Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Heathrow’s flying unicorn: a £14 billion third runway project even more fantastic than the mythological beast. None of it makes any sense. But who cares about that? It’s just the thing for batso Brexit Britain.

The Heathrow “masterplan” is out. And no faulting the airport on the document front — all timed for its 12-week “statutory consultation”. There’s thousands of pages of stuff: everything from diverting rivers to demolishing 761 houses. But here’s the key thing you need to know. The project is the equivalent of dropping Gatwick airport on to one of the world’s busiest motorways: 12 zippy lanes, no less, of the M25. What better location than that?

Still, guess what? It can all be done without any “significant” disruption, while maintaining the traffic flow of 220,000 vehicles a day. Who says so? Heathrow, of course — despite the small matter of “realigning the M25 carriageway”, sinking it by 4.5m in a tunnel and having planes land on top. Not only that. Heathrow will be adding at least 260,000 flights a year and 50 million more passengers — topping the 46.4 million Gatwick handled in its latest financial year.
But, apparently, they won’t lead to a single extra car on the roads. Or any more trucks, despite the doubling of cargo capacity to “at least three million tonnes” a year. No, it’s all coming by bicycle or some green equivalent. And don’t worry about the costs because “Heathrow expansion will be privately financed and costs will not fall on the taxpayer”. Even better, transport secretary Chris Grayling says passenger charges will be kept “close to current levels”.

It’s pure fantasy. Indeed, ask Heathrow how much of the £14 billion is for diverting the M25 and the company has no answer — at least, not yet. Apparently, a cost breakdown will be delivered to the Civil Aviation Authority by the end of the year. But the airport’s biggest customer, British Airways-owner IAG, isn’t waiting for that. It pointed out that Heathrow is now admitting that “the overall expansion costs will soar to £30 billion” — “This is why you cannot trust Heathrow. They are trying to con Parliament, con customers and con the public.”

Heathrow says the higher figure accounts for spending on the airport outside the runway project. But the promoter of the rival Heathrow Hub scheme puts the all-in costs of Heathrow’s plan, including surface access, at £43.5 billion. Who’s right?

What, too, of the environmental impact? Well, Heathrow says there’ll be no increase in air pollution, carbon emissions or noise. But two sites around the airport already breach nitrogen dioxide limits, even if Heathrow’s directly responsible for only up to 16% of those emissions. How will 260,000 more planes help carbon targets? And the consultation flunks the noise issue because it won’t be until 2022 that Heathrow reveals the key bit of info people need: the precise flightpaths.

Of course, Boris Johnson said he would “lie down in front of the bulldozers” to stop runway three — not that you can always tell what sort of lying he’s got in mind. But, given there’s a viable, competition-friendly alternative in building an extra runway each at Gatwick and Stansted, the least our wannabe PM can do is demand that Heathrow gets real. As things stand, its fantasy project does not deserve to fly.


See also the Guardian Story at

Heathrow Airport reveals £30bn expansion plans that will ’cause 30 years of misery’

HEATHROW Airport has unveiled its £30bn expansion plans with a contentious third runway set to open by 2026 – but campaigners have warned the project will cause 30 years of “misery”.

The ambitious plans include lowering the M25 for the third runway to cross, diverting rivers and moving roads – with furious opponents warning of the environment impact.

The new runway, the crucial part of the airport’s expansion, is expected to be operational by 2026.   The rest of the airport will be built in three stages between 2030 and 2050, with Heathrow claiming it can be built for £14 billion.

It hopes to increase its total capacity to 135 million passengers by 2050, up from almost 81 million. Flight numbers are expected to rise from 480,000 to 740,000 in the same time period.

Critics have questioned the price tag, claiming the ultimate cost could more than double to £30 billion.


Plans for the first phase include the re-routing of a 12-lane section of the M25 into a tunnel under the new runway, diverting of river corridors and creation of new drainage and pollution control areas, and realignment of the Colnbrook Railhead freight line.

The project will be carried out while the M25, which carries 220,000 vehicles a day, remains operational.

The RAC warned drivers using the stretch “would face years of significant disruption”.

New locations have also been marked out for places such as Harmondsworth Primary School and Heathrow Special Needs Centre, which will be moved within the first phase.

