John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s Chief Executive designate, explained the key differences added to the £16bn plans following the extensive local and national consultation.
The biggest is the movement of the new runway to the south – closer to the existing runways. This delivers a number of plan improvements, key among them being the preservation of the M25/M4 junction – allowing Heathrow to build a new, wider, M25 tunnel parallel to the existing road and avoid closing the road other than for an overnight switch.
This, say Heathrow, would allow delivery of the third runway in 2025 – providing planning only takes five years. The T5 planning inquiry lasted four years, with the total time from submission of a planing application to construction being nine years.
There is also the issue that Sir Howard Davies will deliver his report in 2015. Government would need to decide to adopt the findings immediately to give a 2025 opening a chance. It would be highly desirable to have a short period from recommendation to delivery, so should Heathrow’s scheme be chosen, West London may well need to get behind a campaign to move a new runway quickly through any decision and planning process to allow this to become a reality.
The tunnel will also allowing widening of the M25 from 10 to 14 lanes, and the segregation of airport, local, and through traffic to ease flow and reduce delays.
Moving the runway south would also require the demolition of 200 fewer homes, and leave the Great Barn and church at Harmondsworth unaffected, while meaning 12000 fewer people would be affected by noise than for the previous plan by allowing flightpaths to overfly the M4.
Noise would be cut for some areas beacause of the runway – or more accurately the landing point – being further west. Planes would be 450 ft higher when overflying Heston and Brentford.
There is also a plan to only allow quieter aircraft to get the new slots. This is a good plan. It is often forgotten that the runways themselves are actually rather quiet and that it is the planes that make the noise.
Together with many other technical operational improvements, and an expanded insulation programme, this will lead to 30% less noise than at present, say Heathrow.
The Mayor of London’s office remains sceptical of this. Boris’ Chief Advisor on aviation, Daniel Moylan, said: “It is lunacy to suggest that any plan to build a third runway will reduce noise levels at Heathrow.”
The airport is improving its compensation programme for those homes which would be CPO’d for the development. At the proposed level of 25% above market value it is at least double the norm for a UK infrastructure project. However, it remains around half the 40% level which is normal in France, where infrastructure projects make a much more serene and rapid progress through planning. There the Government makes a significant contribution to the compensation, and there may be a lesson in that for UK infrastructure projects like Heathrow and HS2.
Within the airport, the plan is to have just two terminals, or rather terminal campuses. Heathrow East, based on T2, and Heathrow West, based on T5. They would be vertically integrated transport interchanges – common at most European airports, where rail and bus stations, parking decks, and drop off zones occupy different levels under arrivals and departures.
The plans have other amendments from the previous round – more green space, and improved flood protection for surrounding communities, doubling freight capacity, and providing new space for commercial development.
Heathrow’s new focus on freight was welcomed by Steve O’Keefe of Mixed Freight Services. He said, “It’s great that Heathrow have spotted the value of freight. It may not make them as much money as passengers, but they’ve realised that helping their customers make profits is just as important.”
Colin Matthews, current Chief Executive of Heathrow, made the point that Heathrow’s plans deliver more of everything than those put forward by Gatwick at the same time. He was clear that Heathrow are not opposed to more capacity at Gatwick or other airports, but that the UK’s urgent need is for hub capacity, and growth in long haul, which Gatwick cannot deliver.
Heathrow say a third runway at Heathrow would deliver 39 more long haul routes, many to emerging markets, while also providing once more domestic links to Inverness, Liverpool, Humberside, Cardiff, Newquay, Exeter and Jersey, all of which now have a link from Schiphol.
Again, the Mayor of London’s team don’t believe Heathrow, with Daniel Moylan saying: “A third runway will not restore the eleven regional routes axed at Heathrow since 1990 as peak slots will be dominated by the most profitable long-haul flights.”
Where the Mayor and Heathrow agree is that the UK’s competition is with Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Dubai, and that a hub airport is essential to UK competitiveness. Heathrow say that a third runway would allow to exceed the number of flight movements at all those airports named above, and still be less full than any of them.
However, Daniel Moylan suggests the Estuary proposal is more compelling, saying: “A new hub airport in the inner estuary could be built for the same cost as a four runway Heathrow, and would bring new jobs, homes, and long term competitiveness to the east, while simultaneously opening up the largest potential site for new homes and jobs in London to the west. It is the only credible option and the only one that portrays a compelling vision for this country’s claim to be the natural economic capital of Europe.”
When asked about the Gatwick alternative, Mr Moylan went onto add a sentiment which would probably be echoed by Heathrow, saying: “Building a new runway at Gatwick airport is a humongous red herring which totally fails to address the need for a four runway hub airport that would allow the UK to continue to compete with our European rivals. It is a short term approach that would do absolutely nothing to address the dire noise pollution around Heathrow and fail to stem the tens of thousands of good jobs that will be exported elsewhere without a new hub airport, jobs that belong to the UK.”