16 MAY 2016


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Article from BTNews 16 MAY 2016

COMMENT: Boris Johnson and the way ahead

Rumours are rife that Lord (Andrew) Adonis is to become the transport guru to Sadiq Khan, the new mayor of London.

An academic and journalist, but with political leanings, Adonis was Gordon Brown’s secretary of state for transport during the final year of the last Labour government. A railway enthusiast, he quickly grasped the essentials of the air transport scene, speaking with authority at the Aviation Club within weeks of his appointment.

In October 2015 he resigned the Labour Party whip in the House of Lords to sit as a non-affiliated peer and leads George Osborne’s newly-created National Infrastructure Commission.

Khan’s approach to aviation seems to be pragmatic. Once a supporter of an enlarged Heathrow, he then tended to side with the Johnson/Goldsmith view, and in more recent times has supported Gatwick expansion. Last week, in one of the first decisions of the incoming administration, he dropped the official City Hall objection to an expansion of London City Airport (see story below: “London City and Sadiq”).

Where does all this leave former Mayor Boris Johnson, now a backbencher, a senior Tory with a non-ministerial cabinet role?

Johnson seems to be at this time anti-air transport but aware of its importance to the nation.

At a huge cost to Londoners, and without their approval, Boris promoted his Thames Estuary scheme, unequivocally turned down by the Airports Commission.

He personally proved disruptive with London City Airport’s expansion, as already noted.  Mr Johnson's own transport ‘expert,’ Daniel Moylan, as a board member of Transport for London, was emphatic in objecting to plans for a Crossrail project station in Silvertown to support that rundown area and London City Airport.

At a price it does look as though the station may be incorporated in the new line and could even be implemented for its 2018 opening.  It would have been minimal if in the original plans.  The alternative is public road transport, with emissions and congestion, to connect Custom House (Excel) Station and LCY. Silvertown for London City Airport is an now Elizabeth Line win-win. LCY to Tottenham Court Road station in just 15 minutes.

Johnson has a dilemma.

Sitting in the middle of his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency is Royal Air Force Northolt, the home of many noisy private jets.

If Boris has national ambitions, he should drop his anti-airport stance and get behind the airlines (and quiet aeroplanes) with ambitions to come into the airport from the regions and move the executive aircraft out. It would be a big plus for the Treasury, which actually funds the whole thing.

The provinces are desperate for better connections to London.  His constituency would prosper (road access to a civil enclave would be via the A4) with more jobs and a much bigger spend. The South Ruislip to Marylebone train line would boom. BA and Heathrow would prosper too, currently losing business to European and Middle East hubs.  Heathrow Airport Ltd has backed Northolt as a remedy to its short-term slot problem.

The MOD said it was ‘minded to support’ the project and then threw a red herring over aircraft movements which would not be affected until the third runway was in operation.

Boris, please set out your air transport thoughts. The country needs to know.

See also ON THE SOAPBOX 2 May 2016 & COMMENT "Yes Prime Minister" 25 January 2016

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Steve Rogers, Guernsey

Very good article other than the very obvious bias against private jets and exaggerations that rather spoil the article. Private jets meet the same noise requirements as the airliners. Many of them meeting even more stringent noise requirements that have not yet become mandatory. Many of these aircraft use Northolt due to the lack of slots at Heathrow and bring considerable business to UK Plc. They have a place at Northolt as well as regional flights.

John Davidson, Paris, France

Andrew Adonis was also previously the telecoms correspondent for the Financial Times. Once, when he was chairing a conference on telecoms in Asia, a client asked me to prepare a speech for one of their execs. I phoned the FT's number and got through to Adonis. I asked him what the various topics they might cover at the conference, hence content that could be useful for my speech-writing. Adonis, after going on for a bit about a various topics, failed to mention finance. And this from a report for the FT. So I asked him whether he thought that, perhaps, return on (telecoms) investment might be a relative topic, as my intention was to focus my client's speech on that aspect. He replied, Oh yes, that too. Amazing.