Heathrow chief refuses to support rival expansion plan

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London Heathrow airport chief executive Colin Matthews has refused to endorse an independent proposal to extend its northern runway to 6,000m as an alternative to building a new runway, saying it presents “too many technical challenges”.

Speaking at the RunwaysUK conference in London on 16 January, Matthews said he could not support the scheme, which would involve the northern runway being extended to allow simultaneous take-offs and landings at Heathrow, because it presented an array of challenges, not least the construction of a new remote terminal.

Instead, Heathrow is backing only its own proposal of building a new runway to the northwest of the existing airport, says Matthews.

“We looked at dozens of options before we came up with our three shortlisted ones. And we are absolutely convinced that after the Commission’s selecting down to the northwest option, that is the best one. That’s the place where we are going to invest our energy, our resources, our commitment, our money,” says Matthews.

The extension proposal, developed by the Heathrow Hub consortium, envisages an extended northern runway served by its own dedicated train station linking it to Crossrail and other rail services. A new passenger terminal with a “multi-modal transport interchange” could be located 3.5km north of Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

Both proposals, along with a new runway at Gatwick, have been shortlisted by the Airports Commission for further consideration, with just one expected to be recommended for construction in its final report, due in 2015.

Speaking at the conference, William “Jock” Lowe from Heathrow Hub said the extension proposal would need the support of Heathrow airport to go ahead.