Policy Exchange urges “new Heathrow”

A new paper from think tank The Policy Exhange has urged the building of four new runways next to the existing Heathrow Airport.

The paper, “Bigger and Quieter: The right answer for aviation”, examines all of the options for increasing airport capacity in the UK. It supports placing four runways immediately west of the current Heathrow site. This, says the think tank, would double the existing capacity to 130million passengers, cementing it as Europe’s premier hub.

The report goes on to say that a four runway airport at Luton would be the next best option.

While it doesn’t rule out the current proposal to build a third runway to the north of Heathrow, it claims that less people would be affected by aircraft noise if the four runways were instead located 3km to the west of Heathrow.

To reduce the effect of noise the report proposes a complete ban on the noisiest aircraft at all times, rather than just at night; a complete ban on night flights; a steeper descent for most jets which would treble the altitude over (for example) Hounslow. It says noise would also be reduced by the runways being further to the west.

Because the proposal reuses existing terminals and infrastructure, Policy Exchange say price is likely to be around half that of Foster’s proposal for an estuary airport. Approximately 700 properties would need to be demolished compared to the 1,400 that would need to go to make way for the estuary airport.

They say the cost and ease of travel to Heathrow as well as the fact many businesses are already located near the current airport makes it the most suitable site.

The paper categorically rules out Foster + Partners estuary airport as it is too hard to get to for too many people – on the wrong side of London for most of the country.  It says the environmental and construction challenges are also much harder to overcome than at Heathrow.

Similarly, it rules out connecting Heathrow and Gatwick to become a single hub as it says the cost of a direct high speed rail link would be approximately £15 billion, and four runway airports at either Gatwick or Stansted, which suffer from a “poor location, with a weak hinterland and slow connections to London and the rest of the country”.

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