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Heathrow quashes reports of abandoned third runway plans – Airways

Heathrow quashes reports of abandoned third runway plans – Airways

DALLAS London Heathrow Airport (LHR) has denied a report by Sunday time that plans for a third runway were abandoned. According to Strait Timesan LHR spokesperson said the Sunday Times speculation is incorrect and that Heathrow has not acknowledged the plans or the actions described.

The Sunday Times article claimed that Heathrow Airport Holdings CEO Thomas Woldbye wanted to abandon the expansion and had begun disbanding a team focused on the project.

However, the airport said it was reviewing its plans to ensure it has the capacity the UK economy needs while building operational resilience and meeting its sustainability commitments.

The ATC Tower at London Heathrow.  Photo: NATS
The ATC Tower at London Heathrow. Photo: NATS

Extension of London Heathrow's third runway

London Heathrow expansion plan includes the construction of a third runway to the northwest of the two existing runways. As outlined in the National Airports Policy Statement, this expansion is supported by the UK Government and is expected to create significant economic benefits and employment opportunities.

The expansion of the airport is projected bring substantial economic benefits to the UK. It is estimated that this expansion could generate up to $61 billion in economic benefits over 60 years. The construction and operation of the third runway is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs. The Airports Commission has suggested that an extra runway at Heathrow could create tens of thousands of extra local jobs by 2030.

The expansion is also expected to create a wide range of employment opportunities. Heathrow Airport has committed to creating 5,000 new apprenticeships by 2030, doubling the current number of apprenticeships to 10,000. It is estimated that the construction phase alone will create up to 60,000 jobs , and the operation of the expanded airport is expected to create up to 8,000 new jobs at Heathrow by 2030.

Finally, the expansion plans include compensation for the forced acquisition and demolition of around 700 houses, with 125% of the market value paid to owners. The project will be delivered within strict environmental limits, and the airport said it would review and consider next steps for expansion taking into account rebuilding capacity after the pandemic.

Photo: London Heathrow Airport

Opponents of expansion

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been a vocal opponent of the third expansion of the Heathrow airstrip. In 2015, he said he would “lie down in front of these bulldozers and stop the construction.” Environmental activists and climate campaigners have also vehemently opposed the expansion plans due to concerns about increased carbon emissions, noise pollution and potential violation of climate change commitments.

Local authorities, including Richmond Council, are actively fighting LHR's third runway expansion. The leader of Richmond Council said the court ruling against the expansion plans should be the “final nail in the coffin” of LHR’s attempts to move forward with the project.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, been a virulent opponent of the third extension of the LHR runway. He stressed the need for action to address the climate emergency and called for the airport's third runway project to be abandoned. Of course, organizations like Greenpeace UK have actively opposed the expansion plans, highlighting concerns about increasing carbon emissions and environmental impacts. They criticized LHR's plans as detrimental to climate goals.

Various legal challenges have also been launched against the expansion plans on environmental grounds to further complicate matters for the UK hub project. In February 2020, the The Court of Appeal ruled that the government's approval of the expansion was “illegal” because it did not comply with climate change commitments made under the Paris Climate Agreement.

However, in December 2020, the Supreme Court overturned the decision, reinstating the National Airports Policy Statement (ANPS). The judgment confirms that government policy within the ANPS is lawful and that the government has correctly taken into account the Paris Agreement on climate change as part of its policy.

Terminal five at London Heathrow Airport.  Photo: London Heathrow Airport
Terminal five at London Heathrow Airport. Photo: London Heathrow Airport

Actual status

Although the opponents above have expressed significant concerns about the environmental impact, noise pollution and carbon emissions associated with plans to expand LHR's third runway, the project is still on the table.

According to the latest information, LHR is considering the next stages of the expansion and is expected to deliver further developments on the third runway later in the year. The expansion is seen as vital to the UK's future economic success and, despite some opposition, the project is likely to go ahead, although the exact timetable remains uncertain.

The third runway improves the UK's connectivity with the rest of the world, leading to more long-haul flights and connections to fast-growing economies. LHR says this is crucial to maintaining and increasing the UK's competitiveness in global trade. The airport carries more freight in tonnage and value than all other UK airports combined, and its expansion will allow it to double its current air cargo handling capacity.

As with everything related to politics, especially infrastructure, each news should be taken with a grain of salt. However, with recent advances in airport technology coming from the LHR, a third runway is less of an expansion idea and more of a plausible, less costly reality.

You can check out the LHR Expansion FAQ page here.

Featured image: London Heathrow Media Center




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