Heathrow lobbying hard for a third runway again – several possible options for location

Heathrow Airport (BAA as was) is now lobbying hard for a 3rd runway, in a new campaign.  It is adamant that there is a lot of unmet need, that the UK must retain the largest hub airport, that having a huge hub is vital and so on.  Heathrow states that: “More hub capacity is urgently needed and whilst longer term demand forecasts are inherently uncertain, the more immediate demand case for a 3 runway hub is very clear. The longer term forecasts also show that any potential demand case for a 4th runway is highly uncertain and may not materialise.” They are working on a range of plans for a 3rd runway, rather than just the northern option,  include putting the M25 in a tunnel under a runway, keeping the existing terminals and filling in reservoirs to build runways to the west of the airport, or almost doubling the length of the current 2 runways to in effect create 4. They are likely to submit plans for these to the Airports Commission. However, DfT forecasts of future passenger demand have fallen continuously over the past decade and are likely to still be over-estimates for the period between now and 2030 as capacity constraints mean passengers are shifting to other European hub airports and the focus shifts further east, to the Middle East.



Heathrow bosses’ new bid for third runway

Heathrow airport 
by Nicholas Cecil  (Evening Standard)

22 March 2013

Heathrow bosses today unleashed a full throttle bid for a third runway.

In a dramatic move, they sought to make the case for expansion at the west London airport by arguing that it would not inevitably lead to a fourth runway.

They are also working on a range of plans for a third runway, rather than just the proposed one north of the airport — which caused such controversy and was opposed by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Options that will be considered include tunnelling the M25, keeping the existing terminals and filling in reservoirs to build three or four runways to the west of the airport, or extending the current two runways to in effect create four.

The airport bosses have also launched a fresh campaign over the need for a bigger Heathrow to maintain Britain’s position as a global trading nation.

Opponents of Heathrow expansion emphasise that if a third runway is built it will lead to more being allowed. But Heathrow today argued that the Department for Transport may have over-estimated demand in future decades as capacity constraints meant passengers had been and were shifting to other European hub airports.

Ross Baker, Heathrow’s director of strategy, said: “Forecasts show a clear and urgent demand for a three-runway hub, although longer-term forecasts are inherently uncertain and the need for a fourth runway may not materialise.”

It also emerged that Heathrow may submit several proposals to expand the airport to the Davies Commission into Britain’s aviation needs.

An aviation source said: “There’s a lot of new thinking going on about how additional runways could be delivered at Heathrow. The options we submit to the Commission could look very different from the old third runway proposal.”

But MPs and anti-expansion campaigners were immediately sceptical that Heathrow would not push to grow even bigger.

John Stewart, chairman of anti-expansion group Hacan, added: “There is no guarantee that if they get a third runway that they would stop at that.”





Below is the press release from Heathrow Airport (which used to be called BAA until a few months ago) on its submission to the Airports Commission, wanting another runway.

Commission submission (by Heathrow)

22 March, 2013

British Airways Boeing 747 400

Aviation demand forecasting

Heathrow supports the Government’s vision for ‘dynamic, sustainable transport that drives economic growth and competitiveness’ and welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Airports Commission work to identify how to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub.

The UK has been home to the world’s largest port, then international airport, for the last 350 years. Heathrow is the UK’s only international hub airport, a national asset, providing the connectivity that has supported the UK’s leading position in the world economy. Heathrow handles more international passengers than any other global hub. The Heathrow hub provides the UK with the vast majority of its intercontinental connectivity, with direct connections to 77[i] destinations not available from any other UK airport. Over 90% of the South East’s long-haul passengers travelling for business fly from Heathrow[ii].

However, Heathrow is already operating at its permitted capacity. The Department for Transport (DfT) forecasts indicate that by 2020 there will be 11m of un-served passenger demand at Heathrow and 28m by 2030[iii]. More hub capacity is urgently needed and whilst longer term demand forecasts are inherently uncertain, the more immediate demand case for a three runway hub is very clear. The longer term forecasts also show that any potential demand case for a fourth runway is highly uncertain and may not materialise.

Heathrow believes that the DfT forecasts provide a good high level estimate of future passenger demand. However, there are two important areas in the model’s approach to allocating traffic between UK airports that need strengthening. Firstly, it must take account of network or hub economics and secondly it must properly account for transfer passengers.

The DfT forecasts incorrectly assume that with Heathrow constrained, long haul demand, and to an extent transfer demand, will get picked up at other UK airports. In practice, network economics and the related airline business model, make this highly unlikely. Instead overseas hubs and economies are the beneficiaries. The issue is leading the UK Government to underestimate the very pressing nature of the hub capacity constraint and its damaging impact on UK intercontinental connectivity. With weaker connectivity comes lost trade opportunities. Frontier Economics estimates that the UK may already be forgoing trade worth £14bn p.a., 0.9% of UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP)[iv]. Once lost, these opportunities are much harder to recover as relationships, systems and investments become more entrenched elsewhere.

