In pictures: Gatwick vs Heathrow expansion plans - either way, it looks expensive

Today is the day Gatwick and Heathrow make their final submissions to the Airports Commission. Each will create thousands of jobs and bring zillions into the UK economy. It's going to be a tough choice.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 04 Jun 2014

Airports Commission boss (and MT diarist) Sir Howard Davies has some reading to do. Gatwick's submission to him alone weighs in at a decidedly Tolstoyian 3,200 pages.

Heathrow and Gatwick are the two airports shortlisted by Davies to go through to the next round of scrutiny over who gets to build another runway. For Gatwick, this would be its second runway; for Heathrow it would be its third (Boris Johnson's pet project, a floating airport in the Thames Estuary known as Boris Island, and Heathrow's 'extended runway' will be considered separately).

The two sides submitted their next round of proposals to the Airports Commission this morning.

Gatwick's argument

A new runway will allow 10 million more passengers a year to travel, compared with Heathrow's third runway proposal, Gatwick said this morning, and deliver £40bn more in benefits for the UK economy (the UK economy will get  £30bn in direct benefits over 60 years, and £10bn in indirect benefits). It will create 120,000 jobs, but only impact 14,000 people 'compared to the 240,000 impacted by noise from Heathrow today'.

The cost of constructing the new runway, designed by starchitect Terry Farrell? £7.8bn, reckons Gatwick, 'considerably less' than its rival's scheme. To cover the cost, it'll charge passengers £12-£15 each, and it'll offer those affected by the noise £1,000 each towards council tax.

Heathrow's argument

Heathrow is more specific about the jobs a third runway will create: 100,000 new jobs, including 50,000 in the local area, '20,000+ across London and another 50,000+ across the UK'. Interesting maths there.

The expansion will create £100bn of economic benefits, and will add 40 new direct routes 'to fast growing economies' like San José (Costa Rica, rather than 'Do You Know the Way to'), Wuhan and Kolkata. Crucially, it will double Heathrow's cargo capacity.

There will also be new rail access to the West, the South and the South West. 'And the North through HS2,' it adds. Although the chances of that ever actually being approved are roughly in line with the likelihood of Davies donning a top hat and tails and doing a little tap dance at the next Airports Commission press conference.

Heathrow also reckons it can reduce its 'noise footprint' by a third by 2030, and its new plans will affect '12,000 fewer people' than originally planned. It also says it'll spend £550m on noise insulation and 'property compensation' (ie. buying the houses it needs to knock down to make way for the runway) for locals. Its proposed property compensation is apparently 25% above market value - although given the way house prices are going at the moment, by next Tuesday it'll be in negative equity.

The crux of the argument, then, is between the network airlines (old flag carriers like British Airways and Air France, which use Heathrow) and point-to-point airlines (EasyJet, FlyBe etc which use Gatwick). So it depends where Davies sees the most future growth. Given first quarter figures published this morning by EasyJet, MT is inclined to go with Gatwick...

The deciding process has been pretty protracted (it's been going on since before 2007), but that's hardly surprising: whatever recommendation Davies makes, the UK will be stuck with it for the next 30-odd years. To those living in the local area, all those promises about noise cancellation and insulation make a big difference. Expect Davies to spend a while poring over the submissions.

Want more pictures? Of course you do...

How Heathrow will look at night

How Heathrow will look if someone slices it in half

Gatwick: a cross-section thereof

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