London Heathrow Clashes With Gatwick on Runway Projects

London’s Heathrow airport outlined revised plans for a new runway it said will create 100,000 jobs and add 100 billion pounds ($168 billion) to the economy as rival Gatwick restated its case for getting the landing strip.

A third runway at Heathrow would open up 40 new routes and serve the whole U.K. due to its geographical location and links to railway lines including High Speed 2, the airport said in a statement today. The updated plans move the new strip south, affecting 200 fewer houses and maintaining highway layouts.

Both Heathrow and Gatwick were identified in December as the possible focus of additional runway capacity in preliminary findings of a state-appointed commission. Heathrow said its proposals for a 2.2-mile landing strip west of existing terminals could be delivered by 2025 for about 15.6 billion pounds. Gatwick, which currently has one runway, said its plan would result in 10 million more passengers, five years sooner.

“Heathrow and Gatwick do completely different things,” Heathrow Airport Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Colin Matthews said at a press conference in London today. “But when it comes to global reach, Heathrow is simply streets ahead.”

Additional capacity at Heathrow would boost long-haul connections from the hub by almost 50 percent to 122 routes and keep Heathrow ahead of its European rivals, allowing 740,000 flights annually, 40,000 more than Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt airports, the executive said.

Noise Footprint

“Any destination that can be served by expanding Heathrow can be served from the London system if you expand Gatwick,” Gatwick Chief Financial Officer Nick Dunn said by phone. “Our biggest trading partner, which is Europe, will continue to be where the lion’s share of U.K. traffic travels too and from.”

A two-runway Gatwick would deliver 40 billion pounds more in economic benefits and create 120,000 jobs, the airport said in a statement. Aircraft noise, one of the primary concerns London residents have about expanding local airports, would affect just 14,000 people, versus 240,000 impacted today at Heathrow, which is closer to the city, Gatwick added.

“Why would you choose to fly a quarter of a million more planes every year over one of the world’s most densely populated cities when instead you can fly them mostly over fields?” Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said.

Moving Roads

The land needed for a second landing strip at Gatwick was set aside about 10 years ago and is mostly agricultural, Dunn said, and unlike Heathrow no major roads would need to be moved, making the physical construction simpler and cheaper.

The new landing strip at Heathrow would cross the M25, Britain’s busiest motorway, though the road would not close during construction, the hub said. The airport envisions tunneling under the runway and increasing the number of lanes to seven in both directions.

Heathrow said its noise footprint would be cut by 30 percent by 2030 and that about 12,000 fewer people would be affected with the runway moved south. A 550 million-pound fund would go towards noise insulation and property compensation, including paying homeowners forced to move a sum 25 percent above the market value of their properties, the airport said.

The third proposal shortlisted by the Davies Commission would extend Heathrow’s existing northern runway so it could handle jets taking off and landing at the same time.

Crown Jewel

The plan, championed by Jock Lowe, who was the longest serving Concorde pilot with British Airways, would expand capacity to 220,000 flights annually and could be in place by 2023, campaigner Heathrow Hub said in a statement. The group is independent of owner Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd.

“Our proposal is the most efficient, cost effective and politically realistic of the three proposals shortlisted,” Lowe said. “Heathrow is a jewel in Britain’s economic crown and it should expand both for the South East and for those seeking regional connections to international destinations.”

The two airports and Heathrow Hub will make their latest submissions to Howard Davies -- who heads the runway commission -- tomorrow. Davies has also pledged to undertake further work on London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans for a new hub airport in the Thames estuary, which was excluded from the shortlist.

“It is lunacy to suggest that any plan to build a third runway will reduce noise levels at Heathrow,” Daniel Moylan, Johnson’s aviation adviser, said in an e-mailed statement, while dismissing the Gatwick pitch as an “humongous red herring” failing to provide the four-runway hub needed to allow the U.K. to compete with our European rivals.

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