22 JULY 2013
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John Bell, the former BBC Radio Transport Correspondent (and travel film maker), was Business Travel News representative to hear Heathrow’s latest solution to the South East Airport dilemma.
London Heathrow publishes trinity of solutions for third runway.
When Heathrow released its three proposals for a third runway last Wednesday (17 June) Chief Executive, Colin 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. It is clear that the best solution for taxpayers, passengers and business is to build on the strength we already have at Heathrow. Today we are showing how that vision can be achieved whilst keeping the impact on local residents to an absolute minimum”.
London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, immediately and perhaps predictably, said the proposals were "disastrous" although the correspondent of The London Times pointed out that the Mayor's own proposals for a new site in North Kent were far more expensive than the Heathrow third runway option and a charter for property speculators.
THE THREE ALTERNATIVES
ACCORDING TO HEATHROW AIRPORT LTD
Two of the three runway solutions – all of which have now been submitted to the British Government's Davies Commission – are radically different from the old, short third runway proposed by BAA in the last decade. Each option – to the North West or the South West of the existing airport – will have a new Terminal 6 and a runway length of 3,500 metres. Either would raise the capacity at Heathrow to 740,000 flights a year (from the current limit of 480,000). That would cater for 130m passengers, allow the UK to compete with international rivals and provide capacity at the UK’s hub airport for the foreseeable future.
The third option – to the North – would have a shorter runway length at 2,800 metres restricting take offs by larger aircraft such as the A380.
According to Heathrow a third runway would provide benefits to the UK worth £100bn at present value, well in excess of the benefits from Crossrail or HS2. Each of the options could be turned into a four-runway solution should the demand increase in future. This is a more cost effective solution than building a new four-runway airport from scratch when, they say, the UK may never need one. A new Heathrow would benefit from already planned public transport improvements, such as Crossrail, Western Rail Access and High Speed 2 and the charges per passenger would be likely to be much lower than at a new hub airport.
Despite many protestations to the contrary it was readily apparent to those attending Wednesday’s briefing that it’s the North West option which appeals to the Heathrow planners. It would reduce the noise footprint by 15% against 2011 figures although much of this will come from the introduction of quieter aircraft such as the A380, A350 and the 787. In addition the number of residential properties to be demolished is reduced to 950 and the cost is at least £1bn less than the South West option.
Assuming that one of the Heathrow options makes it on to the Davies wish list there will not be a touch down at any Heathrow third runway until 2025 at the earliest or 2026 if the North West option is taken up. But there are other obstacles in the way of that touch down to the North West. The ancient village of Harmondsworth with its church of St Mary the Virgin – some of it going back to the 13th century – will disappear along with 950 other properties including a Grade I listed tithe barn from the 15th century dubbed by Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, as "the cathedral of Middlesex".
The management of Heathrow rather fudged the issue here by saying they could "deal" with these ancient buildings but they’ll still have other problems. They have to find the £18bn capital cost from their own resources with little government funds available and need to provide British Airways with a new home as its present HQ, at Waterside, will be under the new Terminal 6 with the North West option. Willie Walsh may be on record as not having an input into ‘Davies’ saying he is working on a two-runway plan, but if Heathrow Airport Ltd is to compulsory purchase British Airways' headquarters he will have to find a new home. www.heathrowairport.com
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