London mayor Boris Johnson has launched a withering attack on the owners of Heathrow over calls for a third runway at the west London airport.

And he dismissed criticism of his favoured option of building a new four-runway hub in the Thames estuary.

Writing in the London Evening Standard, Johnson labelled calls by Heathrow’s owners for new third runway and maybe a fourth in the future as corporate “short-termism” .

“They say they want a third runway ‘now’ and then maybe a fourth runway ‘later’. Of all the miserable, useless, cynical examples of corporate short-termism and greed, this takes some beating,” the mayor said.

“It would need about 15 to 18 years — with a fair wind and favourable judges — to build a third runway in London’s western suburbs.”

He was responding to claims from Heathrow Airport Holdings that the airport would have to close with tens of thousands of job losses if the go-ahead was given to build a new hub to the east of London.

Johnson said: “As soon as a third runway was completed, Heathrow would be clamouring to compete with its continental rivals (to say nothing of Dubai or Mumbai), and we would find ourselves having the same arguments over again, about the need for the fourth runway, but with the position a hundred times worse; with west London jammed with traffic and the skies of the greatest city on earth filled with planes.

“It is time to end the madness, and back out of the intellectual cul-de-sac. We need to do what all our competitors are doing or have done. We need a 24-hour, four-runway hub airport, preferably to the east of London, so planes can land without causing misery to millions.

“We need room to expand, and we will never find enough at Heathrow.”

He added: “It is utter nonsense to claim that a new airport would mean some kind of economic devastation in west London. On the contrary, Heathrow accounts for about 3% of the jobs in what is one of the most dynamic and competitive parts of the UK.

“We face a crippling housing shortage in London – and here is a whole beautiful new borough waiting to be called into being. We are looking at an area the size of Kensington and Chelsea, with the potential for tens of thousands of homes, hi-tech industry, university campuses and, if need be, a vestigial airport.”

Johnson added: “Yes, the new airport is a big project, and will involve some dislocation, and immense political drive and leadership. But it is infinitely better than desperately pretending we can go on with a third runway at Heathrow, or a second runway at Gatwick, or ‘Heathwick’ or any other half-cock solution.

“I don’t blame the Heathrow bosses for their short-termism, or for trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes about the real agenda. They have no fiduciary duty to their shareholders – most of whom are overseas – to take account of the quality of life of the people of London or the long-term needs of the UK economy.

“They are there, like all good business people, to make as much money as they can over a 15-year time horizon – which is as far ahead as businesses can think.

“We need to think long-term, and think big, about what is in the interests of this city and this country, and the first step to sanity is to reject the third runway at Heathrow.”