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Airports Commission publishes appraisals of Heathrow and Gatwick expansion options

11th November, 2014


The Airports Commission has published its appraisals of options to expand Heathrow – doubling the length of one of the runways (the Heathrow Hub proposal) or building a third runway, or to expand Gatwick through building a second runway. We responded in our press release here.

The airports don’t know how much it would cost to build a new runway

The main story to emerge in the press has been the fact that all three of the scheme proposers underestimated the cost of building a new runway with Gatwick underestimating their costs by £2 billion (total cost of £9.3 billion), and Heathrow underestimating their costs by £3.8 billion (total cost £18.6 billion). It is still not clear exactly how much the costs of building a runway would be financed by public money, which we raised as a major concern in our recent blog.

Passengers would pay for a new runway

Another key issue to emerge from the Airports Commission’s appraisals is the fact that landing fees at either airport would have to increase to pay for the runway and these costs would be transferred to passengers. At Gatwick, passengers could be expected to pay an average of £15-18 for landing fees compared to £8 today. At Heathrow, the costs would rise from £20 today to £28-29 (with a peak of £32 on top of your ticket). Such price increases, as we highlighted in our report earlier in the year, would challenge the commitment of budget airlines to using Gatwick airport. The landing fees would be considerably higher than the rate of Air Passenger Duty on a shorthaul ticket.

A new runway could mean more people are affected by noise

At Gatwick, the number of people overflown would double according to the Airports Commission. The Heathrow Hub proposal, which had the main selling point of lower noise impacts than Heathrow’s proposed North West runway, would in fact also increase the numbers exposed to noise. If a North West runway was built at Heathrow, the noise impact would be less clear according to the Commission’s analysis, with numbers exposed to night noise potentially reducing while the number exposed to daytime noise could grow (compared with a no-expansion scenario).

A new runway would have ‘adverse’ impacts on local air quality

The sustainability appraisal of either a new or extended Heathrow runway describes the impact on local air quality as ‘significantly adverse’ and says it would pose a risk to local air quality levels. At Gatwick, the impact on local air quality is described as ‘adverse’. Both pose a risk of breaching legal limits on air quality.

The Airports Commission doesn’t consider carbon costs

The Airports Commission’s analysis of the wider economic impact of expansion fails to reflect the full carbon costs. These costs, according to the Commission would ‘dominate’ the economic appraisal of the schemes. The Airports Commission also acknowledges that it hasn’t considered what policies would be needed to restrict growth of emissions to the level they use in each stage of their analysis.


Airports Commission’s Consultation and appraisals of a new runway at Heathrow, Heathrow Hub, Gatwick are available online

Consultant reports of the noise, air quality and carbon impacts of a new runway are available here