Similar to the DfT, Heathrow forecasts constrained traffic growth of ~0.5-1% p.a. at the UK’s hub, with growth slowing as the hub capacity constraint tightens. This low level of growth reflects the reality that Heathrow is already operating at over 98% of its 480k Air Traffic Movement (ATM) cap. Heathrow’s unconstrained central case forecast for hub demand growth to 2030 is 2.4% p.a. This is close to the DfT forecast for Heathrow for the same period. Other reputable forecasters also anticipate long run growth of 2% to 3.5%[v][vi][vii]. Heathrow regards any forecasts to 2050 to be too uncertain to be a reliable planning tool at this stage.

Whilst the UK is already suffering from hub capacity constraint, the current political and planning landscape means that it will likely be 2024 before significant additional hub capacity could be operational in the UK, with Heathrow being the location where this can be delivered the quickest.

By 2024 the UK’s hub will have been capacity constrained for two decades and a significant proportion of the un-served hub demand will have been lost, either for good, or for the very long term until it can be recaptured. Overseas governments, airlines and hub airports, such as Dubai and Istanbul, are already making major investments that exploit the UK’s hub capacity constraint.

As a result, Heathrow anticipates that adjusted unconstrained hub demand will be somewhat lower than forecasts might suggest. It is important that the Airports Commission’s assessment of need for additional hub capacity does reflect that some hub demand will have been lost by the time new capacity is in place to serve it.

The UK has an urgent need for hub capacity to meet continued growth in hub demand and UK connectivity needs. Heathrow looks forward to supporting the Airports Commission in evaluating how to maintain and improve the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub.


[i] OAG Airline Schedules Database, HAL Analysis, October 2012

[ii] CAA Passenger Survey 2011, HAL Analysis, February 2013

[iii] ‘UK Aviation Forecasts’, Pages 154-158, UK Department for Transport, January 2013

[iv] ‘Connecting for Growth’, Frontier Economics, September 2011

[v] ‘Current Market Outlook, 2012-2031’, Page 14, Boeing, 2012

[vi] ‘Airline Industry Forecast’, Page 6, IATA, www.iata.org, October 2012

[vii] ‘Aerospace Forecast, Fiscal Years 2012-2031’, Page 35, FAA, 2012




Also  Guardian article

Heathrow warns Davies commission of flawed DfT demand forecasts

Heathrow says Department for Transport incorrectly assumes overspill of passengers can pass through other British airports

22.3.2012 at  http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/mar/22/heathrow-warns-davies-commission-flawed-forecasts




Below are some of the stories that have come out about possible runway options for Heathrow:

Retired pilot Jock Lowe devises £7.5bn plan to double length of Heathrow runways (and lose runway alternation)

March 13, 2013    A retired Concorde pilot called William “Jock” Lowe has been promoting his £7.5bn plan to extend both Heathrow runways from 3,900 and 3,700 metres, up to 7,500 metres – approximately doubling them. He has submitted his scheme to the Airports Commission (all expressions on intend on such projects had to be delivered to the Commission by 28th February). In the Lowe scheme (if it was to be allowed) the number of flights could be doubled, from the current cap of 480,000 per year up to about a million. This scheme is cheaper than the Leunig scheme, proposed in October, for 4 Heathrow runways, a bit further west. The rise in flight numbers could only be done by “mixed mode”, which means having planes both landing, and taking off, all day on both runways. So a plane would be landing on the eastern part of a runway, while another takes off on the west portion of it. This would mean London residents over flown would get twice as many flights as they do now, and they would lose their half a day of peace, which they get from the current runway alternation. It would be deeply and passionately opposed by thousands of Londoners.    Click here to view full story…


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

October 5, 2012

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 …..   Click here to view full story…




Heathrow telling Davies Commission it only needs a 3rd, not a 4th, extra runway. But won’t pay noise compensation.

November 26, 2012    The Times reports that Heathrow will tell the Davies Commission that it can remain as the world’s premier international passenger hub by building a third, but does not need a fourth, runway. It is also saying that if it is allowed another runway, it will not pay for “noise compensation” for the extra numbers affected by aircraft noise. The Davies Commission has already raised this issue, as one that needs to be addressed if thousands more households are to be affected by noise. The Commission has said that it will look at noise compensation programmes at other airports. Heathrow says job creation and the boost for the neighbouring economy from expanded Heathrow is more important than direct noise compensation for Londoners. Heathrow continues to lobby to persuade opinion formers that Britain will lose tens of billions of pounds in trade if it does not have a massive hub, even larger than Heathrow now. With even more tens of millions of international passengers each year.     Click here to view full story…