The expansion of Heathrow airport is a polarising and complicated issue, but what exactly does it mean for you, the traveller? Our quick guide explains the main facts and what it means for you…
After much debate, ministers agreed in late October that they would prefer a third runway and new terminal to be built at Heathrow instead of Gatwick. A public consultation at the west London hub will take place over the next few weeks, but the final decision on the new runway will not be made until the winter of 2017/2018 when parliament is expected to vote. The new runway could be operational by 2025 but many believe that it will take much longer in reality.
According to the Telegraph, Heathrow is the UK’s only airport serving as a layover point for long-distance travellers and it has been operating at 98% of capacity for more than a decade.
The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, commented: “I am proud that after years of discussion and delay this government is taking decisive action to secure the UK’s place in the global aviation market – securing jobs and business opportunities for the next decade and beyond.”
Following Brexit, the government wants to ensure that Britain remains open for business as an epi-centre of tourism and trade.
For travellers, the expansion will increase the number of direct and non-direct flights to a number of destinations around the world – with over 40 new routes expected by 2030 including India, Russia, China and Brazil. There would also be a greater choice of airlines for holiday-makers, which may drive down the cost of fares.
Heathrow also claims that many passengers would benefit from a shorter transfer time to the airport and that a new runway at Gatwick would have increased the travel times for a large percentage of travellers.
The new runway is expected to generate economic benefits for passengers and the wider economy alike to the tune of £61bn, in addition to creating up to 77,000 jobs in the local area.
It’s understandable why local residents may be reluctant to have thousands more flights overhead each year. Hence, the government has suggested that a six-and-a-half hour flight ban be imposed on night flights, and strict noise restrictions must be implemented.
The plan is not without its environmental and social costs, too. The expansion will cost £17.6bn and the nearby village of Harmondsworth will be have to be vacated and demolished.
Moreover, campaigners are arguing that the extension will be detrimental to the UK’s air quality, increase noise pollution, and hinder Britain’s climate change obligations. It is also predicted that it will lead to an increase of almost 50% more planes flying overhead in London and bring more boroughs under the flight path.
A public consultation will soon be underway so don’t forget to have your say.