’s owner today unveiled a radical plan to build up to two more runways to solve the airport’s capacity issues.
In its submissions to the U.K. Airports Commission, Heathrow Airport Ltd. is proposing three options for a third runway placed either to the north, northwest or southwest of the existing airport.
While the options would mean major changes to the surrounding area including the demolition of nearby villages, the company claims that the options are quicker to build and implement than the creation of a new hub airport, as suggested by London mayor Boris Johnson.
The southwest option would be a 3,500 m (11,500 ft.) runway and an extra two terminal satellite buildings west of the airport. The northern runway provides for a 2,800 m runway, while the northwest option calls for a 3,500 m runway.
Heathrow Airport says the changes could deliver new capacity between 2025 and 2029 for £14-18 billion ($21-27.5 million), less than quarter of the expected cost of a new airport. The company says that all three of the options would raise capacity at Heathrow to 740,000 flights a year, from the current limit of 480,000, allowing it to cater for as many as 130 million passengers annually.
This, says the company, would allow the U.K. to compete with its international rivals and provide economic benefits to the U.K. worth up to £100 billion.
“Each of the options could be turned into a four runway solution should the demand increase,” the airport says, noting that the fourth runway would probably not be needed until 2040.
The company claims that the total number of nearby residents affected by aircraft noise will fall even with the third runway, as the runways will be placed west of London. “Each mile the runway is moved to the west puts arriving aircraft approximately 300 ft. higher over London,” the company says.
Continued improvements in aircraft and air traffic technology will also result in fewer people being disturbed, the airport says, adding that even with a third runway, there will be 10-20% fewer people within Heathrow’s noise footprint in 2030 than today.
Heathrow Airport had studied a range of options before proposing the three runway locations. Earlier this year, Aviation Week reported on a Heathrow consultation document that suggested two locations for a new four-runway airport west and northwest of London, in Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
A recent report by Heathrow Airport and architectural and planning consultants AECOM and Quod said that the U.K. is best served by a single hub airport, rather than splitting hub operations between Heathrow and an expandedor .
The Airports Commission, launched to examine U.K. airport capacity, later this year will issue recommendations to improve the U.K.’s airport capacity for the next five years. But longer term recommendations, such as Heathrow’s initiatives revealed today, will not be announced until summer 2015.