Heathrow’s third runway delayed until 2028-2029

Dec 21, 2019

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Editor’s note: This post was updated with additional information regarding a delay in construction. This post was originally published on June 18, 2019.

London Heathrow’s plan to add a third runway has been delayed, pushing the project deadline from 2026 to 2028-2029.

BBC first reported that the third runway had been delayed by “at least” 12 months as a result of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rejecting Heathrow’s plan to increase the budget from £650 million to £2.4 billion.

The CAA rejected Heathrow’s plan to increase spending as it worried that passengers would end up paying the cost. Additionally, an independent organization revealed that the original third runway project timeline was aggressive.

Background of the project

The UK House of Commons formally approved plans to build a third runway at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) in June 2019, with the expected date for operation being early 2026. The plan would expand the airport to become the biggest in the world in terms of traffic.

Heathrow Airport is already one of the most congested airports in the world with over 88.1 million passengers passing through its doors in 2018 and flights to over 180 destinations in 90 countries. The Department of Transport predicted if Heathrow continued with just two runways, it would reach total capacity by 2028.

By 2030, Heathrow’s 80 million annual passengers in 2017 could increase to 110 million with this third runway, CNN reports. A three-runway airport would allow Heathrow to provide up to 740,000 flights a year, which would help it compete with European hubs like Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

The plan

In advance of the planned third runway expected to open by 2026, London Heathrow Airport (LHR) has unveiled a long-term masterplan to expand the airport to cope with the increased flights the third runway will bring.

This plan, which has already been approved by the British parliament, is expected to be complete by 2050. A new runway bridge will be built over the M25 motorway which will provide spectacular views of the world’s biggest aircraft at Europe’s busiest airport while motorists drive underneath. It presents significant engineering and design challenges given the weight of these fully-laden planes. The M25, which is Britain’s busiest motorway, will move up to 150 metres west to accommodate the third runway.

Terminals 2 (Star Alliance) and 5 (British Airways and Iberia) will be extended in a ‘toaster rack’ design with central check-in areas followed by many rows of piers of gates. There will also be an enormous new 24,000 capacity carpark in the Sipson town area.

Heathrow Expansion Masterplan. Photo by Grimshaw Architects

The frustrating curfew will remain, with a 6.5 hour ban on scheduled flights each evening. The masterplan sees the introduction of a vehicle access charge for the airport precinct, as already introduced in Central London.

The plan is now under a three months public consultation. Heathrow Airport insists that the expansion ‘must not come at any cost’, so they will work closely with local communities to ensure growth is sustainable and responsible. There are plenty who are opposed to the expansion, from local residents to environmentalists. Boris Johnson, the current front-runner to become the next Prime Minister, was a vocal opponent of the airport’s expansion though he has now signalled that he will not oppose the plans given they have already been approved by Parliament.

Heathrow Expansion Masterplan. Photo by
Heathrow Expansion Masterplan. Photo by Grimshaw Architects

The expansion costs are estimated by Heathrow airport to cost £14 billion in total, although opponents say this figure will be closer to £30 billion.

Additional reporting by Caroline Schagrin and Liz Hund.

Featured image by Grimshaw Architects

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