Despite construction of Terminal 5, further long-term growth at Heathrow would require extra runway capacity.
The third runway at Heathrow is highly controversial. DfT studies suggest a third "short" runway (2000m as opposed to 4000m) could be constructed to the north of Heathrow, with additional terminal capacity provided by a sixth terminal.
The third runway would be constructed adjacent to the M4 motorway and would involve significant property demolition (260 buildings) and Green Belt use (230ha).
The villages of Sipson and Harmondsworth would essentially be demolished to make way for the new runway and terminal buildings.
A map of the runway location is available from Hillingdon council.
Since the third runway would be short, it could only handle smaller narrow-bodied planes. Whereas the current setup at Heathrow involves using one runway for takeoffs and one for landings, the new runway would be "mixed mode", catering for both takeoffs and landings. At the moment, the takeoff and landing runways are alternated to provide relief for local residents.
Currently, a cap of 480,000 "air transport movements" per annum is imposed on Heathrow to reduce the effects of noise and pollution (this was a result of the Terminal 5 enquiry). A third runway would mean exceeding this cap; the DfT study suggested removing the cap but retaining the "noise contour cap" of 145km≤. This means that noise is only allowed to reach a certain level over a specified aea around the airport.
It is also expected the increased traffic would further worsen levels of pollution from the M4. A recent scheme proposed putting the M4 in tunnel past Heathrow to overcome the excessive pollution, which exceeds EU pollution targets.
Current forecasts show that use of the airport will rise from its current level of 64 million passengers per annum (mppa) to the airport capacity of 89mppa by 2030 (this includes capacity created by T5). Adding a runway would increase capacity to 116mppa and air transport movements to 655,000.
New rail transport
In order to provide for more travellers to the airport, the DfT study assumed the following new rail services:
New road construction
Significant road improvements would also be needed to cope with an increase in Heathrow's capacity. The DfT study assumes the following road improvements:
No improvements were planned for the strategic road network (M4/M25) since these were expected to be catered for by existing schemes.
A downward trend in nitrogen oxide pollutant levels around Heathrow airport means that a key barrier to the construction of an additional runway has been removed. Previously, it had been believed that extra pollutants from additional flights would breach the EU's minimum air quality standards.
British Airways has published the results of air quality tests around Heathrow which show that it is not breaching EU pollution limits, a key barrier to expansion at the airport. However, anti-expansion groups claim that the test method used by BA is classed as inadequate by the EU.
A recent study obtained by the Freedom of Information Act shows that a toll of up to £20 would be needed on the London section of the M4 if a third runway were built at Heathrow Airport. The toll would be needed to keep pollution levels from the motorway from rising past levels banned by incoming EU emissions laws as unsafe.
A sixth terminal will have to be built at Heathrow if the proposed third runway goes ahead. Detailed plans were unveiled yesterday for the third runway, including this sixth terminal. The proposed location of the runway has been moved eastwards slightly, to avoid the demolition of some listed buildings.
Airport operator BAA have published plans to build a new runway and terminal at Gatwick Airport in 2019 if plans to construct a third runway at Heathrow fall foul of EU pollution controls.
A second runway at Stansted Airport would be "economically unviable" without cross-subsidisation from Heathrow and Gatwick, according to leaked Treasury documents. Currently against the cross-subsidisation of airports, the Civil Aviation Authority which is the industry regulator would need compelling evidence to change its mind. With no subsidy, the new Stansted runway could put £10 on ticket prices and would reduce low-cost carrier profits massively, possibly ruining the airport's future.
Coachloads of protesters against plans for extra runways and airport expansion at Heathrow and Stansted airports went to the High Court to challenge the Government on its controversial White Paper on air transport.
An anti-airport expansion campaign was launched today by Friends of the Earth (FoE), Greenpeace, Transport 2000 and HACAN ClearSkies, a group fighting expansion plans at Heathrow announced recently by the government's Aviation White Paper.
Sir Jonathon Porritt, an environmental adviser to the government, warned that targets to cut CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050 would be unattainable if the government proceeded with its plans for airport expansion, including runways at Heathrow and Stansted.
A recent study by the London Sustainable Development Commission has reported that up to six of the top ten destinations for London air passengers could be well-served by high-speed rail instead, much-reducing the pressure for airports to expand.
Links & Sources