New four runway airport?

Heathrow airport Photo: PA

A mystery consortium is drawing up plans for a new, four-runway airport close

to Heathrow, it has been reported.

The unnamed group of British businesses has commissioned a "world-leading

infrastructure firm" to assess potential sites to the west and north of London

which could rival - or even replace - Heathrow, according to The Independent on

Sunday.

The paper said that the consortium was understood to have opened talks with

Chinese sovereign wealth funds over the financing of the project which could

cost between #40 billion to #60 billion.

The report comes as Transport Secretary Justine Greening is preparing to launch

a major consultation on future airport expansion amid warnings from business

that the country cannot carry on with the present level of provision and remain

competitive.

It quoted an industry source as saying: "These are very serious people. They

want all their ideas aligned before coming forward publicly - this is going to

be pretty impressive stuff."