Heathrow submits third runway plans

17 Jul 2013 by ScottCarey7

London Heathrow made its formal submission to the Airports Commission today, offering three third runway options to help solve the UK’s lack of hub capacity.

The three options would see a new runway placed north, north-west or south-west of the existing airport.

Heathrow claims that all three options are quicker and cheaper than any rival submission and will, by 2025 to 2029, deliver extra capacity at a cost of between £14 billion and £18 billion.

However, between £4 billion and £6 billion of these costs will be for public transport and noise mitigation and will potentially fall to the taxpayer.

The north-west option (above) would see a new, full-length 3.5km runway constructed just south of the M25/M4 junction, with part of the M25 being reconfigured to go under the runway. Around 950 residential properties and two listed buildings would face demolition.

This option offers a total capacity of 740,000 flights, compared to 480,000 today, and is competitive with Paris and Frankfurt, both of which have more runways and capacity of 700,000.

The south-west option would see a third runway constructed over the King George VI and Wraysbury reservoirs, with new apron and terminal facilities on the site of Stanwell Moor, putting 850 residential properties at risk.

This option presents a more complex construction challenge due to the runway being built over a reservoir. This results in the need to re-provide wildlife habitat and flood zone storage.

A larger section of the M25 would need to be tunnelled than with the north-west option and Junction 13 would need to be reconstructed. This means costs would increase to £18 billion and the runway would not be operational until 2029.

Both the north-west and south-west options would see passengers travelling through a new Terminal 6, which would be similar in size and design to T5.

The third option, located north of the existing facility, would be the quickest and cheapest to complete, with a shorter 2.8km runway, limiting its use for larger four-engine aircrafts such as the A380.

However, there would be a greater impact on the local community, with a total of around 2,700 residential properties facing demolition.

Construction would take five years from planning consent, with an estimated operational date of 2025 and total costs estimated at around £14 billion.

Heathrow said that it prefers the two westerly options as the full-length runway allows for all aircraft types to take off and land, giving greater operational flexibility for when things go wrong and also more periods of respite for local residents.

The airport is already planning for a fourth runway “should the demand increase”. However, Heathrow CEO Colin Matthews said he believes a fourth runway will not be required until at least 2040.

The two westerly options also allow LHR to reduce its noise footprint by up to 20 per cent by 2030. Even with a third runway, the increasing presence of modern, quieter aircraft, steeper ascents and new flight paths that avoid populated areas will help reduce noise levels, the airport submission claims.

However, London Mayor Boris Johnson recently dismissed the claims that Heathrow could reduce its noise footprint with a third runway. He told the BBC: "There will be more pigs flying than aircraft if we are to believe the claim that three runways at Heathrow will make less noise than two.”

Speaking at the opening of the Emirates Aviation Experience earlier this month (see online news, July 5), Johnson said: “Let’s be clear, you could cause untold misery in the western suburbs of London and do it at Heathrow.”

Table comparing the three different options

Today, Matthews reiterated the UK's need for a hub airport "with the capacity to provide the links to emerging economies which can boost UK jobs, GDP and trade. It is clear that the best solution for taxpayers, passengers and business is to build on the strength we already have at Heathrow.”

A new runway and terminal at LHR would create between 70,000 and 150,000 new jobs, according to the airport, as opposed to “the biggest mass redundancy in UK history,” that Matthews predicts if the government was to close Heathrow.

Heathrow’s proposals come two days after the London mayor announced his three preferred options of a four-runway hub to the east of the city.

Johnson said this would be achieved either through a new-build hub in one of two locations in the Thames estuary, or a transformed Stansted. The estimated costs of the new-build options range from £50 billion to £70 billion, more than three times the amounts Heathrow quoted today.

Responding to the alternative option of building a four runway hub elsewhere in the capital, the Heathrow proposal said: “This [a third runway] is a more cost effective solution than building a new four runway airport from scratch when we may never need one.”

The Board of Airline representatives in the UK (BAR) has revealed that a survey of its member airlines revealed “89.8 per cent favour expansion of Heathrow with only one airline known to support a new airport in the Thames Estuary”.

The Airports Commission is due to announce a shortlist of feasible options by the end of the year, with a final decision not due until after the next general election in 2015.

Scott Carey

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