Sir Alan hits back at Boris’ second runway plans for Stansted

LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson has voiced his support for a second runway at Stansted Airport — although his claim has been rebuked by Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, campaigners and even the airport operator BAA.

Mr Johnson, the most senior figure to throw his weight behind expanding the Uttlesford transport hub, believes a second runway would provide a short term solution to the air capacity crisis in the south east of England.

However, he still maintains that the south east needs a new airport in the long term.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, the Conservative politician said expanding Stansted would be “a fantastic step in the right direction” ahead of building a new hub in the Thames Estuary — his favoured approach.

“It would be a good interim solution,” he said. “A lot of money is now moving on to Stansted and the possibility of a high-speed rail link up there. You could be just as fast, if not faster, than at Heathrow.

“If we built another runway at Stansted and put in a high-speed line that would be a fantastic step in the right direction,” he added. “And then [we can] look at another hub. All options must be looked at.”

But Sir Alan hit back, saying the idea did not make sense because Mr Johnson had been campaigning for a new hub airport, dubbed ‘Boris Island’, for several years now.

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“This new claim is ludicrous as it is simply not what we need for a sustainable aviation future,” he said.

“We need a new hub airport with four runways which is built for the future rather than adding a new burden on to our existing infrastructure.

“This idea of a high-speed connection getting passengers into London from Stansted in 15 minutes is impossible to imagine and is absurd.

“Boris must stick to his original plan for a new hub airport rather than looking elsewhere for a short term solution which is not viable.”

And Carol Barbone, campaign director of Stop Stansted Expansion, reinforced the group’s stance that a second runway was not required because the demand did not support it.

She said: “Stansted is only operating at half its permitted capacity as it is. If the market was interested in using Stansted we would be seeing increasing passenger numbers rather than a month-on-month decline for the past five years.

“Boris is clutching at straws given the opposition to the Thames Estuary airport.”

A spokesman for airport operator BAA said: “Building a new runway at Stansted will not solve the UK’s hub airport capacity crisis. All a second runway at Stansted would achieve would be to increase the amount of spare capacity there.”

Prime Minister David Cameron last week said MPs should not be “blind” to the need to expand airport capacity.