In the fourth instalment of our UK airport capacity debate coverage we take a look at Heathrow’s submission to the Airports Commission today, and the three expansion options presented in it. There are no easy options for building new UK runways with all having their pros and cons. None will be without significant cost and disruption for individuals and communities. The expansion decision will be among the toughest the government has to face.
Why should Heathrow expand?
Operating at 98 per cent capacity, Heathrow’s ability to compete on the UK’s behalf for future economic growth opportunities is hampered by a need for more runway space. Currently, Heathrow is permitted 480,000 flights per year compared to its four main European hub competitors – Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt and Madrid – that can accommodate around 700,000. It is estimated this deficit is costing the UK up to £14 billion a year in lost trade connections, a number that could rise to £26 billion by 2030. Greater cost efficiencies, more flight options and additional international trade can be provided by a hub airport as opposed to multiple, smaller sized, airports – hence the need to keep one clear, international hub airport expanding in Britain.
It is estimated that three runways would provide Heathrow with a maximum capacity of 740,000 flights a year, which could accommodate up to 130 million passengers annually. While this level of traffic is not likely to be achieved until 2040, it is estimated the number of passengers using Heathrow in 2030 would be 100 million (30 million more than 2012) if a third runway is constructed.
Option 1: Third runway to the North West…
In this option, a third runway would be constructed on the site of Old Slade sewage works, Harmondsworth Moor, Harmondsworth and Longford. The runway would be just south of the M25/M4 motorways junction and part of the M25 would need to be reconfigured.
Construction of this runway could be completed in just six years with an estimated operational date of 2026. Total costs are estimated to be £17 billion. Around 950 residential properties would need to be purchased to make way for this option. Heathrow is looking at ways to preserve heritage sites the Tithe Barn and St Mary’s Church that fall within the Harmondsworth area affected. The population within Heathrow’s noise footprint would still be 15 per cent lower with three runways in 2030 than in 2011.
Option 2: Third runway to the South West…
A third runway would be constructed over King George VI and Wraysbury reservoirs with new apron and terminal facilities on the site of Stanwell Moor, under the South West option. This requires a more complex construction challenge with the need to re-provide wildlife habitat and flood zone storage. A larger section of the M25 would also need to be tunnelled than the north-west option.
As a result of these complexities, this option would take until 2029 to complete and would cost £18 billion. Runway alteration for aircraft, alongside other noise reduction measures, mean the population within Heathrow’s noise footprint is estimated to be around 20 per cent lower with three runways in 2030 than with two runways in 2011. Under this option 850 homes would have to be purchased to make way for a third runway.
Option 3: A Third runway to the North…
This option is the cheapest and quickest, but has higher noise and property impacts as well as a reduced capacity of 700,000 flights. Under this option the third runway and associated facilities would be constructed over the villages of Sipson, Harlington and Cranford Cross. The Tithe Barn and St Mary’s church would be preserved in their current locations.
A total of around 2,700 homes would need to be purchased to make way for the runway, which has an estimated operational date of 2025. Total costs are estimated to be around £14 billion. The population within Heathrow’s noise footprint would be around 10 per cent lower with three runways in 2030 than with two runways in 2011.
The options by the numbers…
Want to know more? Read the easy-read submission version here (6.1mb), or the infographic and full document at Heathrow.com. Here at yourHeathrow we’ve also got more information available via related coverage:
- The UK Capacity Debate: The Davies Commission
- Heathrow: Best placed for Britain’s future?
- The UK Capacity Debate: Boris Island
- “Heathrow Hub submission not affiliated with Heathrow”
- What makes a hub airport?
- The UK Capacity Debate from the “Twitter-verse”
Local community information can be found here.