London Heathrow has revised its plans for a third runway north of the airport.
If realised, the new runway would be located closer to the existing airport infrastructure and also further west than in the previous plan for a third runway, which was abolished after the UK’s last government change in 2010.
Unlike its predecessor proposal – comprising a short runway which would have fitted within the surrounding motorway network – the new plan includes a full-length runway that would cross the M25 London orbital motorway to the northwest of the existing airport complex.
While Heathrow says that the revised proposal does not require redevelopment of the junction between the M25 and M4 – which links London with the UK’s western regions – the new runway would necessitate putting a 12-lane section of the M25 in a tunnel.
The westerly displacement of the new parallel runway – its threshold would be located approximately at the mid-point of the existing runways – will reduce noise for London residents as aircraft overfly affected areas higher than during current landing approaches, says Heathrow.
Departure noise would be reduced as the new runway’s full length will allow better spread of take-offs between all three runways, the airport says.
Unlike the previous proposal, the new runway will allow all aircraft types to depart with maximum take-off weight.
Heathrow says the number of people affected by “significant noise” will fall by “at least 12,000” compared with expansion plans submitted last year. The new proposal will also “protect more homes and important heritage sites”, it adds
As the plans have been submitted to the UK government’s Airports Commission – which is to decide about capacity expansion in the metropolitan region after the next general election in 2015 – the proposal offers a “final opportunity to remove the main blockage in the UK’s aviation, trading, and transport systems”, says pro-expansion campaign group Back Heathrow.
Meanwhile, Gatwick airport has emphasised the potential cost savings and less complicated planning of its expansion plan for a second runway at the rival gateway.
A new runway and terminal complex south of Gatwick’s existing perimeter “can be delivered more cost effectively, with a higher degree of certainty and much less planning, construction and financial risk”, it says.
Expanding London’s second-largest gateway would also create “genuine competition” between airports and airlines, it adds: “The alternative is to build at Heathrow which excludes the low-cost business model, which has transformed the market over the past decade and continues to be the main driver of innovation.”
Heathrow responds that it is “not opposed” to a second runway at Gatwick and supports the latter’s plan to “grow and flourish”. But while Heathrow is a hub for long-haul passengers across Europe, it argues, Gatwick is a point-to-point airport mainly for short-haul and leisure traffic.
“Only a third runway at Heathrow can connect the UK to long-haul growth markets,” says the operator.