How to double up on Heathrow capacity (The Daily Telegraph)

Telegraph Assistant Editor Jeremy Warner gave his backing to the Heathrow Hub proposals put forward in the CPS publication ‘Double up on Heathrow‘. 

“Do they know something the rest of us don’t? The University Superannuation Scheme this week bought an 8.65pc stake in Heathrow Airport Holdings from its over-leveraged Spanish owners, Ferrovial.

This may be of little significance, but it is certainly an interesting bet by the profs’ pension fund – burdened as it is with a whacking great deficit – on the outcome of the Davies Commission review into UK airport expansion.

A list of favoured options is promised in December, with the final recommendation set to be announced, bizarrely – given the politically sensitive nature of some of the options – either just before the 2015 election, or immediately afterwards.

Apparently, there have been up to 50 different proposals – some of them, such as the one that would link London’s three major airports with a high speed “Maglev” rail line, borderline bonkers, but others less so. Sir Howard Davies has already indicated that between three and seven of these proposals will be shortlisted.

We can safely assume that Heathrow’s own plans for a third runway will be among them. I guess he is also duty bound to include Boris Island, which has at least succeeded in putting London airport expansion back on the political agenda, but it’s unlikely to go much further; the surface transport costs are said to be looking ever more prohibitive.

Less clear is whether Sir Howard shortlists the alternative, Heathrow Hub, idea. I think he should, because this offers the neatest approach to the problem. The plan is to extend the two existing runways east and west, and then split them halfway down, thereby creating four runways. No scheme is entirely without its drawbacks, and this one certainly has significant surface transport issues. Yet they are not insurmountable, and the beauty of the Hub is that it doesn’t expand the noise footprint at all, and even does something to mitigate the existing early morning noise problem over west London.

The same is not true of Heathrow’s favoured option of a third runway, prompting at least two Tory MPs with affected constituencies – Justine Greening and Zac Goldsmith – to say they will resign if it is approved. Some might count this as a result in itself, but I’m sure Sir Howard won’t let such base motives colour his judgment. In any case, the Hub may be a politically more palatable solution to Heathrow expansion than construction of an entirely new, third runway.”

To view the full column, visit The Daily Telegraph website.

Date Added: Monday 28th October 2013