Hong Kong's third runway proposal

London Heathrow bosses set out plans for third runway

Airport unveils proposal for controversial third runway; London mayor Johnson leads criticism

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 April, 2015, 10:57am

Britain's biggest airport, London's Heathrow, urged the government yesterday to let it build a third runway, saying its plans would provide more flights, less noise and be cheaper and quicker to build than rival proposals.

The UK government and business leaders want to expand flights to fast-growing economies to ensure the country does not miss out on billions of pounds of trade. With Heathrow operating at 99 per cent capacity, more runways are needed.

However, under pressure from green groups and its Liberal Democrat coalition partners, the Conservative-led government overturned a decision to build a third Heathrow runway after it came to power in 2010. The plan is also vigorously opposed by London's Conservative mayor Boris Johnson.

Heathrow yesterday submitted its plans to a government commission looking into raising airport capacity, which is due to publish an interim report by the end of next year. A final verdict is expected in mid-2015, after the next general election.

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
London mayor Boris Johnson

The airport, part owned by Spain's Ferrovial, suggested three options: placing a new runway to the north, northwest or southwest of the hub.

Each option would deliver extra capacity by 2025-29 at a cost of £14-18 billion (HK$164-210 billion), said Heathrow bosses, and would be cheaper and quicker to build than rival hub options being proposed by Johnson and Stansted Airport.

"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," Boris Johnson said after the plans were published.

"Their proposal 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."

Johnson is backing the plans of a rival airport and earlier this week set out his plans, which include a new four-runway hub about 65 kilometres east of central London and the possible demolition of Heathrow.

"Heathrow is not in the wrong place, it's in the right place for business," said Colin Matthews, Heathrow's chief executive. Hundreds of firms were based within 40 kilometres of the hub because of the links it offers, Matthews said.

"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 added.

As well as environmental groups, Heathrow's plans are opposed by local residents. A government report showed noise pollution levels of at least 57 decibels affecting around 260,000 people living near the site.

However, Matthews said by 2030 between 10 and 20 per cent fewer people would be within Heathrow's noise footprint with a third runway, due to altered flight paths and the benefit of improved air-traffic control technology, and quieter planes.

Heathrow said it preferred the two westerly options as they minimised the noise impact on local residents, though they would cost more and take longer to build than the north option.