‘No choice made’ on airport options

Published: Tuesday 11th November 2014 by The News Editor

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The Whitehall-appointed team charged with recommending the site for a new airport runway has insisted it has not yet taken a view on the best option.

The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, today published for public consultation an assessment of the three airport expansion options on its shortlist which was announced in December last year.

The options are:

:: A new 3,500-metre runway at Heathrow Airport in west London

:: An extension of the existing northern runway at Heathrow in a plan put forward by Heathrow Hub, a consortium that includes former Concorde pilot Jock Lowe

:: A new runway at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex

Sir Howard said: “Since our interim report last year we have undertaken a huge amount of work. We have carried out a thorough assessment, across a comprehensive range of subjects, looking at the benefits and impacts of each proposal.

“We have not yet taken a view on which proposal strikes the most effective balance between the assessment criteria. It is important first that we provide an opportunity for this evidence to be examined, challenged and improved. This consultation gives everyone with an interest in the issue of airport expansion that opportunity.

“Responses to this consultation will be a valuable addition to our evidence base and will directly inform our recommendation to the Government when we publish our final report in the summer of 2015.”

On the Gatwick option, the commission said a second runway at the West Sussex airport would cost an estimated £9.3 billion which, it added, was higher that Gatwick Airport Ltd’s estimate of £7.4 billion.

The new runway would be built south of the present runway, and there would be a new terminal building between the two runways with a capacity of about 50 million passengers a year, slightly higher than the combined capacity of 45 million of the current North and South terminals.

A total of 168 homes would probably have to be demolished and further residential properties could also be lost, the commission said.

Investment in the new runway would, in the commission’s view, lead to increased airport charges of between £15 and £18 per passenger with peak charges of up to £23.

The commission said these figures were higher than Gatwick’s own estimates of charges of £12 to £14 per passenger compared with the current £9.

The commission said: “The delivery risks associated with the Gatwick scheme are assessed as relatively low and the commission considers an opening date of 2025 is achievable.”

Expansion would mean an increase in annual flights from 280,000 at present to 560,000.

The commission appeared unconvinced about one aspect of the Gatwick plan.

It said that Gatwick intended to deliver the runway first, with the new terminal and associated infrastructure being delivered as demand required.

It said: “The commission considers the remote pier facility built as part of the intermediate phase of the plan may produce a worse passenger experience than is currently the norm at Gatwick. Gatwick believe the passenger experience can be maintained in the remote facility.”

On the scheme put forward by Heathrow Airport Ltd for a new runway to north-west of the airport, the commission said a new terminal would be built to the west of the current central terminal area.

Built in stages, the new terminal would have a capacity of 35 million passengers a year, similar to the current Terminal 5 (T5) and would be built in the same style as T2 and T5.

A total of 784 homes are likely to have to be demolished and there might be further housing loss, the commission said.

The new runway would lead to Heathrow’s annual aircraft movements rising from the current 480,000 to 740,000. The commission estimates passenger numbers could reach 132 million-149 million a year by 2050 – larger than any current airport.

Expansion would mean long-haul passengers would remain the majority at the airport but there was likely to be an increase in domestic passengers by 2050.

Published: Tuesday 11th November 2014 by The News Editor

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