Policy Exchange produces report hoping to shift Heathrow a few km to the west, with 4 runways over the M25 …

The Policy Exchange,  which says it is a leading think tank to deliver a stronger society and a more dynamic economy (nothing about care of the environment) have put forward a proposal to expand Heathrow, by building 4 new runways. And moving the existing two a mile or two to the west, on top of the M25. Then there would be a two more runways, one parallel to each of the shifted runways.  The Policy Exchange then says that if this cannot be built, 4 runways could be be built at Luton instead. They claim around 700 properties (in Poyle) would need to be demolished compared to the 1,400 that would need to go to make way for the estuary airport, and its purpose would be to send a “much needed signal to people that Britain is open for business.” They dismiss the problem of carbon emissions by presuming that all homes in the UK will be insulated, so leaving fossil fuel for transport – and that travelling is much more appealing so we can “have the money and carbon allocation to see the world.” A very odd report, with some very dubious logic ….. and contorted arguments.


Policy Exchange map of their plans for Heathrow …..

Compared to the existing situation (and proposed location of a 3rd runway). The existing runways are about a mile apart. The Policy Exchange seems to be putting the runways in each pair very close together.

Policy Exchange: build four runways at Heathrow

By Jamie Carpenter 

5 October 2012


The Policy Exchange report is at http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/bigger%20and%20quieter.pdf 

A new four runway hub airport should be built to the west of Heathrow, according to a report by the Policy Exchange think-tank.

The report, written by Tim Leunig, chief economist at think-tank Centre Forum, says that the UK needs a new hub airport located in the South East with spare capacity to accommodate the likely increase in demand, especially to cope with the rise in middle class travellers from emerging markets.

The study, published today, says that the “first best solution” is to build four new parallel runways, in two sets of pairs, immediately to the west of the existing Heathrow Airport site.

“These would run above the M25 and Wraysbury reservoir,” the report says. “The Poyle industrial estate and a relatively limited amount of housing would need to be demolished.”

The study says that moving the airport west would reduce noise over west London, “since the planes will be higher over any given place”. But it proposes to “reinforce this noise reduction” by banning the noisiest planes.

The report says that because the proposal would reuse existing terminals and infrastructure, the cost of the scheme would be “far lower” than Lord Foster’s proposed Thames Estuary airport.

It says that around 700 properties would need to be demolished compared to the 1,400 that would need to go to make way for the estuary airport.

If a new four runway airport at Heathrow proves politically unfeasible, the report recommends that a four runway airport at Luton would be the next best option.

But it adds: “This approach is not as good as Heathrow because it would require the closure of Heathrow to be viable, and of Stansted on air traffic control grounds. As a result, the increase in capacity is smaller, and a second runway at Gatwick would be needed to cope with leisure traffic displaced from Stansted.”

Leunig said: “We can and should expand aviation capacity in the South East. Doing so will send a much needed signal to people that Britain is open for business.





The Policy Exchange:

Tim Leunig is chief economist at the liberal think tank Centre Forum, and a reader in economic history at the LSE. There are some other articles by him at http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/timleunig

The Policy Exchange says it is the UK’s leading think tank. As an educational charity our mission is to develop and promote new policy ideas which deliver better public services, a stronger society and a more dynamic economy. [Absolutely no mention of environment there].  http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/about-us

On environment, the Policy Exchange says: Environmental challenges need to be tackled while minimising adverse impacts on living standards. The social and economic needs of the present should be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/component/zoo/item/about-environment-energy

Policy Exchange is a UK conservative think tank Telegraph said it is “the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right”

Think of a Tank http://bit.ly/mTXjMr  @GeorgeMonbiot  Monbiot had no success last year in finding out who funds the Policy Exchange



The Policy Exchange press release:

Quieter, four runway Heathrow is the answer to aviation conundrum


The UK needs a four runway airport either at Heathrow or Luton if it wants to compete with other European hubs such as Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

A new Policy Exchange report, “Bigger and quieter: the right answer for aviation”, written by Tim Leunig, chief economist at the liberal think tank Centre Forum, examined all of the options for increasing airport capacity in the UK. It supports placing four runways immediately west of the current Heathrow site. This would double the existing capacity to 130 million passengers, cementing it as Europe’s premier hub. If this was politically unfeasible, then a four runway airport at Luton would be the next best option. 

