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June 29, 2017

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Island airport's bid fails as London aims to stay on top

LONDON -- London mayor Boris Johnson's grand plan for a new airport in the Thames Estuary was rejected on Tuesday, leaving few options on the cards for the city to stay an international hub.

The Airports Commission turned down the idea in a report, with its director Howard Davies saying the island airport proposal had "attraction" but would be too costly and complicated.

Johnson had backed replacing Heathrow with the construction of four runways some 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of the city by 2030 — a project referred to as "Boris Island."

Davies was quoted in the report saying the proposal would "remove the aviation noise nuisance from many west London residents" and would be far from residential areas.

But the report concluded that "in view of the obstacles to delivery, high costs and uncertain benefits we will not shortlist the scheme for further consideration".

Among the obstacles identified by the commission were the land expropriations that would be required, the need to protect wildlife in the area and the proximity of the site to a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility.

It also underlined the enormous cost of the work — between 67 and 120 billion pounds (85 and 152 billion euros, US$110 and US$198 billion).

The commission said some expenses could be offset by selling Heathrow and potentially the new airport itself but the cost to the taxpayer would still be 30 to 60 billion pounds.

"We are not persuaded that a very large airport in the Thames Estuary is the right answer to London's and the UK's connectivity needs," Davies said.

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