New runways at Heathrow and Gatwick have been included in the shortlist of options to expand airport capacity in the south-east.

The Airports Commission, headed by Sir Howard Davies, said it would be examining three options to add one runway in the south-east by 2030:

  • A third runway at Heathrow to the north-west of the current airport (pictured)
  • An extension of Heathrow’s northern runway to allow it to operate as two independent runways
  • A second runway at Gatwick to the south of the existing runway

Plans for an airport in the Thames estuary, dubbed Boris Island after London mayor Boris Johnson, were not included in the shortlist because of “too many uncertainties and challenges” at this stage.

Although the commission said it would continue to examine the estuary proposal for the Isle of Grain site next year to see if it “offers a credible proposal for consideration alongside the other short-listed options”. The commission added that the estimated cost of the project was up to £112 billion – around five times that of the three short-listed options.

Also missing out are plans for expansion at Stansted or Birmingham, although the commission said “there is likely to be a case for considering them as potential options for any second new runway by 2050”.

The commission will now carry out detailed work on the three short-listed options with a full report to be released in the summer of 2015 after the next general election.

Davies said: “Decisions on airport capacity are important national strategic choices and must be based upon the best evidence available.

“The UK enjoys excellent connectivity today. The capacity challenge is not yet critical but it will become so if no action is taken soon and our analysis clearly supports the provision of one net additional runway by 2030. In the meantime we encourage the government to act on our recommendations to make the best of our existing capacity.”

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