Heathrow Airport chosen by UK government for expansion

25 Oct 2016 by Tom Otley

The UK government has finally chosen Heathrow for the location of an extra runway, but years of delay look set to be followed by yet more years of delay as a consultation period will be followed by a vote in Parliament and then planning and legal challenges.

You can view the Department of Transport’s timeline here

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling described the decision as “momentous”.

Addressing concerns over local residents, he said “… expansion will only be allowed to proceed on the basis of a world class package of compensation and mitigation worth up to £2.6 billion, including community support, insulation, and respite from noise balancing the benefits and the impacts of expansion”.

Emphasising the benefits of expanding Heathrow for passengers, he also said

“Heathrow already handles more freight by value than all other UK airports combined, accounting for 31% of the UK’s non-EU trade, and its expansion will create even more opportunities for UK business to get their goods to new markets.

There was also the promise of new connections for regional airports.

“A third runway will also support new connections to the UK’s regions as well as safeguarding existing domestic routes. Heathrow has proposed a further 6 new routes to Belfast International, Liverpool, Newquay, Humberside, Prestwick and Durham Tees Valley to be added after expansion. The 8 existing routes offered today are: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds Bradford. This would provide 14 domestic routes in total, and spread benefits right across the country.

“Government will also take all necessary steps including, where appropriate, ring-fencing a suitable proportion of new slots for domestic routes, to ensure enhanced connectivity within the UK.”


British AIrways B747 at Heathrow



Gatwick Chief Executive Stewart Wingate, said:

“We are disappointed as we do not believe this is the right answer for Britain. Gatwick has put forward a credible financeable and deliverable plan for expansion.

“It is a plan that can guarantee growth and guarantee certainty for Britain. We look forward to studying the full reasons behind the Government decision in detail.

“The challenges facing Heathrow have not changed. Our message today is that Gatwick stands ready to proceed when the time comes.”

International Airlines Group (IAG)

Willie Walsh, IAG’s chief executive, said:

“We’re pleased that a decision has finally been made but the cost of this project will make or break it. The Government’s directive to cap customer charges at today’s level is fundamental.

“Heathrow is the world’s most expensive hub airport so it’s critical that new capacity is affordable. The airport has consistently argued that the British economy will benefit if the third runway is approved. Heathrow want it, argued for it and now must ensure it’s the UK and the travelling public who get the benefits from the runway not the airport’s owners.

“An efficiently built Heathrow will demonstrate that the UK can deliver cost effective infrastructure and compete on the world stage”.

“We will be vigilant in ensuring that Heathrow does not raise charges to benefit its shareholders to the detriment of the travelling public. We believe it’s sensible that this is properly debated and we look forward to being consulted about our views”.


Carolyn McCall, CEO of easyJet:

“This is good news for UK consumers and businesses and will help ensure that the UK is better connected to the rest of the world.

“With the right charging structure and the right infrastructure for our efficient model, easyJet plans to operate from Heathrow, in addition to our existing London bases, providing new routes and lower fares to customers.”

Transport Select Committee

The Chair of the Transport Committee, Louise Ellman MP, commented:

“After decades of dithering, the decision has been made and it is the right one. The Transport Select Committee has consistently backed the building of a third runway at Heathrow airport, with the package of accompanying measures recommended by the Airports Commission, as the best solution to increasing airport capacity in the south east.

“A third runway at Heathrow is good for business, good for Britain. It is better for connectivity with the UK’s regional airports. This decision will boost business, create training opportunities and new jobs and open the UK to new markets. While the UK gets to grips with Brexit, Heathrow’s established status is already recognised at regional, national and international levels.

“The recent Davies Commission, requested by the Government and published in 2015, concluded three options were credible but a new runway at Heathrow was the strongest proposal. This week, Sir Howard Davies, the chair of the Airports Commission, said the case for expanding Heathrow is now “overwhelming” and has “strengthened in recent months” post-Brexit.

“We have had to wait a long time for this. We recognise it won’t be an easy journey and the Government faces significant challenges. Guarantees will need to be met on noise and pollution. We urge the Government to have the courage of their convictions and press ahead so that the timetable to deliver the additional capacity by 2030 can be delivered.”

The Committee published the following reports which reference airport expansion:

3rd Report – Airport expansion in the South East, published 4th May 2016

1st Report – Surface transport to airports, published 26 February 2016

9th Report – Smaller airports, published 13 March 2015

Aviation Strategy, First Report of Session 2013-14

Committee membership is as follows:
Mrs Louise Ellman (Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool Riverside) (Chair); Robert Flello (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South); Mary Glindon (Labour, North Tyneside); Karl McCartney (Conservative, Lincoln); Stewart Malcolm McDonald (SNP, Glasgow South); Mark Menzies, (Conservative, Fylde); Huw Merriman (Conservative, Bexhill and Battle); Will Quince (Conservative, Colchester); Iain Stewart (Conservative, Milton Keynes South); Graham Stringer (Labour, Blackley and Broughton); Martin Vickers (Conservative, Cleethorpes).

British Airline Pilots’ Association

BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said:

“We are pleased the Government has finally taken a long overdue stance but it’s disappointing the definitive vote will not take place for at least another year.

“Heathrow is already operating at almost maximum capacity so expansion is vital to the UK economy and aviation industry.”

ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents)

ABTA CEO, Mark Tanzer, said:

“ABTA welcomes today’s announcement by the Government that it will follow the Airports Commission’s recommendation that Heathrow should be allowed to build a third runway. Increasing airport capacity is essential to the UK’s economy, growth and global competitiveness and we are pleased that this decision has been arrived at after fair, transparent, and thorough processes and consultations.

“ABTA takes a long-term view on growing airport capacity. We have urged expansion at both Heathrow and Gatwick to meet the 2050 demand, rather than just 2030 capacity needs. The case for expansion at both airports remains clear: Heathrow is full and Gatwick operates at full capacity at peak times. Additional capacity is essential at both airports to cope with growing passenger demand and provide resilience.

“ABTA agrees that it is essential for environmental impacts to be minimised and mitigated. It is also vital that there is comprehensive public transport access to support demand. The scheme must be cost-efficient and affordable and passengers today must not be expected to pay for a runway that won’t be open until 2025.

“We now call on the Government to work across party boundaries and achieve a robust political consensus which will create the necessary infrastructure to deliver the new runway by 2025.  ABTA will be working with the Government as well as the opposition parties to achieve this.”


“Norwegian has always backed Gatwick as the right choice for the UK’s next runway but we respect the decision of the UK Government. Our plans for huge expansion at our Gatwick base and other UK airports remain unchanged and 2017 will see even more new routes, increased flights and brand new aircraft in our growing UK operation.”

The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK)

Dale Keller, chief executive of BAR UK

“We welcome that a decision has finally been made to allow an additional runway at Heathrow, and yet for us this is simply the beginning and the real work starts now. We look forward to engaging closely with the Government and Heathrow Airport Limited during the public consultation and National Policy Statement process that follows, to ensure that the new capacity can be financed without pre-funding by today’s passengers and be delivered on-time and at a cost that is affordable to airlines and the travelling public. The new runway will deliver further vital connectivity for the whole of UK’s economy in an increasingly globalised world.”

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