Heathrow submits third runway options to Davies Commission

Third runway to the south west of the airport One of the airport's preferred options is to have a runway to the south-west of the existing airport
Third runway to the north west of the airport A second preferred option is a runway to the north-west of the airport
Third runway to the north of the airport A runway to the north of the airport is the least preferred option because of its noise impact, although it would be the easiest to build

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Heathrow Airport has unveiled three options for a new runway, saying each one would be "quicker and cheaper" than plans for a rival hub airport.

The airport's submission to the Davies Commission, which is looking at raising airport capacity, outlined a runway to the north, north-west or south-west of the existing airport.

It said a new runway could be in place by 2029, allowing 260,000 more flights.

Residents, environmentalists and the London mayor oppose Heathrow's plans.

'Minimising impact'

Heathrow submitted its options to the government-appointed Airports Commission, headed by former Financial Services Authority chairman Sir Howard Davies.

It is reviewing how the UK might expand its airport capacity in south-east England and interested parties have until Friday 19 July to submit their preferred options.

Start Quote

The infrastructure project that would probably do more than others to stimulate growth would be building one or two additional runways at Heathrow. But, of course, almost the first action of the coalition government was to do the opposite, by shelving plans for the expansion of Heathrow.”

End Quote

Ahead of submitting its proposals on Friday, Gatwick bosses said this week that they would prefer "a constellation system of three London airports - keeping Heathrow open, whilst building an additional runway at Gatwick, and then perhaps in time a new runway at Stansted".

On Monday, Mayor of London Boris Johnson published proposals for three possible replacement hubs - an artificial island in the Thames Estuary dubbed "Boris Island", a major expansion at Stansted, or an airport at the Isle of Grain in north Kent.

The commission is expected to recommend options by the end of this year, but will not submit its final report until summer 2015 - after the next general election.

According to Heathrow's submission, building a new runway would deliver extra capacity at the airport by 2025-29 and would allow it to operate 740,000 flights a year - up from the current limit of 480,000.

Heathrow's preferred option would be to place a new runway to the north-west or the south-west of the airport.

This would "deliver a full-length third runway while minimising the impact on the local community".

The submission also detailed how a new westerly runway would help reduce noise pollution because planes would not have to fly so low over London.

It predicted that, even with a third runway, there would be 10-20% fewer people affected by noise under its new plans.

Map showing proposed runway locations

Each of the options would mean the compulsory purchase of some properties and some property demolitions, as well as potentially major work on the M25.

'Flying pigs'

Stanwell Moor is a village near Heathrow and one of its councillors said it would "get completely destroyed" under one of the options.


I've just been looking back through my notes from last year, when I talked to government officials about the prospect of building a third runway at Heathrow.

They told me it was "dead and buried" and said they'd look at "all ideas bar a third runway". Back then we also had a Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, who lived under the flight path and had campaigned against the plan.

What a difference to today, when a third runway at the UK's biggest and busiest airport is very much back on the table.

This is a big week for airports. By Friday, we'll know all the different suggestions on how they could expand.

But don't let all this apparent momentum fool you. This is one of the thorniest issues in politics, and there are plenty in the industry who think that 20 years from now, nothing will have actually been done.

"I wasn't totally surprised because we knew these would be in the pipeline but it's a pretty desperate situation and pretty frightening," said Robert Evans.

"The real problem now is the area is blighted and there will be a period of uncertainty; people will be anxious because they bought their homes and now they find the home isn't the asset they thought."

Residents' group Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (Hacan) said it would fight any proposal for a new runway "tooth and nail".

Hacan chairman John Stewart said it was difficult to square Heathrow's claim that expansion could take place while cutting noise for residents.

Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said the UK "desperately needed a single hub airport with the capacity to provide the links to emerging economies which can boost UK jobs, GDP and trade".

"It is clear the best solution for taxpayers, passengers and business is to build on the strength we already have at Heathrow," he said.

Mr Matthews said he had not ruled out a fourth runway at Heathrow, but said this would not be needed until at least 2040.

However, Mr Johnson said the proposals for a new runway at Heathrow "were politically, environmentally and socially unacceptable".

"There will be more pigs flying than aircraft if we are to believe the claim that three runways at Heathrow will make less noise than two," he said.

Heathrow Chief Executive Colin Matthews: "Uncertainty - that's the message I hear from people. They want to know"

Mr Johnson added the move "would be a disastrous outcome for Londoners, nor would it solve our aviation capacity crisis as a fourth runway would need to be in the planning process before a third was even open".

Greenpeace accused the airport of presenting a "reheated and rehashed" plan with the same "flawed arguments that failed so categorically last time around".

But business groups backed the plans, including the trade body which represents Britain's airlines.

