Stuck in Istanbul for a day, Boris describes in his latest Daily Telegraph article how he had ample opportunity to admire modern and colossal Ataturk International airp0rt and Istanbul itself.
Boris says: It is more colossal than an American shopping mall, and that is saying something. Gleaming marble concourses dwindle into the distance, hedged around by luscious watch and chocolate shops, and that’s why you need a Segway to get around. As I watched that Turkish official zooming off through the crowds, I had the perfect image of the scale, the dynamism and the technological optimism of the Turkish economy.
Owing to some foul-up, we had a day to kill in Istanbul, and I had a chance to check out the mood of a city I first visited 25 years ago. We walked through the garment district and saw businesses that were patently flooded with roubles and Middle-Eastern money. We saw the spanking new hotels on the Bosporus, the lidos full of beer and bikinis, and we saw how in some parts of the city the skyscrapers now compete with the minarets to provide the distinctive image of the Istanbul skyline.
As we took in the symptoms of an economy now coming strongly out of recession – and growing at 11 per cent – I had an inkling about a modern geopolitical conundrum. Some of us have been arguing for years that it would be good for Turkey, and good for Europe, if Turkey were to join the EU. So it has been slightly dismaying, over the same period, to see how the Turks themselves have apparently become more apathetic on the question – if not positively opposed. As we looked around booming Istanbul, I could kind of see their point.
Why should they submit to the rule of the Eurocrats, when Turkish businesses and other interests are now starting to gain ground across the Middle East and in the former Soviet Asian republics? And why should they feel they have anything to learn from European transport infrastructure, when you compare the glories of Ataturk International with Heathrow?
The reason that our Mayor was stuck in Istanbul was because at Heathrow some aerial or radar had been affected by the wrong sort of rain, so no planes could leave for an hour and a half. It brought home to Boris how more than ever we need a radical solution to the problem of Heathrow, and a third runway is simply not the answer. Boris sets out clearly exactly why a third runway would be a disaster and why it is time for some visionary thinking.
He says: That is why some people are arguing for a clean, green 24‑hour hub airport that could be built in the Thames estuary, far from human habitation, with no more threat to bird life than there is at Heathrow. I don’t know if they are correct. But we are surely right to look at it seriously.