London/Heathrow Third Runway Approved, Protests Abound

We’ve heard the beginning of this story a million times. Airport wants to expand, people protest, and the process gets bogged down for years and years. On the surface, that’s what has happened with Heathrow’s bid to build a third runway to alleviate congestion and to grow, but underneath, it’s a different kind of situation. And that’s why the recent approval to build the third runway has been met with wide-ranging protests.

Usually, the only people protesting airport expansion are those who live around the airport. They don’t like the noise and the traffic, even though the airport in most cases was there long before they arrived. And while we have seen that with Heathrow, the bigger protest has actually centered around the environmental impact on a broad scale.

It makes absolute sense to add a third runway at Heathrow. The airport is bursting at the seams, and there really aren’t any better options for more capacity, despite London Mayor Boris Johnson’s ill-fated support for a (zany) brand new airport in the middle of the Thames estuary. But many people in the UK are now saying that there shouldn’t be expansion because airplanes pollute too much. They don’t want more plane flights in London at all, despite the benefits that are brought to the population.

Look at some of these headlines . . . “Concrete and calamity at Heathrow” or “Third Heathrow Runway a Massive Step Backwards.” But it gets even crazier than that. “MP suspended from Commons after picking up mace in Heathrow protest” shows how people are really losing their minds over this. Many are saying that the government has let them down in the fight against climate change. I just have to shake my head.

People act like there are no efforts in the world of aviation to reduce emissions. That’s absurd. Engine manufacturers are jumping over each other to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency as we speak. And as those emissions come down, there’s no reason that we should restrict further air travel growth because of the tremendous economic benefits it provides.

It’s not like the government is completely ignoring climate change here. With the new runway, they have committed to building an intermodal hub for high speed train travel at the airport, something that may very well kill many short haul flights and encourage people to travel greener. The government will also restrict use of the new Heathrow slots that the new runway will open only to the greenest aircraft flying. On top of that, the government only approved half the new number of flights that were originally proposed.

The new runway won’t be built until 2015 at the earliest, and that means there’s plenty of time for people to predict gloom and doom. Some think the requirements to use only the greenest aircraft will fall under pressure, but I would be surprised. This is the right thing to do, without question, but if anything it will put even more pressure on Heathrow to focus on green initiatives.

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24 Comments on "London/Heathrow Third Runway Approved, Protests Abound"

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A
Guest
The new runway won’t be built until 2015 at the earliest I work in a field where I have to deal closely with regulatory processes, construction and very long project schedules. I personally know things like this take time, especially when dealing with eminent domain, property takeover and demolition, etc. That said, this is a strip of concrete and some wiring for lights. Nowhere near the engineering of other transit projects like a tunnel or suspension bridge that legitimately take years to complete. Once approvals are in place this is an easy project, relatively speaking. Given the times we live… Read more »
daren_siddall
Member
LHR is bursting at the seams, but I do sympathise with the local population. Of course let’s not forget many thousands of jobs in the area rely on the airport and its future success. If LHR gets relegated to a regional hub then we will suffer when we don’t have the many direct connections we enjoy today. And I agree, Boris Johnson’s idea is complete lunacy. The Thames estuary is miles from anywhere and is probably the biggest bird sanctury in the south east of England. As we know from recent experience, birds and planes are not a good mix!… Read more »
The Big K
Guest

Dumb question – wouldn’t a third runway reduce congestion and delays and therefore results in less waste of time and fuel?

Simon
Guest
A further issue here is ground transportation to the airport. The air pollution standards that will kick in in 2015 (the UK government can be fined by the EU if it fails to meet them) apply to all pollution generated by the airport, not just aircraft. I don’t think they can increase flights without seriously limiting the number of cars driving into the airport, and that’s going to mean a toll of some sort. Otherwise I can see them opening this runway but keeping the number of movements the same as now – which would be no bad thing at… Read more »
Bobber
Guest
A third runway does not change the fact that LHR is an appalling airport which is an embarrassment to the UK, a dreadful welcome to visitors. If the UK actually had any transport policy of note it would have devolved some of the capacity to regional airports, thus cutting the considerable movement of people from the rest of the UK down to LHR as the only place to fly out of. The Thames estuary airport isn’t Boris’s idea (he supports it), and it is miles out of London, but LHR and LGW are hardly central and we royally rip people… Read more »
David
Guest
Boris’ idea of building an idea in the Thames estuary has 2 safety problems. The first is the large number of birds in the local area – discussed at length in relation to La Guardia last week. The other issue is the shipwreck of the SS Richard Montgomery. This was a transport ship from WW2 that ended up wrecked on a sandbank close to where Boris suggests the new airport might be built. The problem is that it *still* contains 3,173 tons of munitions or 1,400 tons of TNT. If it were to go off, it would throw debris 10,000… Read more »
marek
Guest
The idea of an airport in the Thames estuary is not as crazy as is being suggested. It’s main problem is that it’s several decades too late. If the decision had been made when it was first seriously suggested as the solution to Heathrow’s inherent overcrowding, something like 30 years ago, London could now have a spacious and uncrowded airport, with approaches being made over water rather than right across the middle of a major urban area. The time to have made that switch was probably before committing the investment to building T4 at LHR, let alone T5 or T6.… Read more »
marek
Guest
@David The Richard Montgomery problem was not one I had heard of before, but I am not sure that I understand its relevance. The Wikipedia article you link to implies the wreck is off Sheerness, but that’s about ten miles south of Maplin which is the site about which (as far as I am aware) most of the serious thinking has been done about siting an airport in that area. Assuming (which may also be wrong) either and E-W or SW-NE configuration for the main runways, as the most obvious way of ensuring that traffic was kept over water as… Read more »
Mike
Guest
I don’t get the environmental concern here. All the third runway would do is relieve congestion and give room to grow. Without these things, an additional airport in the London metro area or moving/adding flights to Gatwick or Stanstead would eventually be required to meet demand. A third runway would prevent that. And isn’t that an environmental net gain? Surely the cost of a new airport in terms of environmental impact is more than the cost of a third runway at Heathrow, right? And the environmental impact is the same if a flight is going into Heathrow as it is… Read more »
Johnny Plane
Guest

