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    Heathrow and Gatwick’s battle to expand runways heats up

    Published On: 11 November 2014

    The Airports Commission has today published its assessment of proposals for additional runway capacity at Gatwick and Heathrow airports looking at the benefits and impact of each.

    The three short-listed proposals include an additional runway to the south of the existing runway at Gatwick Airport, an additional runway to the north west of the existing northern runway at Heathrow Airport and an extension to the existing northern runway at Heathrow Airport.

    Both Heathrow and Gatwick today claim to have come out trumps in the public consultation report, which the Commission is inviting public comment on.

    Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “The Commission has confirmed that only Heathrow can connect all of Britain to global growth, delivering more than £200bn to the British economy and 180,000 jobs while reducing noise for local residents compared to today.

    “This shows that Heathrow’s proposal is deliverable and is the only way to keep Britain at the heart of the global economy. Now it’s time for all those who want a better future for Britain to make their voice heard and back Heathrow.”

    In its report the Commission stated that there could be wider benefits within the economy ranging from £112bn to a staggering £211bn by building a new full-length runway to the north-west of the current northern runway at Heathrow airport.

    The Commission also said that an estimated 179,600 new jobs would be created in direct and indirect employment associated with a Heathrow North West Runway Scheme, compared to just 49,000 jobs created by expansion at Gatwick. The Commission’s report also found that night noise around Heathrow would reduce as improvements to aircraft technology and the capability of late evening and early morning arrivals to land further to the West saw a positive impact.

    On the eve of the consultation Mr Holland-Kaye said that distant economies in Asia and the Americas were growing quickly, while traditional markets in Europe faced a low growth future. Businesses all over Britain needed new connections to the world’s fastest growing markets, he said.

    Air China’s decision to pull out of Gatwick was, he added, the latest evidence that only Heathrow can deliver these long-haul routes.

    He also revealed that Heathrow’s cargo capacity on routes to the Asia Pacific was already exhausted – running at 97 per cent capacity. “If we want to double British exports we need to expand Heathrow,” he said. “Heathrow is our hub airport, and one of only six airports worldwide with more than 50 long haul routes. We need it to expand to continue to put on the flights that drive tourism and inward investment and connect our businesses to key markets in places like China, India, Brazil.”

    Nevertheless Stewart Wingate, Gatwick CEO, was equally delighted with how Gatwick’s expansion plans fared in the Airports Commission report. He said it “indicates why expansion at Gatwick best answers all the questions.”

    He added: “The UK gets the economic benefit it needs at a fraction of the environmental impact of Heathrow today. It would mean competition and lower fares for passengers. As the Commission underlines Gatwick can actually be delivered by 2025. We have a safeguarded site with little risk and no complex construction across major motorways.  Our new runway can be funded without a penny of taxpayers’ money at a time when there are a lot of other competing priorities for public funds.”

    The Gatwick Airport Second Runway scheme proposes a new runway south of the current runway. The report found that there could be wider benefits within the economy ranging from £42bn to £127bn generated by this runway.

    The report found that the numbers of people affected by aircraft noise were “significantly below the total numbers at Heathrow, where currently some 760,000 people fall within the 55 do minimum Lden contour.” However the document also said: “Conversely, however, there are areas around Gatwick that are rural and have high levels of tranquillity that would be adversely impacted by new development at the airport.”

    The construction of a second runway at Gatwick, together with a third terminal and all associated infrastructure, is estimated to cost up to £9.3bn. “These costs are, however, significantly lower than those of either of the Heathrow expansion schemes,” it said.

    Indeed the Heathrow extended Northern Runway Scheme is estimated to cost £13.5bn, whilst the Heathrow North West Runway Scheme is estimated to cost £18.6bn including construction of the new runway, a new terminal and all other required airport facilities.

    The report continued: “The delivery risks associated with the Gatwick scheme are assessed as relatively  low, and the Commission considers an opening date in 2025 achievable.”

    The Commission also stated that improvements to road and rail access at Gatwick would cost £787 million whereas improvements to surface access required to support expansion at Heathrow are estimated at £5.7bn and would require “significant works”on the roads around the airport site, including the construction of a tunnel for the M25. “The management of congestion on the M25 and M4 will be a significant issue,” it said. But the report conceded such works may be required even if the expansion did not happen.

    Public comments on the Commission’s considerations will help inform the Commission’s recommendation to the government when it publishes its final report in the summer of 2015. The consultation will close on 3 February 2015.

    The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, was set up by the Government in November 2012 as an independent body to examine the scale and timing of any requirement for additional capacity to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub.


    Don’t miss the series of guides produced by Asia House, with Heathrow’s support, that offer useful insights into emerging Asian cities and countries.

    Navigating Asian Markets is a set of country guides to help British businesses navigate important Asian markets, while Rising Cities of Asia gives advice on how to trade with emerging Asian cities with untapped potential.

    Rising Cities of Asia

    Rising Cities of Asia