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 598.

    I live in a massively overpriced house in the area and I can't believve that having seen my house value increase obscenely over the years as the government encouraged growth down here to the detriment of everywhere else I am now expected to put up with more noise and inconvenience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    583 streaky
    I live 200m away but i can see the madness of Heathrow,in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the money better potions exist,that have far greater benefits to regions beyond just London
    Shame but predictable that you pick the fattest, greases choice rather than the leanest, & you want to pay top dollar for it too

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.


    London needs more business, more jobs and more traffic about as much as i need a hole in my head.

    Birmingham is central and will benefit more from this plus with HS2 and the M40 it's not far to London and serves alot of central/south england who currently use Heathrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    Its been obvious for years we needed a 3rd runway at Heathrow.
    Who has not had to wait half an hour or more circling London in one of the spiralling 'stacks' waiting for a runway slot.

    As for the NIMBYs Heathrow was there before you so get used to the fact the 3rd runway is going to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    Stansted and Gatwick still have capacity, but they are expensive to get to and the train or buses seems to take forever. Why not investing into improving transport links to these airport instead and make them affordable for everybody to use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    West London is a God awful place to live already without making it worse!

    Boris Island out in the estuary is a much better idea. Would spark off a whole new opportunity, boost the economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    @148 Steve. I take your point and I agree the timeframes are ridiculous. The Chinese are not the best example to quote however seeing how many of their roads, bridges etc are collapsing after being built in a hurry (although there are other factors like cheap materials/corruption/nepotism involved - hmm, maybe they are similar to the UK)

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    Grand schemes like the estuary airport are very enticing but I don't understand why Foster/Johnson are so keen on such an environmentally sensitive site. The on-land area between Tilbury and Laindon seems are far more sensible site, it offers close access to the M25, Tilbury Docks & a potential link with HS1.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    The Heathrow figure for "243,000" currently affected by noise, beggars belief. The figure is at least 10x that. I used to live 15 miles East of Heathrow (in Battersea), yet was still woken by the whine of jets starting at 6 am. This noise doesn't stop until 11 pm. I welcome any proposal that will move flight away from the major populated area of London. Boris is right on this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    Great idea, I'm thinking of selling sandwiches and drinks door to door on the M25. I should be able to walk quiet safely between lanes once this gets built.

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    #578: "All London airports make one hub. Rail connections between them all too!"

    Impractical - minimum connection times would be 4+ hours, and who would trust BAA or other operators to get your bags from LHR to LGW without loss or damage? Huge security/immigration issues as well, if transit passengers can't be kept airside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    If it's a hub airport it could be built absolutely anywhere.
    But heaven forbid we should make it available to the rest of the UK too!
    I'll wager the rest of the UK will be expected to cough up though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    Expansion at LHR is the only sensible option. You just can not move c150,000 peoples jobs from one side of the capital to the other. That would be chaos. West London area would be a ghost town and the new location would see a massive property boom pricing out locals. two more runways makes sense, shame they did not do it when planned in 1946! But IMHO nothing will be done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    Two final points from me this afternoon, and they're points which I feel should be included in this debate, but so far haven't;

    1) Whatever happened to the plans to build a second runway at Gatwick which everyone was talking about 20 years ago but have now disappeared.

    2) We need to consider what long term effects the Civil Aviation Act 2012 will have on the industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    it would be just useful if BBC would check facts of Heathrow. The 480.000 flights now are a myth which collapse as soon as its cold, warm, a plane has problems or whatever. Hardly any large airport is a bigger mess then Heathrow Instead of theoretical capacity they should use real one. And then yes most probably they need one more to operate in a reliable mode and maybe deliver a few flights more

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    Get it built and do it now. "Oh noes I moved into a house next to one of the biggest airports in the world and now I've decided I don't likes planes" syndrome is really starting to grate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    The South-East centricity of transport planning in this country has been very destructive to national unity and makes for very bad use of national resources. Spread it out. Nottingham, Birmingham or Bristol airports should be expanded - not Heathrow. The rest of the country has enough of its taxes going being used to create an ever greater south-east imbalance!

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    There is no case for this because the UK has spare air capacity just lobbying of the business elite to the political elite to all 3 main parties so both can line their pockets at the expense of the ordinary citizen & taxpayer. Every ordinary UK citizen should oppose it bad for the environment the people whose houses would be effected. I live in the North by the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    We are being led to believe that if we don't upgrade capacity urgently we will lose out to other European airports, but the suggested runway will not be complete till 2029. Even the quickest build would take 12 years.

    The estuary airport could be built in 7 years. I'm not against progress, I just think the Heathrow expansion is the worst possible option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    If we need a better hub airport, i.e. a big transit lounge with shops, who cares where it is?

    If it needs to be near London however how can Frankfurt, Schipol and CdG Paris be said to compete?

    Who, apart from Heathrow, wants a bigger Heathrow? Apparently nobody according to the article so why does this saga go on an on?


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