Heathrow's latest concept for a third runway. (Heathrow Airport).

The UK's Gatwick and Heathrow airports have both now submitted their final proposals for expansion to the Airports Commission. RAeS Head of Research, Professor KEITH HAYWARD analyses the options.

London Heathrow and Gatwick have made their final submissions to the Airports Commission. LHR has tweaked its plan, pushing the new runway a few metres to the south and west of its initial concept. This puts the new runway on top of the M25 motorway. LHR authorities claim that this can be done with little disruption to the thousands of daily M25 users. A bucket of scorn has already been poured on this notion from motoring lobbyists; and the reconfiguration, while easing some of the immediate environmental and social effects, has failed to impress local campaigners. However, LHR has offered up half a billion pounds in the way of compensation, as part of a £15.6bn package, but the taxpayers is asked to cough up £1.2bn towards ground transport improvements. Gatwick is still pressing for its second runway, although low cost carriers have warned that they want to pay only for what they use, and not growth potential for others. Gatwick’s bid will cost £7.8bn. “Boris Island”  was excused further homework, but remains in the fight mainly as a result of a politically inspired repechage.

Final decision

Gatwick's submission for a second runway. (Gatwick Airport).

A final decision is expected after the next General Election in 2015, but a preliminary assessment may yet appear to rattle London politicians seeking re-election next year. Heathrow is still the ante post favourite, if only on the strength of its publicity campaign and solid case as a global hub under threat. Gatwick would be a close second and a good each-way bet as the least politically contentious alternative. Wildlife in the Thames Estuary should be able to nest in peace. If Heathrow does win, the M4/M25 interchange would be best avoided for a few years in the 2020s.


19 May 2014