The Anonymous Widower

What Will Boris Do About The Proposed Third Runway At Heathrow?

I have tackled this before in October 2016 in a post called Changing Sides.

This was how I started that post.

There is an interesting article in The Sunday Times today, entitled Boris Retreats In Fight Against Third Runway.

Boris is apparently saying he won’t oppose a third runway at Heathrow, so if anything he’s being consistent in changing horses, just as he did with Michael Gove.

But perhaps more surprisingly, Willie Walsh, the Chief Executive of IAG, who own BA, is quoted as calling Heathrow a fantasy project, which has been gold-plated and inflated by the owners to maximise their returns, at the expense of the airlines.

The paper also says that Gatwick will build a new runway anyway.

Remember, it was written before Theresa May’s government decided to allow Heathrow’s Third Runway.

Since the decision to allow Heathrow to build a Third Runway was made nearly three years ago in October 2016, there have been a lot of changes.

Notably, Boris has gone from Foreign Secretary and an MP in a Heathrow Expansion-opposing constituency to Prime Minister.

As Prime Minister he is supposed to look at the bigger picture.

Unless he’s totally stupid he must have noted the following.

Brexit Has Changed From A Simple Quick Exit Into A Slow And Very Tortuous Process

I would expect an opinion poll would show that the UK population thinks that sorting out Brexit is a much more important problem, than the decision on a new runway in the South East of England.

So will Boris put Heathrow’s Third Runway on the back burner, given the following factors

Gatwick Will Build A Second Runway Anyway

In the Wikipedia entry for Gatwick Airport, there is a section entitled Expansion Proposals, where this is the first paragraph.

Gatwick has been included in a number of reviews of airport capacity in southeastern England. Expansion options have included a third terminal and a second runway, although a 40-year agreement not to build a second runway was made in 1979 with West Sussex County Council. Expanded operations would allow Gatwick to handle more passengers than Heathrow does today, with a new terminal between two wide-spaced runways. This would complement or replace the South Terminal, depending on expected future traffic.

My project management knowledge tells me, that Gatwick could add a second runway and upgrade the terminals in a shorter time, than Heathrow can build a third runway.

But more importantly, Gatwick Airport could build the extra runway and terminal without disruption to airport passengers, aircraft and road traffic on the nearby M23.

Boris’s only problem with Gatwick expansion, is the amount of post he’ll get from Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.

Disruption Must Be Avoided

Recent timetabling and construction fiascoes on Thameslink and Northern Rail should have sent a message to politicians, that large infrastructure projects must be created without disrupting train or air passengers and road traffic.

Can Heathrow Be Built Without Disrupting Traffic On The M25?

It is interesting to look back at the basic facts at the construction of Heathrow Terminal 5.

  • A public enquiry into the project lasted 525 days.
  • The terminal sits on a 260 hectare site.
  • Construction started in 2002.
  • The terminal opened in 2008.
  • Construction finisged in 2011.
  • The terminal cost £4.2billion.

The construction of Terminal 5, also needed the M25 to be widened and linked to the terminal.

This Google Map shows Heathrow Terminal 5 and its relationship to Heathrow’s current two runways and the M25.

I remember the construction of Terminal 5 well, if only because, I was stuck in or moving slowly along that section of the M25 so many times.

As this immense construction project, is probably in living memory of much of the population of West London, how will they react to the thought of all the disruption, that building the third runway will cause.

Would Uxbridge, throw Boris out, if he approved the building of a third runway at Heathrow?

Heathrow Is A Pollution Blackspot

Various factors mean, that the surroundings of Heathrow are a pollution blackspot, mainly caused by the large number of diesel vehicles on the M4 and M25 motorways and others bringing passengers and goods to the airport.

I believe that any Planning Permission for the third runway, will require Heathrow to do something about the pollution. This could be easier than anybody thinks, as more of us will be using electric vehicles by the time the runway opens.

Heathrow are already proposing their ULEZ or Ulta Low Emission Zone.

Heathrow Rail Access Will Improve

Crossrail will eventually serve Heathrow in a year or so and this will improve rail access to the Airport significantly.

Other rail links are also in prospect.

The first two would be privately financed.

This better rail access may reduce the traffic and pollution around the airport, but it will make it easier, for passengers to use the airport and traffic will grow.

High Speed Rail

Increasingly, Heathrow and the other London airports, will come under competition from High Speed Rail.

Eurostar has upwards of seventy percent of the London-Paris and London-Brussels passenger markets.

I have travelled a few times from London to Amsterdam on Eurostar and feel that four hours is my limit for comfortable train travel.

