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A Third Runway at Heathrow?

UK Government policy is currently to support the expansion of Heathrow by the provision of a third runway. This is based primarily on advocacy of Heathrow Airport Limited and its predecessors over decades that culminated in the conclusion in the summary of the Airports Commission report in 2015.

However, the modelling in the body of that report demonstrated that expanding Heathrow would deliver no significant return to the UK’s economy. Instead, Heathrow’s third runway would divert flights and wealth to London at the expense of the rest of the country.

A third runway at Heathrow would reduce growth of the UK’s aviation sector, leave unchanged the growth in UK’s long-haul destinations, and reduce growth in the UK’s short-haul destinations. It would not improve connectivity in terms of number of destinations served from the UK. Instead a new runway would result in higher frequencies of flights to the already most popular routes.

Around 50% of the new capacity would be used for International-to-International transfer passengers which are of little or no value to the UK. Most of the rest of that additional capacity would be taken up with leisure flights.

In addition to there being no economic case for a third runway at Heathrow, there are many other reasons why there should not be any further expansion at the airport. These include air pollution, noise, carbon emissions, surface access and traffic/public transport congestion, the likelihood of a large public subsidy being needed, and the suppression of competition from other airports leading to higher costs to airlines and passengers.

Nevertheless, in 2018 Parliament voted for this to proceed. Despite High Court defeats on environmental grounds, despite the contraction of aviation arising from the Covid-19 Pandemic, and despite the absence of a convincing economic case, Heathrow expansion is still government policy

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign has been active in scrutinising government policy for Heathrow since 2007. We have submitted extensively researched responses to every government consultation since then.

Our latest responses can be found on our page for this year, 2021.

Earlier responses going back to 2013 are available on the accompanying web pages: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2015 and 2016 and the years 2013 to 2014, which cover the government’s Airports Commission consultations.