Aviation & Heathrow


The Issues

  • Heathrow is important to the economy of the Thames Valley, with which it provides employment for many people living in the area.
  • The airport provides ready access to other parts of the UK and the World but is now operating at or near to capacity.
  • It is widely recognised that the UK needs additional airport capacity.
  • However, the environment around Heathrow is badly affected by noise and air pollution and the roads and other infrastructures in the area are already overstretched.
  • There are also dangers. In the last 5 years there have been two major incidents, which could have resulted in a disaster in residential areas, as happened in Queens, New York, twelve years ago.

So, how and where should the additional airport capacity be provided?

Our View of the Way Forward

  • Additional capacity should be provided at Gatwick and Stansted.
  • This will introduce competition into the aviation sector serving the South East of England.
  • It will also bring diversity, so that alternatives are available if one airport cannot operate.
  • It does not worsen the existing noise & air pollution and the burden on the local infrastructure around Heathrow.
  • It provides the opportunity for investment to benefit the wider area outside the South East of England.

The following sections explain our reasons for taking this view.

The Problems with Heathrow

Heathrow is in the Wrong Place

  1. Everyone acknowledges that Heathrow was built in the wrong place, being so near to the residential areas of West London and the towns west of the airport.
  2. Millions of people daily are adversely affected by its operations.
  3. Just 5 years ago, British Airways flight 38 crashed on the runway, having suffered fuel starvation on it approach over West London.
  4. On 24 May this year, a BA flight suffered an engine fire and just made it back to HR, coming in over West London.
  5. The same happened to a plane landing at San Francisco in July of this year. It actually happened, when a plane crashed in Queens New York in 2001.
  6. It is only a matter of time before an aeroplane does not make it to the runway and there is a major air crash in a residential area.
  7. If the proposed expansion of HR goes ahead, the number of flights each year can increase to 730,000 from the current 480,000. An increase of 52%
  8. With that the chance of a major disaster increases.
  9. And the daily misery of millions of people is magnified.

The Infrastructure Around Heathrow Is At Breaking Point

  1. Transportation links already massively overloaded
  2. Housing is massively overstretched
  3. House prices are astronomic – a tax on living in the area
  4. Far too little affordable housing is available
  5. House rental is expensive
  6. Hospitals are at breaking point
  7. Schools have too few places

The Environment Around Heathrow Is Badly Polluted

  1. Poor air quality, excessive noise
  2. The school children of Hounslow go out to play and the noise and pollution in the air is horrific. They go home and the noise and the air pollution is horrific.
  3. Cars under the flight paths are often covered with a film of fuel oil – from the air that we breathe.
  4. According to modelling by the Greater London Authority, …… areas of inner London, and around Heathrow will continue to exceed Nitric Oxide legal limit values and are at risk of doing so in 2015.
  5. Nitric Oxide is 300 times worse than CO2 in its effect on global warming
  6. The proposition that the adverse environmental impact of HR operations can be offset by a reduction in pollution from other sources means that the pollution around HR can rise even more.
  7. It already exceeds legal limits set by the European Union.

The Cranford Agreement

  1. The airport has two runways & their use depends upon the wind direction.
  2. The southern runway can be used for easterly and westerly flight arrivals and departures.
  3. The northern runway is used for westerly departures and westerly or easterly landings but it is not currently used for easterly departures because of the disturbance this would cause people living in Cranford.
  4. As a result, when the wind is coming from the east, departures have to use the south runway and all arrivals use the north runway.
  5. The north runway is in line with West Windsor, so all these easterly arrivals pass over us. When there is an easterly wind, there is no respite, sometimes for weeks at a time.

Heathrow’s Primary Concern Is Its Share Holders

  1. We have to remember that HA Ltd (BAA) and BA are not addressing the needs of the UK economy when they seek this expansion of HR.
  2. Their primary concern is the needs of their shareholders – who include Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial plus Qatari, Singaporean and Chinese sovereign wealth funds.
  3. BA’s market value is £7.5 billion (International Consolidated Airlines Group)
  4. HR Ltd (BAA)’s market value is £4.9 billion e) Evidence of this is that the number of destinations served from HR has significantly declined over recent years.
  5. The number of transfer passengers has significantly increased.
  6. This may be because they have concentrated on the profitable trans-Atlantic route at the cost of other, less profitable destinations.
  7. This is why the UK needs more competition in airport provision.

