Heathrow plans a tunnel under runway for M25

Marion Dakers

HEATHROW wants to build a 14-lane motorway that would reach the airport through a 600-metre underground tunnel, as part of its £15.6bn plan to construct a third runway.

The airport, which along with Gatwick will today submit final proposals to the Davies commission, said the M25 upgrade between junctions 14 and 15 could be completed without causing disruption on the existing road.

As well as the motorway upgrade, Heathrow said it can build the third runway by 2025, a year earlier than previously claimed. It has also shifted the new runway several hundred metres south, saving 200 homes and the grade II-listed Church of St Mary in Harmondsworth. Around 750 homes will still be demolished to make way for the expansion.

Heathrow has also set aside £550m for compensation, compulsory purchases and noise insulation for nearby residents, and has planned for a slightly steeper flight path to take planes up to 570 feet higher over central and west London.

The airport pledged to pay 25 per cent above the unblighted market price for any homes that it bought to bulldoze.

“We believe it’s a plan that politicians can get behind… Do we choose to be Champions League or Championship? Only Heathrow can deliver the jobs and growth we need,” said John Holland-Kaye, who will take over from Colin Matthews as chief executive in July.

He said he is confident that international passengers need a hub airport in London, pointing out that “all these new [plane] models that are supposed to be hub-busters are being bought by network carriers”.

However, Gatwick said the proposals underlined how complex and expensive a bigger Heathrow would be.

“We are not going to build a motorway then charge people so they don’t use it,” said chief financial officer Nick Dunn, referring to Heathrow’s proposal last week to impose a congestion charge around the airport if emissions levels broke acceptable levels.

“As we talk to business leaders the story seems to be very clear that we need capacity, and we definitely need certainty. Our proposal is at least £10bn less than Heathrow and we have none of the difficulties,” he told City A.M.

Dunn argued that a second Gatwick runway would produce greater economic benefits than a larger Heathrow, due to more straightforward construction and enhanced competition between the two airports.

The government’s Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, will make a final recommendation on where to build a new runway after next year’s general election.


HEATHROW and Gatwick’s plans for new runways are not the only ideas vying for the attention of the Airports Commission.

Sir Howard Davies and his panel have also shortlisted the Heathrow Hub concept, devised by industry veterans including former Concorde pilot Jock Lowe, and are considering the Thames Estuary hub proposal backed by London mayor Boris Johnson.

The Heathrow Hub plan would see the airport’s northern runway extended, creating space for more frequent take-offs and ending night flights. While the airport itself has not given its support to the idea, proponents say parts of west London would enjoy less disruption from plane noise.

“We still think we’ve got the most efficient, cheapest and best solution for Heathrow,” Lowe told City A.M.

Meanwhile, the Davies commission has given Thames Estuary supporters until next week to put forward a final proposal, having said in December that more detail was needed before ruling the scheme in or out.

Estimates for the cost of a new, four-runway hub on the Isle of Grain to the east of London range from £50bn to £112bn.

Daniel Moylan, the mayor’s aviation adviser, hit out at both Heathrow and Gatwick’s proposals yesterday. He said Heathrow’s “claim to be the only deliverable plan on the table is patently untrue and ... based on false assumptions”, while the Gatwick option was “a humongous red herring”.