The paper says that the UK needs a new hub airport located in the South East which has spare capacity to accommodate the likely increase in demand, especially to cope with the rise in middle class travellers from emerging markets.

It doesn’t rule out the current proposal to build a third runway to the north of Heathrow, but 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. Airlines would have to ensure their fleet complied with new decibel measures by the time the new runways were ready for use

–          Imposing a complete ban on night flights. The increase in the number of slots available would mean no planes would arrive or depart between 11pm and 6:15am

–          Landing narrow bodied planes at a steeper angle as they already do at LondonCity airport. This again means they are higher over any part ofWest London on their descent. For example, a plane would be 925m rather than 260m above Hounslow

–          In addition, moving the airport west means planes will be higher over London than at present

Because the proposal reuses existing terminals and infrastructure, the 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. 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 report says that other than Heathrow, Luton is the best located London airport.  It is close to a high quality, four track rail line that goes to London St Pancras in 21 minutes as well as to key cities in the Midlands. It is also close to the M1, arguably Britain’s most important road.

If expanding Heathrow is politically unfeasible, Leunig proposes a four runway Luton Hub with two terminals, the first adjoining the M1, the second the Midland Main Line rail route. The disadvantage of Luton over Heathrow is that the terrain is much more challenging, and the location is not as strong.


The paper rules out:

–          Foster + Partners estuary airport (aka “Boris Island”) as it is too hard to get to for too many people.  The environmental and construction challenges are also much harder to overcome than at Heathrow

–          Connecting Heathrow and Gatwick to become a single hub. “Heathwick”. The two airports are 25 miles apart meaning that a direct high speed rail link would cost approximately £15billion

–          A four runway airport at Gatwick. The costs are higher than for Heathrow, and the location is not as good. Instead Gatwick should consolidate its position as a good quality base for point to point traffic geared towards leisure travel and short haul flights

–          A four runway airport at Stansted. Like the estuary airport proposal, Stansted suffers from a poor location, with a weak hinterland and slow connections to London and the rest of the country

Tim Leunig, “We can and should expand aviation capacity in the South East. Doing so will send a much needed signal to people that Britain is open for business.

“It is possible to expand Heathrow in such a way that it cements itself as Europe’s number one hub, while significantly reducing the noise nuisance over West London. A four runway airport would be straightforward to construct and relatively low cost by the standards of hub airports. It causes the lowest level of disruption to the wider economy of any likely airport expansion scenario.”



For further information contact Nick Faith on 07960 996 233 or nick.faith@policyexchange.org.uk


Notes to editors


The ‘Leunig Plan’ for a four runway Heathrow would look like this:

  • ·         The four runway airport would consist of two pairs of close coupled runways. Each runway would be 3km long and run east-west
  • ·         They would extend across the M25, the Poyle industrial estate and the northern part of Wraysbury reservoir
  • ·         There would be three terminals – West, Central and East. Heathrow West is new and would be located 3km due west of the current Terminal 5. Terminal 5 becomes Heathrow Central and Terminals 1,2 and 3 become Heathrow East. Terminal 4 would close
  • ·         Aircraft can access all terminals and piers from both sets of runways, reducing congestion and taxiing times
  • ·         Passengers arriving by road would access the airport by two ‘Heathrow Gateways’. The West Gateway would be located on the M25, to the south of Heathrow West. The second smaller East Gateway would be located at the North East of the current site, adjacent to the A4
  • ·         A ‘Docklands Light Railway’ style shuttle would run every 2 minutes between the two Gateways calling at the three terminals  and all piers
  • ·         Passengers with hand luggage only can use the shuttle to bypass the terminals altogether and head straight for their pier. This would make the new airport even more popular to business travellers, with “London City Airport” style check in times




The Policy Exchange report “Bigger and Quieter”


It says:

“The best approach would be to place the runways above the existing M25, although the M25 could be relocated and lowered if that was advantageous for any reason. In any case, a cutting with a runway on top is much cheaper to build than a bona-fide deep tunnel.”


On climate change and carbon emissions, the report states  (on Page 66 out of 70):

With the exception of spending money on fossil fuels directly, flying is likely
to remain about the most environmentally destructive thing that you can do with
your money. There are two ways of approaching this undeniable fact. The first is to
throw your hands up in horror, and say that flying must, therefore, be curtailed,
reduced, or even eliminated.