These kinda of protests, like the run on to the runway at Stansted Airport is more of what I call Environmental Harassment. There is a billion more ways there concerns could be dealt with but these groups, a small group unnecessary disrupt business.

simon.forbes
Member

What I find amusing about this is that the Conservatives have pitted themselves pretty categorically against this project, and, lo and behold, find themselves in bed with the greens, crusties, and so on. They’ve previously set themselves up as the party for business, progress, expansion and so on, and now, having nailed their colours to this mast, appear to be the Luddites, solely (I suspect) because it was Someone Else’s Act.
If (when?) they get into power, watch for Boris and Dave’s assurances (“over my dead body”) being quietly forgotten and all sorts of justifications being provided.

csdf
Guest
“Usually, the only people protesting airport expansion are those who live around the airport. ” True. But in Heathrow’s case, the approach to the runways flies right over the city. I live in 12 miles from Heathrow (i.e. pretty much in the centre of London), but directly under the southerly approach flightpath and believe me, the noise is pretty loud, particularly at 5am when the first flights come in. The 3rd runway would make the noise issue worse because Heathrow would be able to drop mixed-mode use of the existing runway and allow continuous approaches (currently we get respite for… Read more »
The Traveling Optimist
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The Traveling Optimist
The 3rd Runway makes the most sense, with apologies to CSDF for the noise over the middle of town. An airport in the Thames Estuary is essentially an airport in the North Sea, one of the most temperamental bodies of water in Europe. The cost of land reclamation for an airport high enough to avoid regular flooding much less the service disruptions alone point right back to simply expanding LHR. As far as the global community is concerned there is only one airport in Paris, CDG. Orly is largely for the locals and cheap European outfits. I love London and… Read more »
David
Guest
Optimist – In 2008, Stansted had 22.3 million pax passing through while Luton had 10.2 million. Until the movements cap at STN was recently lifted, STN was full for anything except the most undesirable slot timings. Even Luton with a mere 10 million ranks as the 5th busiest airport in the UK. LHR needs a 3rd runway just for itself – it’s already running daily at well over 95% of movements capacity. By 2019, when a 3rd runway opens at LHR it is extremely unlikely that all the traffic at Luton could be absorbed into the remaining London airports. London’s… Read more »
The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The Traveling Optimist

Thanks for the numbers, David. I did some math and added up the five London airports to around 140 Million. That’s a lot of movement.

Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, City. That’s a lot to sort out.

Euston, St. Pancras, King’s Cross, Victoria, Waterloo, Paddington and Charing Cross. Ditto.

Runway-3 at LHR won’t do much for BritRail but I’m all for any infrastructure improvement that will help the poor fool who’s never been to London before.

Simon
Guest
@ Mike: the issue is that as well as giving permission for a third runway, they’ve given permission for a 40% (I think – certainly that order of magnitude) increase in movements. That is what people are complaining about. It also means that LHR will not get any better – it will go from operating at 99% capacity and unable to recover from weather, incident, etc., to still being in the 90%s of capacity and not great at reovering from issues. @csdf: I’m also under the southern approach, about 7.5 miles from LHR and I have to say I’ve never… Read more »
David
Guest

Optimist – the UK Govt was seriously considering rationalising London’s train termini does to just 4 in the 1960s. Alas passenger traffic has grown far beyond the levels of 40 years ago. You’ve missed the following terminals in your list – Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street, Blackfriars, London Bridge, Cannon Street and Marylebone, making a total of 13, yes thirteen, major train termini in central London !

The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The Traveling Optimist

I knew you’d catch that, David! I was purposely leaving out all the commuter stations and sticking with the big guns cuz I couldn’t name them all! LOL

Flying in to London is always interesting. Do you get the Thames River approach or Windsor Castle but, again, as someone who lives under DFW, I understand it’s not always fun for the people on the ground.

csdf
Guest

@Simon. Above Battersea/Wandsworth, the planes do something with their engines which results in a load roar – probably straightening up for the final approach. If you’re outside you actually have to raise your voice to be heard. On some days, when the wind’s wrong for an approach from the East towards Heathrow, we have the fun of the City airport approach (from the South, veering East) instead. :/ Luckily those are mostly props, but still…

The Traveling Optimist
Guest
The Traveling Optimist

CSDF – Five possible reasons for change in engine pitch
1) Wind direction change which can make them seem louder.
2) Slow approach. Need to speed up a tad for spacing.
3) Below glide slope. Need to increase altitude a hair.
4) Vector change. Maintain speed while turning slightly.
5) Attitude adjustment. Raising the nose but keeping speed.

Those more expert than I may add other reasons to this list but those tend to be some of the more common causes.

compare car hire
Guest

You know I had few connections in UK when I was traveling to Italy and it was Packed, and nerve wracking getting from one gate to another. I hope they fix this and somehow still save the Earth.

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