Johnson and a political fudge. But while Sir Howard Davies has left the door ajar to a new hub airport in north Kent, perhaps it is only so the door can eventually be closed completely.

Opponents will no doubt argue that there already is plenty of evidence that the scheme is a non-starter and the report published today touches on them - the prohibitive costs, the environmental impact and the need for huge investment in the transport infrastructure.

So why hasn't the government appointed commission decided that it is, as opponents are fond of saying, all "pie in the sky?"

One explanation might be that the commission wants to be absolutely certain that the Thames Estuary option should be ruled out and in opting for a closer analysis of the pros and cons, is determined deliver such a definitive and comprehensive case against it that the debate is ended once and for all.

It does, of course, offer Boris Johnson and others to renew the argument in favour but it is hard to see how they can produce more compelling evidence to support the case.

Sir Howard has acknowledged that the hurdles are far higher for the Isle of Grain than the options shortlisted for Heathrow and Gatwick.

It would take some fairly creative arithmetic to reduce these costs. And what additional evidence could be produced to mitigate the well-documented environmental impact?

Perhaps the highest hurdle for the Kent option is that it would require a major investment in the existing transport infrastructure - adding to the colossal financial impact on the taxpayer.

In such circumstances, it is hard to see how it could become a more viable contender when subjected to the close analysis that the Davies Commission has indicated.

Yes, the decision to keep the scheme in the mix is frustrating.

But at the end of next year, the "uncertainties and challenges" that Sir Howard says surround the Kent proposal are unlikely to be overcome in a way that would allow him to add it to the shortlisted options for Heathrow and Gatwick announced today.



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