Never mind the Third Runway, Heathrow confirms spectre of a FOURTH!

Never mind the Third Runway, Heathrow has raised the spectre of a FOURTH runway at Heathrow in what may be seen as a reversal of its stated position three months ago.

Heathrow has confirmed for the first time that it has plans for a fourth full-size runway over Colnbrook and Poyle, echoing proposals by Tim Leunig three months ago.  Those proposals were angrily rejected by Councillor James Walsh, who said they “would make the village unfeasible”.

Half way through its submission to the Davies Commission the airport operator says it believes Heathrow can accommodate four runways successfully “if required to do so” and that the impacts of such a plan can be “successfully mitigated”.  It says:

“All of the options we are putting forward for three runways have been designed to evolve to four runways if ever required to do so. We have developed a number of options to show this and have evaluated them to present a similar level of understanding of their performance as for the three-runway options. We believe, should the Commission conclude that a four-runway hub airport is the appropriate long-term solution, that through careful option refinement, Heathrow is capable of being developed into a four-runway airport with manageable costs, impacts and benefits.”

In its submission Heathrow says that while a third runway would provide sufficient capacity to maintain UK’s global hub status until 2040 only.  The 740,000 flights that a third runway could deliver would allow Heathrow to compete effectively with other European hubs in the short term.

In an earlier submission to the Government’s Airports Commission in March it played down the prospect of further expansion, saying that while the case for a third runway is very clear the “potential demand case for a fourth runway is highly uncertain and may not materialise”.

Heathrow cites as one of the “advantages of the Heathrow option” is that additional capacity could be added gradually as demand requires and financing allows, whereas a new hub airport would require most investment up front based on uncertain future demand.  The statement is likely to anger communities already complaining about the blight caused by dithering and uncertainty and that an emboldened Heathrow appears to see land for the taking in historic communities.

In publishing its three options for expansion of the airport, Heathrow says each option can grow to become a four-runway solution in time, as can be seen in the plans above (from the Heathrow proposals).

Heathrow has also again reiterated the claims made in its recent report A Quieter Heathrow that large planes, operational changes and noise mitigation schemes mean fewer people will be affected by airport noise following an expanded Heathrow than now:

“Our initial analysis shows that it would be possible to have four runways at Heathrow, while still reducing the total number of people within Heathrow’s noise footprint compared to today. We estimate the cost of developing a fourth runway at Heathrow at an additional £8-14bn depending on the option. Developing from a three-runway to a four-runway Heathrow would require the compulsory purchase of 850-950 additional properties under the North-West/South-West option, 850-2,700 additional properties under the North/South-West option or 200 additional properties under the dual North-West option.”

Heathrow has also confirmed the influence of Tim Leunig and his Policy Exchange report ‘Bigger and Quieter’ which advocated four new runways located to the west of the current runways, but tempering them to reduce the number of homes lost.  That pushes the new runways north of the reservoir instead of south, and into Colnbrook’s patch.

The “Dual North West” option which would impact Colnbrook most, however, shows more a complete reworking rather than “evolution” to a four-runway airport.  The M25 would be re-routed again and the M4 would additionally need to be re-routed and tunnelled.  The A4 Colnbrook By-pass would be completely removed and the airport perimeter and southernmost runway (of the two planned “North-West” runways) would be moved much closer to residential properties.

In revealing its plans for a fourth runway now Heathrow will risk alienating those who believe limited expansion at the airport is preferable to the economic and environmental catastrophe of building a brand new airport in the Thames Estuary.



Related Articles

Heathrow makes case for Third Runway but plays down Fourth in submission to Airports Commission

James Walsh: New four-runway airport covering Colnbrook “would make village unfeasible”

Heathrow’s bid for Princes Club land sparks HACAN fears for FOURTH runway




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