BAA given Heathrow runway deadline

16.1.2009   (Financial Times)

By Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent

BAA must accelerate its plan to build a third runway at Heathrow airport under
government proposals unveiled on Thursday.

Click for full FT graphic on Heathrow expansion

Ministers said the third runway, fiercely opposed by environmental campaigners
and local residents, should come into operation as soon as possible after 2015.
Both BAA, the owner of Heathrow, and British Airways had insisted a third runway was unlikely to be in use before 2020.

The decision on the runway came alongside a package of other transport announcements.
These included the setting-up of a company to explore construction of a high-speed
rail line linking central London, Heathrow and the West Midlands. A programme
of motorway widening, at a cost of £6bn, was also promised.

Geoff Hoon, transport secretary, said he expected BAA to bring forward a planning
application for a new runway to be operational "early in the period between 2015
and 2020".

BAA – a subsidiary of Ferrovial of Spain – welcomed the government’s backing for the scheme but said the timetable
was ambitious.  It is likely to take up to two years to prepare the planning application
to build the runway and a sixth terminal. The cost for these is estimated at £9bn.

The expansion could ultimately take the number of flights at Heathrow to more
than 700,000 a year from the present level of 473,000, although there will be
an initial ceiling of 605,000. Passenger numbers could rise from 67m a year to
about 120m by 2030.

BAA will face a very tough planning investigation, not least as it gave a commitment
at the Terminal 5 inquiry not to build a third runway as the price for winning

A general election is also due within 15 months and the Conservatives have expressed
outright opposition to the third runway since autumn’s party conference.

BAA and a future government wishing to extend the airport will have to face down
opposition from local residents, environmental campaigners and local authorities
that could reach a level of direct action seldom seen in the UK.

About 700 homes, chiefly in the community of Sipson, will have to be demolished
to make room for the runway, which will be located to the north of the existing

Heathrow is one of the most congested and busiest airports in the world.

It handles more passengers than any other airport in Europe, even though it has
only two runways compared with four at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Madrid, five
at Amsterdam Schiphol and three at Frankfurt.

Airlines claim Heathrow has rapidly been losing ground to rival hub airports
in continental Europe. Business organisations also say that inferior service quality,
poor performance, delays and a dwindling network of destinations at the only UK
hub airport have undermined the status of London as a global financial capital.

Mr Hoon estimated Heathrow expansion would create up to 8,000 jobs by 2030 and
provide up to 60,000 jobs in the construction phase.

He rejected the proposal for more intensive use of the existing two runways,
so-called mixed mode operation, which could have raised capacity by about 10 per
cent in the short term.

The transport secretary said the airport was "vital for the economy".

A number of environmental conditions on noise and air quality would have to be
met for the runway – which will be 2.5km long compared with the 3.9km and 3.7km
of the existing runways – to become operational.

Initially the extra capacity will be limited to 125,000 flights a year, rather
than 220,000 flights, pending a review in 2020.




Editorial Comment: Long-haul fight – Jan-15

Lobbyists raise pressure on Heathrow – Jan-12


Hoon braced for legal challenge– Jan-15

By Michael Peel and Jim Pickard

Published: January 15 2009

The plan for a third Heathrow runway is almost certain to face a courtroom challenge,
both critics and supporters agreed on Thursday.

Geoff Hoon, transport secretary, said the government expected legal action from
some or all of the environmental groups, councils and other opponents of the project
who spent Thursday poring through Department for Transport documents detailing
the proposal.

Lawyers said any legal challenge could focus on a wide range of issues from noise
to failures in the planning process.

Mr Hoon told the Financial Times that, although he was confident the government
had "done it in the right way", he expected a challenge. "We expected judicial
reviews frankly whichever way the decision went, those unhappy with the decision
were always likely to resort to the law."

Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, an outspoken opponent, came out as an early potential
supporter of court action. "I am deeply concerned that the proper processes of
coming to this decision may not have been followed, and will support a legal challenge,
should this prove to be the case," he said.

His remarks echo those of some environmental activists and independent legal
observers, who see a challenge to the decision-making process as a main plank of any lawsuit. In 2007, Greenpeace successfully torpedoed the government’s first attempt to
replace Britain’s ageing nuclear capacity by arguing in the High Court that ministers
had failed to hold a proper consultation on the plan.

Other questions that could form part of a case over Heathrow include whether
officials fully considered problems such as noise, air quality and surface access
to the affected area.

Another angle could be a claim that the plans deprive local people of their property
rights under European law, echoing arguments used in a High Court case launched this week by shareholders
of Northern Rock, the nationalised bank

Greenpeace has already bought a field in the neighbourhood, hoping this will
delay the execution of the compulsory purchase orders needed for the third runway.