Two rival plans for expanding Heathrow and one for a second runway at Gatwick have been shortlisted in the consultation after London mayor Boris Johnson’s Thames estuary hub proposal was ruled out.
The official Heathrow proposal is for a new 3,500-metre third runway constructed to the north-west of the existing site.
It would cost around £15.6billion and be operational by 2025. The airport could then handle 740,000 flights a year, up from 472,000 today. Passenger numbers would be expected to rise from 80 million to 130 million.
But former Concorde pilot Jock Lowe has won support for his own consortium’s cheaper £12 billion ‘Heathrow Hub’ concept involving the lengthening the current northern runway to at least 6,000-metres and operating it for both departures and arrivals.
Lowe told delegates at the Airport Operators’ Association conference in London that it had the advantage of helping to defuse opposition from local residents and would be easier for politicians to ‘sell’ to the public as ‘it’s not a third runway’.
Lowe added: “Our runway is super-long, super-safe, and cheap.”
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the ‘political wind’ had changed and many MPs, business leaders and residents spoke of ‘when, not if’ Heathrow will expand.
He told the Daily Mail he was “relaxed” about which option is eventually chosen, but added: “If the government says it will be the Heathrow Hub, we’d be happy. But if it is between Gatwick and Heathrow, then the answer has to be Heathrow.”
Lowe, writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, said: “Our own independent concept – to extend the existing northern runway and divide it in two – would avoid the need for Heathrow Airport’s third runway and bring no new communities into the noise footprint.
“It would also allow for aircraft to land on the western runway extension during the critical early morning period – thereby flying higher over west London – and potentially for the abandonment of night quota flights.
“The arrival of the next generation of quieter jets and new technology enabling two-staged, curved and variable approaches would substantially mitigate noise.”
Goodwill told the Aoa conference: “The level of interest in the debate emphasises the importance of the Airports Commission’s work.
“Previous attempts to find a solution to the capacity challenge failed. They failed because they used old evidence.
“And so they resulted in a lack of consensus. By bringing together a new, better, evidence base, the right decisions will be made. Decisions that will end decades of uncertainty.”
Airports Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies is due to address the conference today (Tuesday).
Sourced from Travel Weekly