Heathrow submits proposal for third runway

London Heathrow airport has submitted its formal proposal to the Airports Commission, offering three options for a third runway to address the UK’s lack of hub capacity.

The three options call for a new runway located north, north-west or south-west of the existing airport. Heathrow claims that all three options would be more competitive than any rival submission and will deliver extra capacity, at a cost of between GBP14 billion and GBP18 billion, operational by 2025 to 2029. However, GBP4 billion to GBP6 billion of the costs will be for public transport and noise mitigation and it is likely that that will be imposed on the taxpayer.

Both the north-west and south-west options will require a new Terminal 6, which would be similar in size and design to T5. The third north option would be the fastest and cheapest to complete, with a shorter 2.8km runway, restricting its use for larger four-engine aircraft like the A380. Construction would take five years from receiving planning consent, with an operational estimate of 2025 and total costs estimated at around GBP14 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 and also more periods of respite for local residents. The two westerly options also allow LHR to reduce its noise footprint by up to 20 percent by 2030.

The airport is already planning for a fourth runway, subject to an increase in demand. However, Heathrow CEO, Colin Matthews, said he believes a fourth runway will not be required until at least 2040.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has recently dismissed the claims that Heathrow could reduce its noise footprint with a third runway. Earlier this week, Johnson also announced his three preferred options of a four-runway hub to the east of the city.

However, 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.’

According to the airport, a new runway and terminal at London Heathrow would create between 70,000 and 150,000 new jobs, as opposed to ‘the biggest mass redundancy in UK history,’ expected if the government was to close Heathrow.

According to Johnson, 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 GBP50 billion to GBP70 billion, more than three times the amounts Heathrow quoted in its proposal.

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 Airports Commission is scheduled to announce a shortlist of feasible options by the end of the year, with a final decision expected in 2015.