Third runway impact on M25 could scupper Heathrow's plans
IAG, the group that owns British Airways, submitted a response to the Department for Transport Consultation that reinforced the view that current plans for a third runway would cause major disruption to traffic on the M25 and add £2-3 billion to the £17 billion infrastructure costs.
Ever since the North-West runway option was proposed, opponents have raised serious concerns about how the runway would work with the M25. Even supporters of the scheme had to accept that work to the M4/M25 junction could result is traffic chaos for as much as five years while building work takes place. In addition, residents were horrified that local roads were likely to disappear as part of plans to channel 14 lanes of local and airport traffic through a tunnel under the runway.
Changes to the local road network could cause extreme difficulties for residents who may have to travel miles out of their way to reach facilities they use in other areas.
Revised Heathrow plans moved the runway slightly south, to avoid significant alterations to the motorway junction, but issues with passing roads under the runway remained. We then heard that an alternative might be to create a ramp to elevate the runway, rather than digging a road tunnel. The idea was chiefly to cut some of the cost, which will inevitably increase from the current estimates.
Now IAG boss, Willie Walsh, has come up with another idea to cut costs as he continues to insist that his company will refuse to pay the huge cost of the third runway development - costs that will be passed on to passengers. Willie Walsh is suggesting that the third runway be reduced in length from 3,500 metres to 3,200 metres.
Heathrow has proposed a shorter runway before but have admitted that it is not what the airport or airlines really want. It is far easier to operate with three runways of more or less equal length as longer runways can accommodate all sizes of plane. A shorter runway is likely to be useless for bigger, heavier aircraft so they would be forced to use only the existing two runways.
It's possible that Heathrow could decide to move its proposed runway further east, destroying more houses in Sipson. However, this would mean aircraft would be slightly lower over London, something the airport would try to avoid due to an increase in noise complaints. A shorter runway could also reduce respite from noise for some communities.
Arguments in favour of Heathrow expansion have usually claimed that Heathrow is a favoured option because it has transport links but most of the surrounding roads have appalling congestion problems. Public transport is also full to bursting at certain times of day with buses and trains unable to cope with commuters and residents plus travellers and their suitcases. Unlike some parts of the South East where there is space to start from scratch with transport links, it will be difficult and costly to make improvements to what currently exists near Heathrow.
In his comments to the consultation Mr Walsh said: "The airport has yet to produce a business plan that assesses the financial implications and risks of bridging the M25.
"We will not pay for a runway that threatens both costs and delays spiralling out of control and where critical elements of the project could be undeliverable."