Heathrow is today submitting to the Airports Commission three options for solving the lack of hub airport capacity in the UK. These see a third runway placed to the north, north west or south west of the existing airport.
All three options are quicker and cheaper than any rival hub option, delivering extra capacity by 2025-9 and for £14-18bn1. All three put millions more people within easy reach of the UK’s hub airport than non-Heathrow options and all three protect the thriving businesses and plentiful jobs that surround Heathrow.
Each option has its particular benefits, but Heathrow believes the two westerly options offer clear advantages. They deliver a full-length third runway while minimising the impact on the local community from noise and compulsory house purchases.
The north west option performs better on noise* and residential property impact than the north option whilst costing slightly more and taking slightly longer to build. The south west option further improves the situation for local residents but increases the cost, timescale and construction complexity. The north option is the quickest and cheapest, but offers the least noise benefits and has the biggest residential property impact.
Over the last year, Heathrow has looked at many different ways to solve the UK’s lack of hub airport capacity. Those have been gradually whittled down to the three options we are proposing today.
Colin Matthews, Heathrow’s chief executive, said, “After half a century of vigorous debate but little action, it is clear the UK desperately needs a single 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. Today we are showing how that vision can be achieved whilst keeping the impact on local residents to an absolute minimum.”
The two westerly options are radically different from the old, short third runway proposed by BAA in the last decade and have been informed by the recent proposals by Tim Leunig2. Whilst there is still more work to be done on the precise detail, we believe they show why Heathrow should be included in the Commission’s shortlist at the end of the year. Each option would raise the capacity at Heathrow to 740,000 flights a year (from the current limit of 480,000). That would cater for 130m passengers, allow the UK to compete with our international rivals and provide capacity at the UK’s hub airport for the foreseeable future.
A third runway would provide benefits to the UK worth £100bn present value, well in excess of the benefits from Crossrail or HS2. Each of the options could be turned into a four runway solution should the demand increase in future. This is a more cost effective solution than building a new four runway airport from scratch when we may never need one.
A new Heathrow would benefit from already planned public transport improvements, such as Crossrail, Western Rail Access and High Speed 2 and the charges per passenger would be likely to be much lower than at a new hub airport. And despite the increase in capacity, the total number of people affected by noise from aircraft will fall. This is due in part to the westerly options being positioned further from London than the existing runways. Each mile the runway is moved to the west puts arriving aircraft approximately 300ft higher over London. Continued improvements in aircraft and air traffic technology will also result in fewer people being disturbed. As a result, even with a third runway there will be 10-20% fewer people within Heathrow’s noise footprint in 2030 than today.
Expansion at Heathrow can also be met within EU climate change targets. This is made possible by continued improvements to aircraft efficiency which mean that air traffic could double by 2050 without a substantial increase in emissions. If carbon trading is included, emissions would be reduced. Similarly Heathrow would improve local air quality in line with EU standards because of cleaner vehicles and the increased proportion of passengers using public transport.
As part of today’s submission, we are unveiling ten key commitments. If the government supports a third runway, Heathrow will:
- Connect Britain to economic growth - by enabling airlines to add new flights to fast-growing markets
- Connect UK nations and regions to global markets - by working with airlines and government to deliver better air and rail links between UK regions and Heathrow
- Protect 114,000 existing local jobs and create tens of thousands of new jobs nationwide - by developing our local employment, apprenticeships and skills programmes and supporting a supply chain throughout the UK
- Build more quickly and at lower cost to taxpayers than building a new airport - by building on the strength the UK already has at Heathrow
- Reduce aircraft noise - by encouraging the world’s quietest aircraft to use Heathrow and routing aircraft higher over London so that fewer people are affected by noise than today
- Lessen noise impacts for people under flight-paths - by delivering periods of noise respite with no aircraft overhead and providing noise insulation for people in high-noise areas
- Treat those most affected by a third runway fairly - by ensuring compensation greater than market value is offered to anyone whose home needs to be purchased
- Keep CO2 emissions within UK climate change targets and play our part in meeting local air quality limits - by incentivising cleaner aircraft, supporting global carbon trading and increasing public transport use
- Increase the proportion of passengers using public transport to access Heathrow to more than 50% - by supporting new rail, bus and coach schemes to improve public transport to Heathrow
- Reduce delays and disruption - by further improving Heathrow’s resilience to severe weather and unforeseen events
Notes to editors:
*Comparison of options
Length of new runway
Noise (population within the 57dBA Leq contour)
Residential properties lost
Ecology impact (hectares)
Volume of flood zone 3 storage lost (m3)
Grade I/II listed buildings lost
1) Heathrow research for our report ‘Best Placed for Britain’ showed that a new hub at an expanded Stansted or in the Thames Estuary could not be delivered until at least 2032. The Mayor of London has said a Thames Estuary airport would have a probable cost of £70-80bn, £25bn of which would have to come from public money (Evidence to House of Commons Transport Committee, 11 February 2013).
CGI images of the options (both stills and video) can be downloaded from:
The full report, ‘A New Approach’, as well as previous submissions to the Airports Commission can be downloaded from: