Heathrow and Gatwick ramp up expansion plans

Harriet Green
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In the latest round in the battle between Heathrow and Gatwick to win permission to build the UK’s next runway, both airports have unveiled revised plans today.

Heathrow’s said it’ll offer £550m to compensate for the building of a third runway, with 750 homeowners offered 25 per cent above the market value for their properties, which would need to be demolished as part of its £17bn proposal.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, incoming chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the new runway, to be delivered by 2026, would deliver a £100bn boost to the economy, providing the only “hub” solution for Britain, making long-haul route expansion viable.

The Airport Commission has also shortlisted a separate proposal from Heathrow to extend its northern runway, allowing planes to take off and land at the same time.

Gatwick thinks it’ll cost £7.8bn to build a second runway by 2025, which’ll see 120,000 jobs created, fewer people disrupted and, it says, more benefitted. It calls its cheaper plan the only “deliverable” option, with capacity for 10m more people to travel than with Heathrow's plan.

When asked to highlight the plus points of the opposing proposal, Holland-Kaye pointed out that neither airport is really competing nationally, but internationally, as other countries fly past the UK in terms of infrastructure and flight numbers.

Gatwick’s Stewart Wingate says there has been “decades of dither and dather” over airport expansion. Political reluctance and strictures, particularly in the form of climate change targets, have hampered forward movement for airports.

The job of choosing between the two proposals falls to Sir Howard Davies, chair of the Airport Commission, who’s been asked to make a final recommendation to ministers on where a new runway should be built. That won’t happen until after next year’s general election, though.

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