Airports Commission rejects Heathrow Hub proposal

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UK: The Airports Commission has published its Final Report, which sets out its recommendations to Government for expanding aviation capacity in the UK.

The Commission’s analysis shows that expanded airport capacity is crucial for the UK’s long-term prosperity. While each of the three schemes shortlisted was considered a credible option for expansion, the Commission has unanimously concluded that the proposal for a new Northwest Runway at Heathrow Airport, combined with a significant package of measures to address its environmental and community impacts, presents the strongest case and offers the greatest strategic and economic benefits – providing around 40 new destinations from the airport and more than 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

The report describes the strengths and weaknesses of the other short-listed proposals. The Heathrow Extended Northern runway delivers similar economic benefits, is less costly and requires the loss of fewer homes. But it provides a smaller increase in capacity and is less attractive from a noise and air quality perspective. The Gatwick scheme is feasible, but the additional capacity would be more focused on short-haul intra-European routes and the economic benefits considerably smaller.

“Over the past two and a half years, the Airports Commission has reviewed the evidence without preconceptions, consulted widely, and followed an inclusive and integrated process. At the end of this extensive work programme our conclusions are clear and unanimous: the best answer is to expand Heathrow’s capacity through a new Northwest Runway,” Sir Howard Davies said.

On the subject of the proposed Heathrow Hub concept, the Commission has “determined that despite the potential benefits it would bring to some passengers from the West of England and Wales, the costs and risks associated with the ‘hub station’ concept were such that it should not be recommended.”

Heathrow Davies Surface Access

Responding to the Commission’s report, Captain William Lowe and his fellow Directors of Heathrow Hub, said:

“While we obviously still believe our own concept to extend the runways is superior to Heathrow Airport Ltd.’s third runway option, we congratulate John Holland-Kaye and his team. We recognise that the Commission has spoken but we will continue to liaise with ministers and civil servants to ensure our proposal is properly understood as a cheaper, simpler and more politically deliverable option.”

HeathrowHub Davies Surface Access

On the subject of an HS2 spur to Heathrow Airport, without the need for an interchange at Old Oak Common, the Commission concluded that “the scheme was likely to attract only a small number of passengers, carry a high capital cost and represent an inefficient use of HS2 capacity. <…> Therefore such a spur should not form part of the surface access package that would accompany airport expansion and that there is not a robust business case for it at this time.”

Secretary of State for Transport the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP commented:

“In December 2013 the Commission shortlisted 3 schemes for further consideration - two at Heathrow and one at Gatwick. It also made recommendations for improving our existing airport infrastructure, including upgrading transport connections. We are acting on these interim recommendations. We are working with Gatwick airport to upgrade the station, Network Rail is leading a study to improve the rail link between London and Stansted and Crossrail will soon provide a new direct route to Heathrow.”

“This is a detailed and comprehensive report, based on a significant volume of technical material, and the Government will need to review our analysis carefully. The Commission urges it not to prolong this process, however, and to move as quickly as it can to a decision. Further delay will be increasingly costly and will be seen, nationally and internationally, as a sign that the UK is unwilling or unable to take the steps needed to maintain its position as a well-connected, open trading economy in the twenty-first century,” Sir Howard Davies concluded.