Heathrow Needs More Than A Third Runway To Compete

  1. Heathrow has 2 runways
  2. Schipol, Amsterdam has 6 runways
  3. Charles de Gaulle, Paris has 4 runways
  4. Frankfurt has 4 runways


We Cannot Trust Heathrow’s Figures

  1. Back in 1978 the Terminal 4 public inquiry was assured that no further capacity would be needed.
  2. In 1995 the Terminal 5 inquiry was assured that a 3rd runway would not be needed.
    – Sir John Egan, BAA’s Chief Executive writes to residents in surrounding boroughs and says “T5 does not call for a third runway” (BAA’s ‘Dear neighbour’ letter to residents in a wide area around Heathrow; 16 May 1995).
    – In another ‘Dear Neighbour’ letter to residents (April 1999) Sir John Egan writes: “We have since repeated often that we do not want, nor shall we seek, an additional runway. I can now report that we went even further at the Inquiry and called on the Inspector to recommend that, subject to permission being given for T5, an additional Heathrow runway should be ruled out forever.
  3. In May 2003, just four years later, BAA admits publicly that it wants third runway at Heathrow
  4. Now we hear that BAA (or Heathrow Ltd as they are now known) say that it is just as well that their recent call for a third runway was turned down because it would not have been enough.
  5. How can we trust their predictions? It seems obvious that they will not be satisfied until they have runways 4, 5 and 6.

One Superhub Airport Or Several Hubs?

  1. Heathrow claims that a single hub airport is essential, so that everything can pass through it, rather like Clapham Junction.
  2. They would say that, wouldn’t they? This would give them a near monopoly on international flights from the UK.
  3. But the claim is not justified, as experience elsewhere shows.
  4. The premier city on the east coast of the United States, New York, is served by two major airports, in competition with each other.
  5. Where there are several hubs, the airlines operating from them form ‘alliances’ to provide a seamless service to their customers. The hubs compete to service the destinations.
  6. It is our view that the additional capacity needed in the South East should be provided at Gatwick and Stansted and the Midlands regional airports should expand their business.
  7. This will introduce competition into the aviation sector serving the South East of England.
  8. It will also bring diversity, so that alternatives are available if one airport cannot operate.
  9. It does not worsen the existing noise & air pollution and the burden on the local infrastructure around Heathrow.
  10. It provides the opportunity for investment to benefit the wider area outside the South East of England.

A New Superhub Airport In The Thames Estuary?

  1. If ‘Boris’s Island’ or any other superhub airport is built, it will have excellent connections to the centre of London.
  2. There is no doubt that all the airlines that operate internationally will choose to operate from this new location. This would have a major impact on the flight activities at Heathrow and therefore on the benefit it brings to the economy of the Thames Valley.
  3. It is therefore important that Heathrow should continue to operate as a major airport, serving London and the surrounding areas.

The Way Forward

We Need Competition

  1. It is not true that the UK economy is best served by a single hub.
  2. It is not true that a single hub is essential to meeting the needs of travellers
  3. For example, Newark and Kennedy in the US. Having more than one hub meets this need and delivers a competitive market.
  4. Airline alliances each need their own hub.
  5. There should be several hubs around London, serving the needs of travellers and providing competition.
  6. Gatwick Airport hopes to add a second runway after 2019, when a legal agreement with local residents to keep the airport at a single runway expires.
  7. The airport believes the country’s aviation capacity issue is best serves by three London airports – Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted – competing with multiple runways each.
  8. WE AGREE.

Shared Investments In Airports & Around The UK

  1. The proposal to create a single national hub at HR is unfair to the rest of the country.
  2. Once again, massive improvement in infrastructure will be focussed in the South East, whilst the rest of the country looks on.
  3. There is more to the UK economy than the prosperity of London and the Thames Valley.
  4. The present campaign to secure independence for Scotland is, in part, driven by the perception that it is treated unfairly by Westminster.
  5. We now hear that some in the North East would like to join an independent Scotland. f) It is essential that the vision for UK aviation addresses the needs of the whole country, not just the South East.
  6. The medium and long term strategy for aviation, and the investment that goes with it, has to include other airports, such as Birmingham & the East Midlands.

Reliable Benchmarks For Noise Nuisance

The Secretary of State promised to introduce a reliable method of measuring noise nuisance – we are still waiting.

This is urgently needed, if there are to be commonly accepted criteria for measuring and judging noise nuisance.

Summary – The Way Forward

  1. It is widely recognised that the UK needs additional airport capacity.
  2. UK airports need additional capacity to compete with Amsterdam and Paris.
  3. This can and should be provided elsewhere than at Heathrow.
  4. London has other airports. These should be expanded so that they can compete with Heathrow. These airports are Gatwick and Stansted. Both have capacity to expand and are sited in the countryside.
  5. Reliable benchmarks for noise and environmental pollution must be established, so that judgements are better informed.

The WWRA’s history in challenging the Cranford Agreement
Click here to read about the WWRA’s involvement in campaigning against the Cranford Agreement, and for a fair distribution of aircraft noise over Windsor and Datchet.