The Big Question: What would a third runway mean for Heathrow, and is it really necessary?
flights at the airport increase from 480,000 to 700,000, is hotting up. While
the Government is in favour of expanding the airport with the addition of a third
runway and possible sixth terminal, opposition to the new runway is mounting,
even within its own ranks.
a Parliamentary motion opposing expansion. Many have environmental concerns, while
others in marginal constituencies surrounding Heathrow fear that its local unpopularity
could be enough to lose them their seat at the next general election. Outside
Parliament, local residents already driven mad by the constant drone of planes
flying over their homes gathered to protest about the Government’s apparent determination
to go ahead with the third runway.
Heathrow should be honourably “retired”, and a new airport built in the Thames
estuary, where residents will not be affected, traffic congestion will be less
severe and planes will not be flying over densely populated areas.
Passenger numbers are set to double over the next 20 years, but Heathrow is already
working at almost full capacity. Despite being the world’s busiest airport, it
is unusual in only having two runways (a third, smaller strip is only used in
emergencies). That is the same number as it had when it opened for its first commercial
flight on 31 May 1946. Most other major airports have at least three. Some have
four or five.
a year by 2030, contributing as much as £9bn to the UK’s economy. The business
lobby say that preventing a third runway will mean that many business travellers,
who use Heathrow as a connecting hub to reach destinations outside the UK, switch
to alternatives such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.
Heathrow, and British Airways, which has the plum take-off slots at the airport.
Writing in The Independent last month, BA’s chief executive Willy Walsh said:
“No new runways have been built at major south-east airports in the past 60 years.
In the meantime, air travel has increased exponentially and is now as vital to
the success of the UK as the shipping lanes were in the early industrial era.”
runway, citing “the fact that in Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt, there are either
four or five runways there to deal with the traffic”. His words have been backed
by other ministers, who have talked about the need to take “tough decisions” to
keep Britain competitive.
authorities in the area have also formed an alliance to oppose it. On top of that,
the Government has some critics closer to home. As well as the 50 rebels within
its ranks, cabinet ministers also have concerns. Hilary Benn, Harriet Harman,
Ed Miliband and David Miliband are all said to have expressed concerns, particularly
over the new runway’s environmental impact.
only be given if the runway met the necessary noise and environmental standards.
Critics say it will not. Even the Environment Agency has said that nitrogen dioxide
(NO2) emissions produced by the addition of the thirds runway would cause Heathrow
to breach EU regulations. The government would almost certainly have to ask the
EU to delay implementation of new NO2 limits. Questions have also been asked about
the equipment used to guage noise.
area of West London, with 700 homes having to be demolished to make room. The
roads in the area, which already struggle to cope with the traffic heading for
the airport, would face even worse gridlock.
this week showed that more than a third of passengers using Heathrow were simply
doing so as a point to transfer, and contributing nothing to the UK’s economy.
Reducing the number of transferring passengers could remove the need for an extra
runway, opponents claim.
is that a model of plane, much quieter than those currently landing at Heathrow,
will be used in the future. There’s only one problem – it doesn’t exist yet. But
supporters say it is fair to predict that quieter planes will be around by the
time a new runway is completed.
bigger but are not getting noisier,” said Roger Wiltshire, secretary general of
the British Air Transport Association. “It is not an unreasonable assumption to
make that future technology will help Heathrow meet noise limits.”
against the third runway. Teresa Villiers, the shadow transport secretary, has
gone as far as warning companies not sign any contracts related to building the
runway. She has been assured by her legal team that she can rip them up should
the Conservatives win the next election.
high-speed rail network, leading to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. But some
claim that they have missed the point – only three per cent of Heathrow flights
head to Manchester or Leeds.
a new airport in the Thames estuary is gaining ground. Its most powerful supporter
is the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who is said to be keen to appoint the British
civil engineers who helped design Hong Kong’s island airport to conduct a feasibility
study into the idea.
could be linked to the high-speed rail line at St Pancras and to ferry ports.
But as Boris’s own party opposes the scheme and tens of billions would be needed
to fund the project, it still has a long way to go before becoming a realistic
a new airport had been looked at, but was dismissed because of fears over transport
links, bird strike, the impact on the environment and raising the money for the
plan. Time will tell if Boris can prove him wrong.
runways will not be able to cope
to compete with other airports
during the war, but it’s a terrible place for a commercial airport
voiced their concern