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Airlines

London mayor calls for new airport

LONDON (Reuters) - London’s recently-elected mayor Boris Johnson on Tuesday called for a new airport to the east of the city to ease congestion at the other five which serve the capital.

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the expansion of Heathrow Airport in Sipson, west London May 31, 2008. London's recently-elected mayor Boris Johnson on Tuesday called for a new airport to the east of the city to ease congestion at the other five which serve the capital. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

“It is ... ever more urgent that we investigate the possibility of a long-term solution, in the form of a new and more eco-friendly international airport,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph.

Johnson, who was elected in May, doubted that a proposed third runway for Heathrow, the world’s busiest airport carrying 68 million passengers a year, would ever be built, and said Gatwick, London’s second biggest, was “full to bursting”.

“The Mayor is keen to know what the alternatives are to expansion at Heathrow and would like to know whether the idea of a new airport in the Thames estuary would be viable or not,” a spokesman for the Mayor told Reuters.

“He has asked officers to consider the feasibility of a new airport to see if the idea is worth further consideration,” he added.

Johnson has said he also favors expansion at east London’s City Airport, favored by business travelers due to its proximity to financial districts.

The airport, owned by a consortium including the insurer American International Group and Credit Suisse, wants to expand annual flights to 120,000 from 80,000.

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A City Airport spokeswoman said the growth would not need any new build, although an application to proceed with the development was delayed by Johnson last month due to concerns it may affect a proposed Thames Gateway bridge.

Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted are all owned by airports authority BAA -- the subject of a Competition Commission investigation into whether its monopoly should be broken up.

BAA, owned by Spanish group Ferrovial, is under fire from airlines for its high charges, while many critics feel its efforts to improve infrastructure at its airports would be greater if it was competing for passengers.

The Competition Commission could publish its latest report on the issue next week, a Commission spokeswoman said, although no firm date has been set.

Reporting by John Bowker; Editing by David Cowell

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