Unpublished parliamentary report finds Thames Estuary airport hub would require £30bn in public subsidy and would not be commercially viable

Boris Johnson’s plans for a proposed airport hub in the Thames Estuary would require £30bn in public subsidy and would not be commercially viable, an unpublished parliamentary report has found.

According to Professional Manager magazine, the report, by transport consultancy Oxera for the commons transport select committee, shows that the expected revenues generated by the airport – dubbed Boris Island on account of London mayor Boris Johnson’s support for its construction – would be insufficient to justify building it, without a massive contribution from taxpayers.

The report is another political blow to the idea of a Thames estuary airport, after a poll of MPs last November found that less than a fifth of MPs back plans, originally put forward by Foster + Partners and Halcrow, for a major new airport in the Thames Estuary. The vision – which is broadly similar to the favoured option of London mayor Boris Johnson – was supported by only 16% of MPs according to a poll by Ipsos Mori. The scheme, which was set out in detail in Building by Foster + Partners’ partner Huw Thomas last November, could be built within seven years with the right political will, the architecture firm has claimed.

According to the Oxera report, the public subsidy required for a four runway hub would be around £30bn – even if London Heathrow is closed to reduce competition for passengers and the taxpayer funds the surface transport to the airport separately.

“That is an optimistic view,” a source told Professional Manager. “Because there is nothing to stop Gatwick building a new [competing] runway. This [report] assumes no other runways are being built.”

Although researchers working for Oxera looked at a variety of different scenarios, all would require hefty input from the taxpayer to make them viable, the source said.

Asked whether the proposed facility would be commercially viable, the source said: “The answer is, unequivocally, ‘No.”