Pictured: Heathrow's third runway plans

Heathrow Airport reveals three options for a new runway, saying each would be a better option than a rival hub airport.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 17 Jul 2013

Heathrow airport has unveiled three proposals for a third runway to the north, north-west or south-west of the two current runways. Costing between £14bn and £18bn, the proposed runway will increase flights to 740,000 a year and put tens of thousands of homes under new flight paths.

The Heathrow runway proposals have been submitted to the Davies Commission, headed up by former Financial Services Authority chairman and MT diarist Howard Davies, which is looking at raising the UK’s airport capacity.

Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said that if the UK doesn’t want to lag behind by its foreign rivals, it must boost its airport capacity.

‘After half a century of vigorous debate but little action, it is clear the UK desperately needs a single hub airport with the capacity to provide the links to emerging economies which can boost UK jobs, GDP and trade,’ he said.

Heathrow’s management argue that adding capacity at Heathrow would be beneficial for the UK economy and for businesses, many of which have clustered in west London because of its proximity to the airport, thus attracting jobs and passengers.

One option is to place a new runway to the south-west of the existing airport

One option is to place a new runway to the south-west of the existing airport

Other suggestions to boost air traffic into and out of the UK include increasing capacity at other airports including at Gatwick or Stansted. An island airport in the Thames Estuary has also been suggested, dubbed ‘Boris Island’ because it has the support of London’s colourful Mayor. But while a new hub may be better in the long run, critics say they will take too long to build and offer no short term solutions.

All airports must submit their plans to the commission by 19 July. The Commission isn’t due to report until summer 2015, though, so there’s plenty of time for more twists along the way.

The plan for a third runway at Heathrow has already had a rocky journey. It was given the green light by the Labour government in January 2009, with work expected to start in 2015 and finish by 2019. But when the Coalition came to power in May 2010, a third runway was ruled out.

The main objection to expanding the airport is noise and the potential disruption to neighbouring homes, although Heathrow hopes that steeper flight paths, a promise to protect 114,000 existing local jobs and create tens of thousands of new ones, and other mitigation measures will help dampen opposition.

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