Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission has released its interim report, which shortlists the options it will choose its final recommendation from for aviation capacity expansion in the South East, with Heathrow expansion firmly back on the agenda.
The commission will make its final choice in 2015, after the next General Election, but this interim report provides the options it will choose from.
Heathrow’s plans for an extra runway are on the list, along with an extra runway at Gatwick Airport.
Need for more runway
The Airports Commission’s review into airport capacity and connectivity in the UK has concluded that there is a need for one additional runway to be in operation in the south east by 2030. Its analysis also indicates that there is likely to be a demand case for a second additional runway to be operational by 2050.
The Airports Commission’s interim report has announced that it will be taking forward for further detailed study proposals for new runways at two locations – Gatwick Airport’s proposal for a new runway to the south of the existing runway, and two options for Heathrow, one new 3,500m runway to the northwest (pictured), and the proposal from Heathrow Hub to extend the existing northern runway to at least 6,000m, enabling the extended runway to operate as two independent runways.
The next phase of its work will see the Commission undertaking a detailed appraisal of the three options identified before a public consultation in autumn next year.
No place for Estuary, yet
The Commission says it has not shortlisted any of the Thames Estuary options because there are too many uncertainties and challenges surrounding them at this stage. It will however undertake further study of the Isle of Grain option in the first half of 2014 and will reach a view later next year on whether that option offers a credible proposal for consideration alongside the other short-listed options. Sir Howard, speaking on BBC News, said that he needed more time to assess the costs and benefits of a new airport: “It looks to us that we’re looking at £100bn – that’s four or five times what it would cost at Heathrow,” he said.
It has also not shortlisted proposals for expansion at Stansted or Birmingham, however, it says there is likely to be a case for considering them as potential options for any second new runway by 2050.
Surface improvements now
The report also contains recommendations to the government for immediate action to improve the use of existing runway capacity, including operational improvements, a package of surface transport improvements to make airports with spare capacity more attractive to airlines and passengers, work on developing proposals to improve the rail link between London and Stansted, and work to provide rail access into Heathrow from the south.
It also suggests the establishment of an Independent Noise Authority to provide expert and impartial advice about the noise impacts of aviation and to facilitate the delivery of future improvements to airspace operations
Launching the report Sir Howard Davies Chair of the Commission said: “Decisions on airport capacity are important national strategic choices and must be based upon the best evidence available. The Commission has undertaken a fresh, comprehensive and transparent study of the issues. This report is the product of extensive consultation, independent analysis and careful consideration by the commissioners.
“The UK enjoys excellent connectivity today. The capacity challenge is not yet critical but it will become so if no action is taken soon and our analysis clearly supports the provision of one net additional runway by 2030. In the meantime we encourage the government to act on our recommendations to make the best of our existing capacity.
“The Commission will now focus on the challenge of appraising the three options, further assessing the case for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and delivering a robust final recommendation to government in summer 2015.”
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, continued to back the Isle of Grain, saying on the Today Programme: “Our contention is that building more capacity in the West London suburbs would be absolutely crackers.”
He also said, pointing out that the Isle of Grain option has not been completely excluded: “Howard Davies’ recognition of the importance of a hub airport to the economy and his decision to include the option of a new hub in the inner estuary on the Isle of Grain is both sensible and pragmatic, and is welcome news for Londoners and for the future competitive needs of the UK population as a whole.
“A new airport in the inner estuary is the only credible hub option left, and the only one that would uphold this country’s claim to be the natural financial, commercial and economic capital of Europe. By keeping it on the table Davies is saying you have a choice – between a damaging u-turn or a radical new vision for expansion. We will be fighting the former and hailing the latter, and I’d urge the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to do the same.”
Colin Matthews, Heathrow’s Chief Executive, said: “The world economy is changing fast and Britain needs a world-class hub airport with the capacity to compete against Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. A third runway is the quickest, cheapest and surest way of connecting the UK to growth.”
“We have thought afresh about how a third runway can be delivered. Our new option is different from the previous proposal for a third runway and will deliver the flights Britain needs while continuing to reduce the total number of people affected by aircraft noise.”
Jock Lowe, the longest serving Concorde pilot and one of those behind the Heathrow Hub concept – an independent proposal for an integrated air and rail facility that says it would double Heathrow’s capacity – said: “This is an important endorsement of our innovative solution to Heathrow expansion.
“We look forward to a continuing dialogue with (the Airports Commission) and other stakeholders as they undertake a detailed appraisal before a public consultation in autumn next year.
“We will also continue to advocate the extension and splitting of the southern runway; and the development of an integrated rail and passenger facility north of Heathrow in order to create an integrated hub airport for the whole country.”
Commenting on the Heathrow Hub proposal, Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow told the BBC: “If you’re taking off and landing from the same line then the people under that particular flight path are not going to have respite. We think that will have really significant opposition from local residents.”
Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, who has said he would prefer to see Heathrow close, commented: “This country needs a new hub airport – “no ifs or buts” – and we are wasting years talking about options that are not realistic, or credible.
“The Prime Minister will not change his principle (of opposing Heathrow expansion) or his considered opinion on the basis of an academic report – he would lose all credibility and he would not be trusted by the electorate again. He should show clear leadership now and ditch the Davies Commission otherwise he will be seen to be supporting a third runway at Heathrow and just kicking the issue past the next General Election.”
Heathrow’s North West Option
Heathrow’s north-west third runway option would raise the capacity at Heathrow to 740,000 flights a year (from the current limit of 480,000). That would cater for 130 million passengers compared to 70 million today, allowing the UK to compete with our international rivals and providing capacity for the foreseeable future, say Heathrow Airport. The runway is 3,500 metres, which is 1,500 metres longer than the 2003 proposal. It is a full-length runway and every type of aircraft operating from Heathrow could use it for take-offs and landings. Passengers would travel through a new Terminal 6 and extended Terminal 2 with satellite piers serving the new runway.
The north-west third runway option is to the west of the previous proposal for a short third runway at Heathrow. The Airport say it can be delivered comparatively quickly and cost-effectively.
The third runway would be built on the site of Old Slade sewage works, on Harmondsworth Moor, and Longford. The location to the west limits the number of properties that would have to be demolished compared to building a full-length runway on the previously proposed site. Properties in Longford and Harmondsworth would be subject to compulsory purchase under the option, but the communities of Sipson, Stanwell Moor, Harlington, Cranford Cross, Colnbrook and Poyle would be preserved. In total around 950 residential properties could face demolition.
Heathrow say with a north-west third runway there will be 15% fewer people within Heathrow’s noise footprint in 2030 than today. This is due in part to the north-west option 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.
The Airport say construction of the new runway could be completed in six years with an estimated operational date of 2026, and that the cost of the north-west third runway option is £17bn, which is comprised of £11bn of airport infrastructure costs, £2.1bn of surface access costs, and £3.8bn of environmental or community costs. Of this, it is estimated that up to £6bn might be funded by Government.
Heathrow suggest a third runway would provide benefits to the UK worth £100bn present value, and that expansion would bring considerable benefits to the local community by protecting the 114,000 jobs already dependent on the airport and creating more than 70,000 new jobs.