I estimate the following journeys would be possible on Eurostar.

  • London and Cologne via Brussels in four hours
  • London and Bordeaux via Paris in four and a half hours.
  • London and Frankfurt in Five hours.

Another competitor to air services out of London will be London and Edinburgh services on the East Coast Main Line, which are being updated with new faster trains and journey times under four hours.

Air Cargo And Heathrow

I looked up air cargo in Wikipedia and these points are there.

  • Fifty-percent of all air frieght is belly-cargo on airlines.
  • An industry expert estimates that 15-20 tonnes of air cargo is worth 30-40 economy passenger seats, when both are on passenger planes.
  • In 2017, the IATA observed a 9% rise in freight tonne kilometres
  •  Boeing is doubling its 767F production since 2016 to three per month in 2020.

Heathrow dominates the air cargo traffic into and out of the UK and last year it handled 1,788,815 tonnes of cargo, which was a 5.3% increase in tonnage on 2017.

However, it does appear that the second largest cargo airport in the UK; East Midlands, handled about the same amount of freight as Heathrow in April 2018.

There is also the East Midlands Gateway close to that airport, which will be a massive logistics park., with a rail connection.

Perhaps the pressures of the congested Heathrow, with some nudging from the Government could remove the cargo aircraft from the airport to more suitable airports like East Midlands and Doncaster Sheffield.

Manchester Airport Is The Most Important Airport North Of London

Manchester Airport is the busiest Airport after Heathrow and Gatwick and over the next few years it will catch up to a certain extent.

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North, I said this about Manchester Airport’s rail connectivity if High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail are combined across the Pennines.

If High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail are developed as laid out in the Transport for the North report, the following cities will be connected to Manchester Airport.

  • Birmingham – High Speed Two
  • Blackpool – Northern Powerhouse Rail/West Coast Main Line
  • Bradford – High Speed Two/Northern Powerhouse Rail
  • Carlisle – Northern Powerhouse Rail/West Coast Main Line
  • Edinburgh – Northern Powerhouse Rail/East Coast Main Line
  • Glasgow – Northern Powerhouse Rail/West Coast Main Line
  • Hull – High Speed Two/Northern Powerhouse Rail
  • Leeds – High Speed Two/Northern Powerhouse Rail
  • London – High Speed Two
  • Newcastle -High Speed Two/Northern Powerhouse Rail
  • Preston – Northern Powerhouse Rail/West Coast Main Line
  • Sheffield – Northern Powerhouse Rail
  • Sunderland –  Northern Powerhouse Rail
  • York – High Speed Two/Northern Powerhouse Rail

Manchester Airport will probably become the most important station in the North with High Speed connections to a large part of England and Scotland.

Heathrow and Gatwick will find they have a very big and well-connected Northern competitor.

Extinction Rebellion And Other Environmental Protesters

Most of the environmental protesters like Extinction Rebellion seem to have focused their attention on Heathrow, where airports are concerned.

They will fight tooth and nail to stop Heathrow’s third runway.

Will Heathrow Get The Planning Permission They Need?

I think that this is the sort of planning decision, that will end up with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Theresa Villiers.

Her Wikipedia entry says this.

Villiers favours construction of a high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham and Manchester, arguing that flyers could use capacity at airports such as Birmingham International and Manchester International Airport.

She is also quoted as being against a third runway at Heathrow, when she was a member of Davisd Cameron’s cabinet.

Grant Schapps, who is the current Secretary of State for Transport, could be more supportive to Heathrow’s application.

The Mood Of The UK About The Environment

The view of the average UK voter on the environment has changed markedly in the last few years, driven by documentaries, events and politics from around the world.

Boris’s father; Stanley Johnson has written books on the environment and received the Greenpeace Award for Outstanding Services to the Environment, so this could fit with his opposition to a third runway at Heathrow, when he was Mayor of London.

Do Heathrow Airport Have A Plan B?

In Heathrow Plans Runway Over M25 In 30-Year Expansion, I outlined how I thought the runway would be built.

The Times says this about the construction program.

Only the runway would be built by the opening date of early 2026.

Other facilities such as new terminals, car parks, hotels and transit systems would open from 2030, with an expansion of Terminal 5 the priority

This means that the extra runway capacity can be used initially to better accommodate the same number of flights.

Perhaps Plan B would mean changing the order of construction, leaving a space for the third runway and getting Planning Permission to build it in perhaps starting in 2028.

Conclusion

This is a tough one to call and I know what I would do. I would just let it fester until the decision was forced by another factor.

But Boris is the Prime Minister and will have to make a decision!

 

 

 

 

D

September 1, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments