For over a decade, London’s Heathrow airport has been operating at 98% capacity, handling over 70 million passengers in recent years. However, it’s lost the title of World’s Busiest International Airport to Dubai and a huge new airport under construction in Istanbul threatens to weaken Heathrow’s standing as an international hub further. Talk of expansion has been going on for years, whether it be lengthening an existing runway or building an entirely new one, or even improving Gatwick instead. Plans were drawn up under Gordon Brown and subsequently shelved by David Cameron and then a commission was set up to deal with the issue. After a lot of back and forth and a lot of indecision, the Government finally announced that a third runway at Heathrow was their preferred option.
Cue nationwide arguments.
Initial plans talked about a tunnel for one of the busiest and most dreaded stretches of motorway in the country. If the traffic is bad now, imagine how much worse it would be as they try to tunnel a dozen lanes of M25 underneath a new runway. Fortunately, it appears there is another plan in place, building the runway itself over the road, it is hoped that this will significantly reduce the disruption to road users, while being cheaper and quicker. Begs the question, why wasn’t this Plan A?
Heathrow accounts for over 150 times the freight value compared to Gatwick at the moment, with this expansion, that figure will likely only increase. It’s important to remember though, it took around 20 years for Terminal 5 to go from conception to completion. So, it’s unlikely that there’ll be a 500-tonne jet doing 150mph over the roof of the tunnel you’re driving in any time soon.