Plans for Heathrow’s third runway to bridge the M25, described as a “deep joy” for engineers, have been slammed by a leading airline group.
International Airlines Group (IAG), which includes British Airways, has accused Heathrow Airport (HAL) of having no detailed risk or cost analysis for the proposal, which it says will add £3bn to its current £17bn growth bill. Expansion would be privately financed and airlines would bear the brunt of costs.
In its submission to the draft Airports National Policy Statement consultation, which closed last week (25 May), the group added that a runway at 3,200m instead of 3,500m would not breach the M25 and would save motorists significant disruption.
At New Civil Engineer’s Airports 2017 conference Heathrow expansion programme director Phil Wilbraham confirmed the runway will most likely run over the M25, calling the project “exciting stuff for engineers”.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said airlines would refuse to pay for a costly runway.
“Bridging the M25 means years of disruption on a motorway already plagued by delays and congestion. As well as increased costs, this will have a huge impact not only on motorists but on local communities around Heathrow,” said Walsh.
“The airport has yet to produce a business plan that assesses the financial implications and risks of bridging the M25. We will not pay for a runway that threatens both costs and delays spiralling out of control and where critical elements of the project could be undeliverable.”
Plans for a shorter runway were rejected by the Airports Commission as it would have a bigger noise impact on local residents. Heathrow’s expansion design team has also considered ideas to move the M25 and divert it through a tunnel.
“Like all major infrastructure projects, we have to balance several factors in order to deliver the increase in airport expansion that Britain needs: risk, constructability, passenger experience, quality, affordability and time,” said a spokesperson for Heathrow.
“In each of these areas we have engaged expert advisers and consulted our airlines to ensure we get the right balance and the best outcome for our passengers, our local communities and the country as a whole.”
Heathrow will hold its own consultation on expansion later this summer.