London eyes Dubai model to avoid airport crisis - mayor

London Mayor reveals he is a fan of linking the port to the airport.
London Mayor Boris Johnson.
London Mayor Boris Johnson.


By: Courtney Trenwith

The Dubai model could become the lifesaver of London's aviation future, with Mayor Boris Johnson revealing the city is interested in linking DP World's port project to a new airport, similar to its development in Dubai.

"If you look at London's aviation capacity problems, I think you can see a very, very clear opportunity for us to find a synergy between the astonishing new [DP World parent company] Dubai World port in East London and the capacity of aviation as well," Johnson said in Dubai on Tuesday.

"If you look at what Dubai World is doing here in Dubai, it's the fusion of the maritime transport and the aviation capacity that really offers the potential for long-term competitiveness and growth.

"That is something we want to explore."

DP World’s home port of Jebel Ali – one of the world’s busiest - is located close to Al Maktoum International Airport. The two huge facilities are connected by a bonded corridor allowing for easy transfer of freight. Al Maktoum International will open for commercial flights in October.

Dubai International Airport is forecast to overtake London's Heathrow Airport by 2015, or even sooner, and became the world's busiest.

Heathrow's two runways are virtually at capacity and, controversially, there are no plans to expand or build a new airport.

Johnson said a second airport was needed. An island off the coast of London was being considered as well as "many" other options.

Private investment, including from international partners, would likely be required.

"There is large scope for partnership in this kind of project," Johnson said.

"I think its inevitable, and most serious analysts think its inevitable, that we'll have to go for some new hub airport and when that happens, it will be necessary, I think, to have some serious discussions [with potential private investors]."

Johnson called for an urgent decision on the future of London's airport capacity.

"There's an absence of clarity there still ... but that lack of clarity can't persist forever and we will need an answer," he said.

"My view is that that process should be accelerated.

"Heathrow is still ahead [of Dubai] but it won't be for much longer."

Johnson, who has been in the UAE since Sunday evening to meet with public and private investors in London and British businesses operating in the Gulf, said he was "blown away" by DP World's new port, the $2.3bn London Gateway, which is expected to open within months.

"[It] will restore the deepwater facility that our city lost over the 20th century and give back competitiveness to London in shipping and maritime transport in a way that we haven't had for many, many years," Johnson said.

"It's an outstanding piece of transport infrastructure investment that will make a long-term difference to broad economic competitiveness and create 36,000 jobs."

Johnson said there were "lots and lots" of projects in the pipeline between the UAE and London but declined to reveal details.

He has cut short his Gulf trip to return to London for Baroness Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday.


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