Heathrow plans crash zone for runway three on M25 motorway
Plans for a third runway at Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport,
flout safety guidelines by placing a proposed crash-landing zone on top of a motorway
junction (M25 / M4).
The mis-siting emerged in an investigation by The Sunday Times into the expansion
The investigation also revealed that figures for carbon emissions and the impact
on air quality have been downplayed. The government is under pressure to rethink
the £12.7 billion project.
BAA, the airports operator, has decided that the risk of a plane crashing into
the six-lane motorway, which rises to 65ft (20 metres), does not merit relocating
the M25/M4 junction.
for Heathrow. It states that expansion should be "rejected outright on safety
The government is likely to be challenged in the courts if it approves plans
for the development this summer. Its own guidelines state that the number of
people in "public safety zones" around airports should be kept to a minimum.
They say: "The basic policy objective . . . is that there should be no increase
in the number of people living, working or congregating in public safety zones."
This should apply because of the extra traffic generated by the enlarged airport.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has been advised to create ways of avoiding
traffic jams on the junction to reduce the risk of fatalities in a hypothetical
plane crash. Most crashes occur during landing or take off. In January, a British
Airways jet crashed after its engines failed during its descent to Heathrow.
The official submission by Hillingdon to the DfT says: "Government guidance states
that density of occupation of a six-lane motorway is similar to that of a housing
development . . . Such transport developments should not be permitted within public
Ruth Kelly, the transport secretary, was criticised this weekend for failing
to publish maps showing that the M25/M4 is within the safety zone, the area with
the highest crash risk.
Campaigners are now calling for an independent review.
Justine Greening, a Conservative frontbencher, said: "Yet again a key aspect
of expanding Heathrow that the public need to understand was left out from the
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show the Civil Aviation
Authority has raised concerns about the potential conflict with air traffic from
nearby RAF Northolt.
Another of the authority’s concerns was a proposal to reduce from 90 seconds
to 60 seconds the gap between planes taking off in the same direction from the
two existing runways.
Heathrow plans crash zone on motorway
M25 in third runway’s ‘crash zone’
fence and crash-landing short of the runway. It was hailed as the "great escape"
for those on board, and the ramifications are still being felt in Whitehall today.
the jet was said to be so low "you could reach out of the window and touch it".
expansion: what if it had been trying to land on the proposed third runway?
intends to sandwich one of the busiest runways in the world between the elevated
M25/M4 junction to the west and the residential area of Harlington to the east.
proposed runway, will be in the crash landing zone or "public safety zone" where
there is an accepted higher risk of an accident.
documents, which critics say would have caused uproar.
the evidence in favour of a third runway.
areas," said Geraldine Nicholson, who lives adjacent to the junction and chairs
the No Third Runway Action Group.
and we’re being told they haven’t even yet carried out a detailed risk assessment.
it would be 1.2 miles long. It has now been lengthened, partly to accommodate
a greater mix of aircraft, but also to allow flights to clear the considerable
obstacles at both ends safely.
is governed by the need for aircraft to maintain a safe distance from the elevated
M4/M25 junction to the west and the Harlington church spire to the east."
Flight BA38 has focused attention on the safety problems.
zones are where it’s most likely there could be a crash. If it wasn’t at Heathrow,
we would argue there would be less risk."
runway. He says the western zone crosses the M25/M4 junction. This was not disputed
last week by the DfT, which said safety would be considered by any future planning
and states that the number of people in the zones should be kept to a minimum.
It says: "The basic policy objective governing the restriction on development
near civil airports is that there should be no increase in the number of people
living, working or congregating in public safety zones and that, over time, the
number should be reduced as circumstances allow."
government appears to breach its own guidelines by allowing a safety zone to cross
a motorway junction. They state that busy traffic routes should be considered
on a par with housing developments when assessing the impact of the zones.
a nonprofit making organisation campaigning for sustainable aviation, said: "The
fact the maps of the public safety zones are not even in the consultation document
suggests the government hasn’t done its job properly."
areas, such as the Thames estuary, where there would be a significantly lower
risk of casualties in the event of a crash.
airport, were located away from big cities partly to reduce the risk of ground
casualties in the event of a crash.
said it was too costly to relocate transport routes that already fell within the
the third runway this summer.
Aviation Authority raised a series of safety concerns during the consultation
at Heathrow and the potential conflict with air traffic from nearby RAF Northolt,
which is regularly used by ministers. In one DfT meeting, officials were told
there was a "conflict of objectives" between expanding commercial activities at
Northolt and the proposed Heathrow expansion.
between planes taking off in the same direction from the two existing runways.
CAA officials were concerned the proposal might breach international safety standards.
public safety zone would need to be looked at as part of any future planning application".
It failed to respond to whether allowing the M25/M4 junction to be at the end
of a runway broke its own guidelines.
be a matter for any future inquiry. The statement said: "Safety is the government’s
top priority. The proposals and location for a third runway at Heathrow in the
consultation document have been developed with the CAA and safety considerations
were taken fully into account."
by the CAA and approved for the consultation document. "The proposals are not
definitive and would need further detailed work."
M25 in third runway’s ‘crash zone’