In all, 761 homes are expected to be ripped down, including the entire village of Longford.

Plans to mitigate the effects of expansion include property compensation (with homeowners getting the open market value of their home plus 25 per cent), noise insulation funding, improved public transport links and a 6.5-hour ban on scheduled night flights.

The airport hope more passengers reach the airport by public transport but today’s plans show it is proposing to build three new car parks on the site, with space for 52,500 cars.

The proposals are now open to public consultation until September 13.


The third runway has faced fierce opposition for many years from campaigners who cited the negative impacts on noise and air pollution, habitat destruction, transport congestion and climate change.

Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to succeed Theresa May, said only four years ago he would “lie down in front of those bulldozers and stop the construction of [that] third runway”.

But when the plan was put up for vote in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson hopped on a plane to Afghanistan to meet the country’s president and deputy foreign minister. The visit lasted one day and cost the Government just under £20,000.

Now, with the PM job in sight, Boris has hinted he will drop his longstanding opposition to the third runway.

Paul Beckford from the No 3rd Runway Coalition, added: “Heathrow will claim this is the largest consultation ever and that may well be right.

“However, this simply reflects the sheer scale of the impact that their expansion plans will have on local communities.”

Mr Beckford said “incredibly” it appears Heathrow wants to “spread the misery of their expansion plans over a 30-year period, inflicting the blight of construction and the resultant increases in air and noise pollution on communities across London for decades”.


Robert Barnstone, campaign co-ordinator of Stop Heathrow Expansion, said he found the plans “laughable”.

He said: “It could be causing disruption for up to 30 years, that’s ridiculous.

“It just seems a slap in the face to be honest.

“Thirty years of disruption to build a runway that may not end up being compatible with various environmental targets, may breach air quality limits and is just going to make some parts of London a noise sewer.”

John Stewart, chair of Hacan, another campaigning group opposed to Heathrow’s expansion, said while the plan for the third runway was advancing it was not yet a done deal.

He said: “The impact on local people could be severe for many years to come. Disruption from construction; the demolition of homes; the reality of more than 700 extra planes a day.”

Campaigners have said around two million people could be impacted by new noise from an expanded Heathrow, including in areas such as Hammersmith, Heston, Osterley Park, Chiswick and Brentford, which are not on the flight path at the moment.

Last month the High Court dismissed five legal challenges to the approval of the runway, including one brought by a consortium of local authorities, Greenpeace and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, on air quality, climate change and noise pollution grounds.

Friends Of The Earth, which brought one of the challenges, said it would appeal.


Mr Khan tweeted today: “A third runway at #Heathrow would be an environmental disaster for London, with higher levels of toxic air & noise pollution and 40,000+ extra vehicles on our roads every day. I encourage all Londoners to participate in Heathrow’s expansion consultation.”

However the plans have been welcomed by some as a massive jobs boost.

Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow, which claims to represent more than 100,00 local residents, said: “It will bring thousands of new jobs, apprenticeships for young people in local communities and boost the wider UK economy”.

London and Eastern regional secretary Peter Kavanagh added: “Heathrow’s expansion masterplan is an important step on the road to creating 77,000 new local jobs and 5,000 new apprenticeships, as well as other benefits such as increased investment and better infrastructure.”

“That is why we have been working with partners at the airport, in local communities and in Government to ensure our plans show how we can grow sustainably and responsibly – with environmental considerations at the heart of expansion.

“This consultation is an opportunity for people to have their say on our preferred masterplan, so it’s really important that as many people as possible take part. We look forward to hearing your views.”

 This shows the areas affected by the current flight paths and the extra areas affected by the expansion
This shows the areas affected by the current flight paths and the extra areas affected by the expansion
Noise levels could reach as far as St Albans following the expansion
In this scenario noise levels could reach as far as Dartford 
Noise levels could even reach Reading following Heathrow’s expansion


 These different maps show each runway in an arrivals' scenario - it's estimated around two million people could be impact by extra noise by a third runway

These different maps (see for the maps) show each runway in an arrivals’ scenario – it’s estimated around two million people could be impact by extra noise by a third runway.