The Airport Commission assessed two options to expand Heathrow Airport and one proposal to build an extra runway at Gatwick Airport

London airport expansion to cost more than foreseen

The UK Airports Commission has published its assessment of the three previously recommended solutions for increasing London’s airport capacity, admitting the venture will likely cost more than previously thought.

The Commission focused on three previously shortlisted proposals including two options to build an additional runway at Heathrow Airport and one project to increase capacity at Gatwick Airport.

According to the Commission, the Heathrow alternative could cost up to £4bn more than previously expected, possibly pushing up passenger charges. However, the Commission said, the project could also result in wider economic benefits.

Building a second runway at Gatwick Airport would cost about £2bn more than forecast.

The assessment – which took into consideration multiple factors including the effect on communities, noise emission, loss of property, disruption caused by the construction, as well as the expected environmental impacts – has now been made available to the public.

“Since our interim report last year we have undertaken a huge amount of work,” said Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Commission, which also includes Sir John Armitt, Professor Ricky Burdett, Vivienne Cox and Professor Dame Julia King.

“We have carried out a thorough assessment, across a comprehensive range of subjects, looking at the benefits and impacts of each proposal,” he said, stating the Commission has not yet taken a view on which proposal strikes the most effective balance between the assessed criteria.

The public will have a chance to comment on each of the considerations detailed in the report during a three-month consultation period, which ends in early February 2015. During that period, the Airports Commission will hold open discussion sessions for local stakeholders in both the Heathrow and Gatwick areas. 

“Responses to this consultation will be a valuable addition to our evidence base and will directly inform our recommendation to the government when we publish our final report in the summer of 2015,” Sir Davies said.

The Airports Commission was set up by the UK government in November 2012 as an independent body to examine the scale and timing of any requirement for additional capacity to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub. Its main task was to identify and evaluate how any need for additional capacity should be met in the short, medium and long term.

In its interim report, published in December 2013, the Commission identified a need for one additional runway in London and the south-east and shortlisted three proposals for detailed appraisal and public consultation.

The two Heathrow airport expansion proposals include building an additional runway to the north-west of the existing northern runway or extending the northern runway in order for it to function as two separate runways.

The Gatwick Airport expansion proposal expects an additional runway to be built to the south of the existing one.

The Commission previously rejected a fourth option, an entirely new airport in the inner Thames estuary as proposed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

The final report will be published by the summer of 2015.

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