Airports Commission sets out it’s interim report

Howard Davies has given his interim report in to airport expansion in the south of England, with two Heathrow and one Gatwick proposal on the table.

Here is an overview of the proposals put together by John Stewart of HACAN Clearskies which gives a snapshot of the findings for those who have an interest in Heathrow Expansion

Airbus A380 in flight


Airports Commission Consultation


The Commission argues that one new runway is required in London and the South East by 2030 to cater for demand and enable the economy to remain competitive. It accepts that a runway at any of the three options would do the job.


Davies says that hubs are important but says that does not imply he is arguing, at this stage, that only a bigger hub at Heathrow is required. He leaves open the question of whether a two-hub system could be equally as effective.


He repeats his earlier view that, because the demand will be from the South East, expanding airports in the regions instead of a new runway in the SE is not an option. Future demand projections suggest he is correct.


He also repeats his view that one new runway can be built without breaching the UK’s CO2 (climate change targets). Again, the figures support his assertion. It would, though, as organizations like the Aviation Environment Federation have pointed out, curtail the ability of other airports to expand.


Davies acknowledges that he has not factored the cost of carbon into his calculations at this stage. It appears he intends to do so. That might well reduce the net economic benefit of a new runway.


He assesses each of the airports against key criteria


  1. Benefits to the wider economy


Heathrow Third Runway: £112bn – £211bn


Heathrow Hub: £101bn – £214bn


Gatwick: £42bn – £127bn


Comment: Although the economic benefits of Gatwick are lower, they are still substantial. Gatwick can no longer be regarded as a ‘bucket and spade’ airport. Davies has, in effect, ‘mainstreamed’ it. A second runway at Gatwick could deliver substantial benefits to the UK economy.


  1. Jobs

The Commission has produced out a very wide rage of estimates for each airport. For example, it says a 3rd runway at Heathrow could create anything from 47,000 – 112,000 jobs by 2050 (a lower number than the 120,000 Heathrow has claimed). Davies says Gatwick could create as many as 63,000 and Heathrow Hub up to 92,000.


Comment:   Given the hugely different range of estimates about the number of jobs that would be created, Davies needs to do more work on this and we need to take Heathrow’s claims about job creation with a pinch of salt until further work has been done.


Heathrow terminal 5


  1. Cost of the new Runway

Davies estimates a 2nd runway at Gatwick would cost £9.3bn (the promoter, £7.4bn). Davies puts the cost of a 3rd runway at Heathrow at £18.6bn (Heathrow, £14.8bn); Davies puts the cost of the Heathrow Hub £13.5bn (the promoter (£10.1bn). Of course, all these costs would be paid by the airports themselves, probably requiring higher landing charges.


  1. Public Cost

The cost of the associated works to the public purse would be £6.3bn for Heathrow Hub; £5.7 bn for Heathrow; and £787,000 for Gatwick. The Heathrow options are high because both would involve extensive work to the surrounding motorway networking including tunneling part of the M25.


Comment: Is the public really going to accept the taxpayer forking out over £5bn to facilitate a new runway at Heathrow?

  1. Noise


For the Heathrow Hub option, Davies says there will be a ‘significant increase in the number of people affected by noise’ – as many as 900,000 within the 55Lden contour (the metric used by the EU) as compared to 760,000 today. Davies does, though, say that there is the possibility the 900,000 could be cut if different flight paths were used.


For the Heathrow Third Runway Option, Davies says that the numbers affected would fall from 760,000 to just under 600,000 if no new runway were to be built. He is taking on board some of Heathrow’s arguments about the impact of quieter planes, steeper descents and more respite. If a third runway was built the numbers affected would be just under 700,000.


For Gatwick, the numbers would rise from 10,000 today to around 35,000


Comment: Noise is the area where Gatwick wins hands down


  1. Air Pollution

Davis argues that either of the Heathrow options will have a real problem of staying within the EU legal limits. It all depends what sort of measures can be taken to deal with motorways and roads in the area but Davies says there could be a ‘significant’ risk the EU targets will not be met. At Gatwick, he says, there is a ‘potential’ risk but lower than at Heathrow.


  1. Homes

Heathrow would require 783 properties to go); Heathrow Hub, 242 homes; Gatwick 186


Comment: Most people in the immediate Heathrow area would argue that more than 8783 properties would need to go to make way for a third runway. 783 would leave a lot of people unrealistically close to a new runway.


