A recent briefing to a group of travel writers at Heathrow where the airport was keen to show that they believe they are now ready for that major expansion.
Following on from the Sir Howard Davis report the 11 conditions set down they say are sorted and that includes the sensitive issue of night flights.
Given that if they are allowed to build the third runway to the north west of the current two runways that should mean that residents living in and around the airport will be given greater periods of respite as the runways are switched between landing and taking off during the day and night.
The present arrangement is that the north and south runways switch between take off and landing half way through the day giving residents periods when their homes and businesses are not over flown.
Having a third and separate runway rather than the extended northern one, which was on the table once as a plan. However this latest one would now mean that the rotation of incoming and outgoing flights is greater.
The expansion is not without its critics but the airport is doing its very best to build a connection with the residents around it. For instance where land and house purchases are necessary then the airport will pay 25% above the pre-blight market value. There is also money set aside for home insulation and other works to improve the local area.
The airport is really at bursting point, its running at 98% capacity so they see the Heathrow expansion as essential for growing their business and business for the whole country. Their desire to be the major hub airport for the UK is the goal and without that third runway they feel that competitors such as Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt will have an advantage and even if the go-ahead is given it will be many years before Heathrow can compete, so to speak, on a level runway with France, The Netherlands and Germany.
HEATHROW EXPANSION DILEMMA
Paris, Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt both have 4 runways with Schiphol in The Netherlands having 6 rather which rather puts Heathrow in the shade although currently it’s handling 75 million passengers a year around 10 to 15 million more per year than the major competitors in Europe.
Part of that success Director of Customer Service Ian Hanson feels is that Heathrow does come out really well on passenger surveys and is striving to do even better. Toilets, phone-charging points are all items that show up and improving those as well as other areas is an on-going project.
They like to feel that every member of staff at the airport is a member of ‘Team Heathrow’ and they look to those staff to try to enhance the passengers experience wherever they come into contact with them.
Some workers at the airport although they may seem to be part of the whole thing are in fact not. At the border entry point for instance these staff come under the Border Agency and the airport has no say over them.
Sometimes frustration by passengers does build up as they wait in long queues for immigration possibly blaming the airport or noting a poor experience these complaints affect the airport but there is little they can do. How the entry points are staffed and by how many is totally out of their control.
AIRFREIGHT BUSINESS GOOD FOR HEATHROW
As well as people moving in and out of the airport one area that is not always obvious to the flying public is that around two thirds of the UK air freight moves through Heathrow in the holds of passenger and cargo only planes.
This is usually high value goods, fragile or time sensitive goods like Scottish salmon. Those sorts of items help to keep the cost of your seats down as you jet off unaware of the varied goods under your feet!
Adam Tyndall Policy and Political Relations Manager said with that new runway at Heathrow it would bring thousands of new jobs. Around 40,000 are possible and that extra runway could also bring in 40 new destinations to add to the 185 they have already. A tunnel under the new runway for the M25 would reduce noise and avoid a busy junction in the area. 130 million passengers could be using a much better connected Heathrow with new rail links playing their part too.
My personal thoughts are this. Even if the diggers started today it would be well into the 2020’s before passengers would see any benefits. However why this decision has taken so long is down to political parties and governments that have not wanted or had the guts to make that decision.
I am sure the Victorians would have long ago had their spades and wheel- barrows in and on the ground as there vision with the railways and canals is no different. Its just that in this case rails are invisible tracks in the sky allowing connection to the whole world from a brand new super expanded junction called Heathrow!