Heathrow’s new plans avoid digging up the M25 … but brings runway closer still to Colnbrook

Heathrow’s detailed plans for a Colnbrook runway will take the runway further away from Langley, Richings Park and Harmondsworth, but closer still to Colnbrook, according to the London Evening Standard.

Heathrow's Third Runway consultation

Heathrow’s Third Runway consultation

Heathrow airport has shifted the site of its proposed third runway to avoid digging up Britain’s busiest motorway junction, the Standard has learned.

The planned airstrip has moved south closer to the A4 to avoid major works on the M25’s junction with the M4. To make way for the new runway to the north west of the airport, Heathrow will build a 600-metre tunnel taking traffic under the M25.

Under plans developed with the Highways Agency, the tunnel would run alongside the motorway. It would be comprised of four portals separating vehicles heading for the airport or staying on the motorways and be part-funded by Government.

The RAC Foundation demanded stiff penalties if Heathrow failed to meet its pledge to keep the M25 open. Its director, Professor Stephen Glaister, said: “To keep Heathrow to their word a lane rental scheme is needed. This would hit Heathrow with fines if the 200,000 drivers who use this section of the M25 each day face anything but minimal disruption.”

The shift takes the runway further away from Langley, Richings Park and Harmondsworth, although Colnbrook would be closer. It could save historic buildings in Harmondsworth, including the Grade I-listed Great Barn rated by English Heritage as important architecturally as Westminster Abbey.

Heathrow also unveiled plans for a charge to deter passengers from driving to the airport if it gets approval for the third runway. The proposal would come into force in 2030 to keep traffic flowing on the airport estate by cutting the number of pick-up and drop-offs.

Heathrow said it would only be levied on airport users, and local residents and taxis would be exempt. Airport bosses want 50 per cent of passengers using public transport to reduce congestion and prevent a breach of EU air quality standards. Heathrow Head of Surface Access Simon Earles said: “A congestion charge would improve air quality, and raise money for public transport improvements.”

On the proposed toll for those driving to Heathrow, Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith said; “It has always been known that a third runway would cause congestion chaos across west London, and this announcement was inevitable.

“However it is a disgrace that none of this has been mentioned in Heathrow’s recent 3rd runway public consultations. The company simply has not been straight with residents, and I intend to raise this in Parliament.”

The mayor’s advisor on aviation, Daniel Moylan, said: “It appears Heathrow may finally have woken up to the fact that the madness of building a third and then inevitably a fourth runway in west London would have a catastrophic effect on local roads not to mention their own site.

“If true that on top of pricey parking charges they are now considering some form of additional road-user charge it will be extremely unpopular with families heading for their well-earned breaks, and clearly they will have to consider whether this would apply to taxis and even their own staff.

“It is not clear whether they have considered the effect on local public transport networks that are already straining at the seams and only adds to the impression that they do not give a fig for the wellbeing of west London.”

The runway would add 260,000 flights a year to the existing 480,000 when it opened in 2026. Some 1,500 buildings would be lost in Longford and Harmondsworth and the latter would be wiped off the map.

Heathrow is Europe’s noisiest airport affecting 240,000 locals. The Davies commission said the noise impact of the new runway would be neutral.

Read more in the London Evening Standard.

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