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BBT March/April 2019 cover
March/April 2019

Heathrow third runway 'not enough' to deal with demand

Aircraft taxiing at Heathrow airport

Sarah Bishop, deputy director of aviation policy at the Department for Transport (DfT), has warned that a third runway at Heathrow will not be enough to keep pace with the UK’s growing passenger demand over the next 30 years.

Bishop said at a meeting of the Westminster energy, environment and transport forum that the estimates for passenger numbers made three years ago are ‘already out of date’, claiming that demand for air travel is growing 10 per cent faster than assumed.

Even with a third runway at Heathrow, Bishop predicted the UK will face “capacity constraints” again by 2050. She said “there may be a need for a runway beyond that looking out to 2050”, according to The Times.

With both Heathrow and Gatwick airports reporting yet another month of passenger growth in October and IATA predicting 8.2 billion air travellers in 2037, demand for air travel could continue to grow in the coming decade.

Bishop said the government will release the Aviation Strategy Green Paper, which will consult on the decision-making process for delivering a further runway in the UK by 2050.

While the current government has ruled out building a fourth runway at Heathrow, Gatwick airport has revealed a proposal to use its existing emergency air strip as a second runway to increase capacity, although both airports are facing opposition from local and environmental bodies.

Commenting on Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “With the financial and legal challenges of Heathrow’s third runway far from overcome, this new option for another runway is likely to bedevil Heathrow’s plans going forward, bringing a fresh dimension of doubt to the current project.

“It truly beggars belief that a further runway is even being mooted. Given environmental targets are struggling to be met with the existing Heathrow plans, yet another new runway would make a laughing stock of the UK’s commitment to the environment. Maybe the government is having its own doubts on Heathrow and is trying to find a way out.”


A fourth runway ? That could have been achieved easily thirty plus years ago, had the short-sightedness of some been not allowed to fritter way the space around the operational runways on hotels and cheaply placed Terminal 4 or similar. A layout not dissimilar to LAX could have been achieved, giving two sets of closely spaced parallel runways. The now third runway, would have become the fifth one. The legacy of minimising investment and dam the long term developmental or operational consequences is proving very expensive.
It is clear to all but the most short sighted or unaware, that both Gatwick and Stansted need additional runways as well, in order to give some resilience to the existing system, even with existing traffic. It does not ned a long term plan to see that, it is clearly obvious on any day with the most minimal disruption, when recovery to normal service takes the whole day, if it can be achieved at all. It is a clear indication of lack of capacity. Airlines bear some of the blame, chasing very high frequency , runway space hungry schedules, using aircraft of capacities that were expected long ago to have been deemed too small.
As for getting passengers to and from the airport, well decent transport links have been long overdue. The local public transport plans seemed to have ignored serious transport to Heathrow . Progress since then has been pathetically slow, with links to the south east south and west still not in place in 2018 and not due to be in place until the mid 2020’s.

MARTIN GEORGE ALDER (not verified)

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