Confused about what stage Heathrow’s expansion plans are at? Here is the latest on the airport’s third runway
The expansion of Heathrow Airport is a hot topic. The final public consultation on plans for the airport’s third runway opened on 18 June, 2019. Running for 12 weeks, the public will have the opportunity to examine the ‘masterplan’ and feedback, via a dedicated consultation website before the consultation closes on 13 September, 2019.
Talk of a third runway is nothing new. The first proposal was submitted 29 years ago, and unsurprisingly, there has been a colossal amount of research, discussions, consultation, and ground-work prior to the opening of the current consultation.
According to Heathrow’s masterplan, in just seven years’ time the runway that has been at the centre of heated debate should be built to the north-west of the airport.
Air travel is booming
Heathrow Airport is the second busiest airport in the world, and Europe’s busiest airport. The airport handled a record 80.1 million passengers in 2018, but this is expected to rise by 77% to 142 million by 2050. It’s predicted that global passenger numbers will double to 8.2 billion a year by 2037. To keep up with passenger demand, and ensure the UK is a lead player on the world stage, the country’s capacity to take more planes needs to grow. Heathrow is already working beyond its design limits, as is Gatwick – the busiest single runway airport in Europe.
A number of options to increase the UK’s capacity for air travel have been explored, including building a new airport in the Thames Estuary. Dubbed ‘Boris Island’, Boris Johnson led the charge for this four runway airport, but in 2014 the Airports Commission dropped these plans. Building a second runway at Gatwick was also considered.
In 2015, the Airports Commission recommended a third runway at Heathrow, and in 2018 the House of Commons also voted in favour. This has led to the public consultation that’s happening right now, which saw Heathrow Airport unveil its masterplan to construct a third runway by 2026, completing expansion by 2050.
It’s no surprise that this is an emotive debate that has sparked strong opposition and mixed views. Dramatic changes to infrastructure will need to take place for the runway and additional airport buildings to be built, and will involve rerouting the M25 through a tunnel under the runway, diverting rivers, and demolishing 761 homes, including nearby villages.
Emotive environmental debate
The environmental impact of adding another runway is deeply concerning for obvious reasons. More planes means more noise and more pollution. The wider aviation industry is under pressure to get greener. Air travel makes up two percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and is on the rise. With the European Union wanting the industry to reduce emissions of C02 by 75%, nitrogen oxides by 90%, and noise by 65%, there’s more pressure than ever to find new ways for cleaner flying.
Heathrow’s executive director for expansion, Emma Gilthorpe, said, “We have been working with partners at the airport, in local communities and in government to ensure our plans show how we can grow sustainably and responsibly – with environmental considerations at the heart of expansion.” To help achieve this, a Heathrow Ultra Low Emissions Zone, Heathrow Vehicle Access Charge, and a six and a half hour ban on scheduled night flights is being proposed.
A future generation of greener, cleaner, quieter planes is in the making too. Rolls Royce says its new-generation UltraFan engine will be 25% more fuel efficient, and Airbus believes hybrid aircraft could be flying commercially by 2025. The environmental impact of aviation is clear to all, and the good news is that it’s topping the aviation industry’s agenda.
On the subject of financial costs, Heathrow is committing to keep airport charges as close as possible to their current rates to ensure prices remain steady for airlines and passengers.
The latest public consultation follows the first public consultation which took place in 2018, and Heathrow’s Airspace and Future Operations Consultation held earlier this year. Findings from these consultations will shape the final masterplan for the third runway and feed into the airport’s Development Consent Order (DCO) application which will be submitted to the Secretary of State for Transport in 2020. The DCO is the planning consent required for the project, and the outcome should be known by late 2021. If successful, construction will begin in early 2022.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The expansion of Heathrow is vital and will provide a massive economic boost to businesses and communities across the length and breadth of Britain, all at no cost to the taxpayer and within our environmental obligations.”
Do you agree with Chris Grayling? One thing’s for sure – we are flying more than ever, and while this happens, more infrastructure will be needed to meet demand.
Thank you for reading this post. I would love to hear your views. You can use the comments box below.