Heathrow Rethinks New Runway Site to Avoid M25, Medieval Barn

Heathrow Ltd. said it’s exploring plans to shift the site of a proposed third runway in an effort to minimize the impact of construction work as Europe’s busiest hub ramps up efforts to win support for its expansion.

The new runway could be built slightly to the south of the location currently proposed, reducing the overlap with a major junction of the M25 orbital motorway and avoiding destruction of historic buildings, Heathrow Chief Executive Officer Colin Matthews said today at a conference in London.

Heathrow was last month identified as a preferred focus of additional runway capacity serving southeast England in an preliminary report from the state-appointed Airports Commission. The modifications revealed by Matthews would concern a proposed 3.5 kilometer (2.2 mile) strip to the northwest, which Heathrow prefers to the extension of the existing northern runway to at least 6 km, which the study also mooted.

Heathrow said in July on submitting proposals to the commission that it might be possible to further develop the northwest runway plan to allow the preservation in their current location of the Tithe Barn and St Mary’s Church in Harmondsworth, “both sites of significant heritage value.”

The barn, built in 1426, bears a grade-one preservation order and ranks with Westminister Abbey and the Houses of Parliament for its exceptional architectural and historic interest, according to English Heritage.

Demand Profile

In total around 950 residential properties would need to be demolished, with construction of the runway completed in six years with a total cost of 17 billion pounds ($28 billion). The strip, just south of the junction between the M25 and the M4 motorway to Wales and western England, would also require the orbital road to be reconfigured, Heathrow said in July.

Responding to questions at the Runways UK conference in London, Matthews ruled out an increase in fees of as much as 100 percent in order to help fund the new runway.

Howard Davies, the Airports Commission chairman, said earlier that he’d seek to decide between recommending the expansion of Heathrow and construction of a second runway at London Gatwick airport, the other site shortlisted, based on the anticipated nature of future markets.

Heathrow, already Europe’s busiest hub with connections around the world, might be favored were demand deemed to be focused on transfer traffic, while Gatwick could be suitable if the chief goal was to serve point-to-point travel originating or terminating in London.

The commission is too narrowly focused on aviation issues rather than the welfare of Londoners, Daniel Moylan, an adviser to London Mayor Boris Johnson, said at the conference. Johnson favors a new airport in the Thames estuary or expansion of the Stansted low-cost hub to reduce noise over urban areas.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.