Airbus A380 on ground Farnborough 2014


  1. The influx of workers

Either of the Heathrow options could require as many as 70,000 extra homes which Davies believes may be ‘challenging’ for the local authorities. He doesn’t, though, buy the idea that the Sussex countryside will be flooded by new homes if a second runway is built at Gatwick. It is worth quoting him in some detail here: “[There]could be between zero and 18,400 [homes] (dependant on the scenario). This housing would typically be provided in a phased manner and across the entire assessment area, and therefore the demands on any individual local authority are likely to be relatively small. For example, if we assume these properties are provided over a 10 year period (2020-2030) and split evenly across the 14 local authorities, then the additional housing need for each LA would be only 130 houses per year at the highest end of the range. There are also many reasons the additional housing required is unlikely to be as high as these figures, depending on assumptions about population growth, net migration, unemployment and commuting”


Comment: Boroughs such as Croydon support a second runway at Gatwick because they believe that a lot of their residents will commute to the new jobs on offer. Davies would seem to back this view.


  1. Surface Access

He’s surprisingly relaxed about surface access at both airports as he argues the public transport schemes, plus some road widenings, should do the trick.




Davies acknowledges there are concerns about flooding around Heathrow. He says it could be ‘problematic’.


He argues that the deliverability risks of Gatwick are low and that the opening date of 2025 is ‘achievable’

John Stewart


3rd runway consultation CD


After reading John’s paper, a few problems spring instantly to mind


The flaws in Davies’ proposals


1 – The Single Hub – Davies does not answer the lynchpin of Heathrow’s argument that a single hub is needed to be competitive. Indeed, he pointedly does not answer whether a two hub system could work just as well.

New York is a similar city to London, and runs with two international hub airports (JFK and Newark). In Australia, they are building a second airport to service Sydney rather than expanding the current one.

The argument that Schiphol in Holland, Charles De Gaulle in France and Frankfurt in Germany have a single, large hub airport misses the fact that London already has additional airports servicing the capital at Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Southend, rather than just one super site. With the density of London’s population and the difficulty traversing the capital because of it, it could be argued that having a series of airports that passengers can approach the city from in different directions  takes some of the strain off of the road and rail infrastructure. Also, from that viewpoint, if Heathrow is a hub airport where long haul passengers just change for domestic and European flights, it would not matter where it is situated – Indeed, I have already taken up with representatives of Heathrow Airport Ltd that they accommodate too many short haul flights for a supposed hub airport and are taking up valuable long distance slots with smaller aircraft.

2 – Jobs and increased financial benefit – The amount of jobs and economic benefits of a third runway are unproven and may not bear up to scrutiny.

A report published in September 2011 by Optimal Economics Found that Heathrow delivered 114,000 jobs locally with a benefit to the economy of £5.3 billion. If we expand that to London, we are looking at 137,000 jobs and £7 billion, whilst UK wide they estimate 206.000 jobs and £9.7 billion.


With those figures in mind, how can an additional runway generate such an exponential increase in both jobs and profits as claimed by Third Runway supporters?

A380 take off rear view

3 – Public cost and housing – With the government driving cuts to balance the books, where is the money for additional infrastructure coming from? The M25 and surrounding motorways creak with the pressure at the moment, despite some parts of the orbital route having 5 lanes for traffic. In Hillingdon, we have massive issues surrounding housing and the projected figures for additional need would break an already dysfunctional social housing system as well as piling pressure on to take more of the green belt – Land that needs to be our natural lung to take the sting out of the pollution being put in to the air by ever increasing air and road traffic.


4 – Noise – The claim that there would be more respite periods is out of the hands of the airport, and in the hands of the prevailing winds. If you view the HACAN Facebook page, you will see many people posting about increased traffic over their houses caused by the airport having to switch approaches based on which way the wind blows, which is a fundamental of how an aircraft’s lift system works. Many reports have come in from people previously unaffected by aircraft noise about how they are now affected based on recent trials for new flightpaths, and the National Air Traffic Service cannot say where the aircraft will go and how the noise will be distributed until they have solid proposals of which expansion programme will be put in to practice.


The new ‘quieter aircraft’ line is also misleading – I have stood within a few hundred yards of an A380 taking off at Farnborough during the airshow, and it is indeed a lot quieter than a 747 – However, the display aircraft is not loaded down with passengers and baggage, which requires more thrust for takeoff as can be heard if you stand next to an A380 on a departure runway at Heathrow. They are quieter, but there is still a lot of noise and there will be more of them with a 3rd runway


5- Influx of workers – Davies claims this would be ‘staged’, but the reality is that a new runway opening would need additional support and service workers immediately and would drive a huge spike at opening. That would put additional pressure on local housing and services in a short space of time at opening.


6 – Surface access – The M25 around the airport is at 5 lanes and can’t cope at peak, likewise the M4. Rail services are expensive and currently packed out at certain times of the day. Road widening hasn’t worked with a 2 runway airport and Heathrow Villages are overrun with off airport parking because of the prices that Heathrow Airport Ltd currently charge. Davies needs to see the situation on the ground before glossing over it so lightly.