The Board of Airline Representatives said no other proposal so far on airport capacity could "deliver the UK's hub airport capacity quicker, at the right cost, or in the right place for airlines and their passengers".

Comparison of Heathrow options

Heathrow today North North west South west

Heathrow Airport Limited

Passenger capacity





Max flights









Length of new runway




People affected by noise





Housing lost




Opening date




Construction complexity





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  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    I don't see what all the fuss is about - London has 5 airports and I can't remember the last time I found it hard to get there. I generally fly into which every one is cheapest or closest to my final destination - they're all the same anyway.

    I'd generally avoid Heathrow if possible as I can't stand being ripped off by BA for their awful service!

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    How many flights come into Heathrow/Gatwick from UK/Paris/Belgium/Netherlands? Surely these could be replaced by High Speed Rail and the flight slots used for long haul flights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    4 runways on an island built in the estuary, whats not to like?
    Tidal and hydro power, new rail links, new eastern road crossing, links to HS1 and HS2/3
    Hong Kong built not only an airport but a new metro link and roads in less than 10 years, its a radical suggestion but consider the work a new estuary airport would provide, both in construction and operation. Its a no brainer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    The argument that Heathrow needs to nearly double it's capacity implies that either there are millions wanting to come but can't get a plane or that demand will increase hugely just to fill the extra flights. Neither strike me as likely and both are undesirable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    How about an new super hub airport in between London & Birmingham that will be served by HS2. This would make it easy for those in the North & South to travel to.

    -You could call it Luton!

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Heathrow is a badly designed shambles and should be relegated to a regional airport. We lack ambition. Look at how Hong Kong and other countries have taken on the challenge of building an airport fit for the future. And I see that the third runway will be built miles from the main terminals - great, even more delays and frustration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Haha 10 years to build a runway!

    Hitler readied an army that almost took over the world in less time than that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    418.Adrian M Lee
    Stupidly when politicians tell people no expansion at heathrow you tend to believe them, I have no interest as I don't live in the area but I've driven to heathrow a few times and its a disaster as it is. Add another runway and the roads will be gridlocked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    Typically political obfuscation will cost several £m and cause huge delays to any project, before a single inch of tarmac is laid out anywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Boris Island is a non starter. There is the environmental aspect as well as the problem with the SS Richard Montgomery. Heathrow or Gatwick are obvious options although Manston, Stansted and Luton can be used for overflow. There is also the question of whether expansion is even needed, bearing in mind, you can conduct meetings over the internet now so don't need to meet face to face

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    Some of those proposed runways look a bit far away from the terminals. I bet you're talking 30-45 minutes to taxi out (as happens with the more remote runways in Amsterdam Schipol and Paris CDG amongst others)

    With the right rail links, surely you could be at another airport by train in that time?

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Staines moor was partly built on to create a reservoir. It would be a real shame if it was completely covered by a further runway. If Heathrow can't cope with the traffic and expanding Gatwick / Stanstead / Luton / London City is not viable, I would prefer Boris Island (or what ever its called!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    I live in Windsor and for the last 4 years I noticed the increase of flights, noise and pollution, the suffering starts from 6 am to sometimes pass 1 am - isn't it enough? the people who are promoting this third runway should be forced to live in the effected areas to suffer like us full stop - there should NO third runway or anymore runways for Heathrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    . . . if we were going to build a major hub airport from scratch, we would not choose Heathrow. It was a WWII airfield and if you look closely you can still see the original runways. The Chinese built a new airport in Hong Kong in 6 years . . . we could do the same, except for the 10 years of planning enquiries that would result from any decision . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    With LHR at 99% capacity now, it needs the North runway building in the next two years, not the next twelve. What is the delay? Aviation capacity has always been underestimated. Each time a new project is completed, it's almost immediately swamped by more demand than was predicted. Boris is right about a Thames hub, but with 8 runways not 4.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    406 buzzingworld. Spot on! More investment in and around London. More congestion and pollution. House prices climb.......Solution more infrastructure. Result more congestion and pollution. House prices climb. Like a runaway train or even aeroplane...if you pardon the transport pun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    #417: "Try using the internet instead - you can be virtually anywhere in Earth in virtually no time."

    Have you ever negotiated a £1m deal over the internet? Provided high-value professional services to a client without a significant amount of time on-site? Executed a project for a customer whose IT security blocks all remote access to confidential data?

    Thought not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    I suppose the government needs to do something to keep the Eastern Europeans in work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    @414 Peter Buck: Astonishing as it may seem to you, most of the population doesn't live in the southeast but those of us in Scotland, the north of England and in Wales still have businesses. Yes, I know it's incredible.

    The thing is, we are at a continual disadvantage compared to businesses in London because of the infrastructure gap. This isn't acceptable in a supposedly development economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    It's de ja vu all over again !!!


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