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10 - Jun - 2014

The ‘battle for expansion’ begins as plans are revealed

As Gatwick and Heathrow go head-to-head, the ‘battle for expansion’ begins in earnest as plans are revealed by both airports… And it looks like it could become the ‘air battle of the 21st century’ judging by letter published in The Daily Telegraph and authored by Roy McNulty, Gatwick’s chairman!

Before the plans were even revealed, he struck the first blow, calling Heathrow ‘politically toxic’.  McNulty believes that the environmental impacts and the additional noise a new runway would cause is “simply unacceptable” and “greater than all European airports combined”; he added that should Heathrow be awarded a third runway by the Airports Commission, it would “stifle competition”, create a “powerful economy”, and passengers may well see increased air fares.  So, let’s take a brief look at the respective airports revised plans. 

Heathrow’s latest plans for a third runway will, according to the airport, create 100,000 new UK jobs or more, would affect 200 fewer homes than the previous plans, would generate £100 billion for the local economy and, the airport claims, by 2030 it would reduce by 30% the number of people within the airport’s noise footprint.  Included in the plans is a new 600 mile (yes, you read correctly!) motorway tunnel that would be built under the new runway, potentially to be expanded to 14 lanes over a 2 mile section from Junction 14 by Terminal 5 to Junction 15 with the M4.  Heathrow claims that this new tunnel could be built without disrupting the current motorway… we reserve judgement!  But all this comes at a cost; £15.6 billion to be precise, of which £1.2 billion comes from the taxpayer, which also includes £550 million in compensation for 750 home owners when their properties are demolished (should Heathrow get the go ahead) and improved sound insulation for thousands of other homes.

Gatwick’s revised plans for a second runway claim that 120,000 new jobs will be available, adding an extra £40 billion to the local economy over Heathrow’s plans, allowing for 10 million additional passengers to fly per year to more destinations than a third at Heathrow, affecting far fewer homes and businesses in its construction – just 166 homes and 286 business premises, potentially create lower air fares for passengers, and could be completed 5 years earlier than Heathrow’s expansion plans… by 2025.  And the cost?  Well, it’s a significantly cheaper option that Heathrow, at just £7.8 billion.

As we see passenger levels at both airports rise in April, no matter how much we might dislike the idea and its resultant consequences, good and bad, we may well have to get used to the fact that an additional runway is going to be constructed at one of the airports.  And I would even be so bold to suggest that once the runway has been completed in 2025 or 2030, depending on which airport gets the go ahead, and has been in situ for a period, every one of us will utilise and benefit from the additional facilities, flights, and more.