New sky thinking: The airport debate

November 2, 2012

The UK needs to increase its aviation capacity. Without it, our economy will suffer, damaging our global competitiveness and losing access to rapidly expanding emerging markets. We can no longer afford to continue the procrastination about aviation expansion that has characterised this issue for the past few decades. The longer we delay the more we risk falling behind our global competitors.

That is why we need to show ambition, with a major hub airport. Like other global hubs, this airport should have four runways to maximise capacity and send the clearest possible signal that the UK is open for business.

Our recent report, ‘Bigger But Quieter’, concluded that the best place for this four runway hub would be at Heathrow.  This would double the capacity of Heathrow to 130 million passengers a year – cementing its place as Europe’s premier hub. The fact that existing terminals and infrastructure could be used as well as the proximity of Heathrow for passengers and businesses and passengers, means that this would be the cheapest, quickest and most effective way of boosting airport capacity.

Expansion should not happen without considering the environmental impact and the impact on local people. Local residents are understandably concerned about the potential increase in noise that would result from expansion. That is why we’re proposing moving the runways 3km to the west of the existing position, where fewer people will be affected, as well as introducing a complete ban on night flights and a complete ban on the noisiest aircraft at all times. This would mean that the new airport would be significantly quieter than the present one but also have double the capacity.

If such an option proves to be politically unfeasible, the Government should consider developing a four lane airport at Luton, which is well served by public transport and well connected with the North and Midlands.

Government needs to press on with aviation expansion, which is crucial to our future prosperity. And expanding Heathrow is clearly the most affordable and most workable way of doing this.

This article originally appeared on Building Magazine’s website

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