A better approach would be set an overall carbon budget for the economy, and
then allocate it to the uses that offer the highest social value of carbon. This, in
essence, is what the European Emissions Trading Scheme is designed to do. It is
extremely welcome that aviation is now part of that scheme.241 This means that
if aviation wishes to increase the number of planes that fly then the industry will
have to buy more carbon from other industries. There will be no net increase in
carbon emissions. The problem is – apparently – solved. Yet the word “apparently”
is appropriate. The ETS has not worked particularly well. The carbon price is very
low, and the system seems awash with credits.

The need to combat global warming is real. The European Union therefore
needs to make the ETS work, or replace it with a system that does. Frankly, if it
fails to do so, then whether the UK allows another two runways to be built will be
an irrelevance. Rather like local pollution at Heathrow, therefore, the best solution
is to sort out the wider issue.

[All well and good.  Fair enough. And then in the next paragraph, it entirely changes track and says that means carbon emissions are – magically – sorted out …. very inconsistent and very dubious logic to somehow justify their plan ].

In that context aviation can expand. The government’s Committee on Climate
Change has said that aviation can expand by 60% to 2050. The CAA report that
2011 saw around 2.2m passenger movements at UK airports.242 A 60% rise means
a further 1.3m movements are permissible – far above the additional 370,000
slots that we are providing here. Indeed, if this is the only expansion of runways
in the South East, then the South East will take less than its “fair share” of the
climate permissible rise in flights.

Increasing aviation emissions in this way would make aviation a quarter of
Britain’s 2050 CO2 emissions, which would themselves be 80% lower than those
that prevailed in 1990. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with aviation taking
up 25% of total CO2 emissions by that date. It is relatively straightforward to
decarbonise electricity production, and even space heating. A combination of
renewables, energy from waste and nuclear can all generate zero carbon, or very
low carbon energy.

[The next bit seems to depend on other energy uses in society being served by renewables, so fossil fuel can be reserved for air travel, because “the world is an interesting place that is worth exploring” ]

Clearly this has to be done at an appropriate cost, but the cost of some forms of renewable energy have fallen significantly relative to fossil fuel costs recently. Broadly speaking it is easy to decarbonise any static energy use, and rather harder to decarbonise mobile energy use. This is because fossil fuels have a very high energy to weight ratio, making them well suited to applications that require energy on the move. For this reason it is not inconceivable to imagine a future in which fossil fuels are used only for travel. Even then, small scale hybrids cars and buses can offer short distance carbon free travel. In this context we may be able to see aviation take a larger share of the smaller carbon budget.

[The next section reveals that the sort of expansion in air travel that he envisages can take place only if all the UK’s houses are well insulated, as using our fossil fuels for having fun is better than using them to heat homes  – as is more “appealing”].

There are two points to grasp. We have a choice as to how we “spend” our carbon allocation. We can live in poorly insulated houses, have high fuel bills for heating, and not be able to fly. Or we can live in well insulated houses, have [possibly they meant to add the word ‘lower’ here ??] fuel bills for heating, and have the money and carbon allocation to see the world. Both scenarios have the same implication for global warming, but the latter seems a lot more appealing as a way to live. The world is an interesting place that is worth exploring. Using our carbon allowance to facilitate that seems more sensible that to use it wastefully, heating houses that could be insulated, or supplied with decarbonised energy.
Flying is bad for the environment, and although it will improve it will remain bad for the environment. Yet work is underway to allow us to continue to fly, without being environmentally irresponsible.  [On what evidence ?]  Aviation is part of the ETS, and the
government should push hard for that scheme to become more effective. Planes
are becoming more efficient, and a rising oil price and inclusion in schemes like
the ETS will create greater incentives to move further, faster in this direction. It is
possible to decarbonise all static power uses, [how, and when? ] freeing up carbon that can be used for travel. Taking these together, the Committee on Climate Change has said that it is reasonable for aviation to increase by 60%. Total UK aviation growth may
need to be controlled, but refusing to build additional runway capacity in the
South East – as opposed to say auctioning carbon use economy wide – would be a socially sub-optimal approach to necessary environmental protection.



Comment from an AirportWatch member at Luton:

As for 4 runways at Luton, they would have to evacuate 8
(predominantly commuter-belt) towns within 10 miles: Harpenden, Hemel
Hempstead, St Albans, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage,
Letchworth Garden City and Luton itself.

Nice to know that someone is still not afraid to own up in public to
being on the weed.