The UK Airports Commission tasked with studying the runway capacity development options for the south-east of England has revealed its interim shortlist.
The Airport Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, has short-listed three options; adding a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening Heathrow’s existing north runway, and building a new runway at Gatwick.
Not included on the shortlist, but still under consideration, is the so-called ‘Boris Island’ option, supported by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, which would be located on the Isle of Grain in north Kent and built using some reclaimed-land. Sir Howard explained the Isle of Grain option was so complex its proposers were being given more time to develop the plan adding: “[The Commission] will reach a view later next year on whether that option offers a credible proposal for consideration alongside the other shortlisted options.”
The Airport Commission is due to deliver it final report by the summer of 2015, but the shortlist excludes proposals for expanding Stansted or Birmingham in the near future. However, it states there is likely to be a case for developing them as “potential options” for any second new runway by 2050.
Sir Howard said the Commission’s study had determined one net additional runway to serve the south-east of England was needed by 2030, adding: “The capacity challenge is not yet critical, but it will become so if no action is taken soon.”
With the interim report appearing to be Heathrow centric, it raises the chance of a u-turn from the coalition government which, soon after it came to power in 2010, said it would not expand Heathrow. One of its early actions was to scrap the previous Labour government’s programme to build a third runway at Heathrow but on Monday – the day before the interim report was released – the government said it had not ruled out any options about airport expansion in the south-east of England.
On Sunday December 15, the coalition Government’s Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, told the BBC that the government would stick to its pledge not to build a new runway at Heathrow before 2015, stating: “We will not be building a third runway in this Parliament. We will stick by our manifesto commitment.”
The Airport Commission’s Shortlist
- A new runway at Gatwick Airport exceeding 3,000m in length
- A new 3,500m runway at Heathrow Airport constructed to the north-west of the existing airport
- An extension of Heathrow’s existing northern runway to the west to at least 6,000m, enabling it to be used for both take-offs and landings.