Newcastle International Airport boss Graeme Mason has rejected a report which called for a ‘Boris Island’ to boost regional business and safeguard the airport’s future.
Drawn up by The Smith Institute, the study claims a new London hub is needed to arrest the decline of regional airports, which is damaging local economies and undermining the UK’s competitiveness.
Nicknamed ‘Boris island’ after London Mayor Boris Johnson who has fought vigorously for it, the multi-billion pound four-runway scheme would be based on the Thames Estuary.
The authors of the report say it will allow for additional domestic routes, and claim that even UK regions which already have flights to Heathrow - such as Newcastle - would also benefit from improved connections.
Jim French, founder of Flybe, said in the report: “The number of UK regional airports serving Heathrow has fallen from 26 to six, while airports such as Amsterdam and Paris have twice that number and more.
“Without a regional connectivity strategy, the big airlines have no need or desire to operate to regional airports where the markets are small, so these regional economies suffer”.
A commission led by businessman Sir Howard Davies is currently reviewing potential sites for more airport capacity in the South East, including additional runways at Gatwick and Heathrow. Set up in September 2012, its final report is due in 2015.
While the Boris Island plan hasn’t been shortlisted, there is the possibility it could be included at a later date.
But Mr Mason, planning and corporate affairs director at Newcastle International Airport, said a third runway at Heathrow - which is also being considered - would be the best option for the North East.
“The main point of the report is academic as we have been very fortunate to have retained a high frequency and a high level of service to Heathrow,” he said.
“There are six services a day and in summer on a couple of days that goes up to seven. We’re in pretty good shape.”
He said if the plan for Boris Island went ahead it could see the closure of Heathrow Airport, and the demolition of the £2.5bn brand-new Heathrow 2 Queens Terminal.
“We don’t think that’s realistic, and in these days of austerity a waste of resources” said Mr Mason.
“Boris Island is offshore and would involve huge infrastructure costs. Whoever develops that airport would have to recover this by imposing huge landing fees.
“There’s no guarantee they (carriers from regional airports) would be able to afford these.”