Heathrow expansion - exploring the alternatives

Many people agree that airport capacity in the UK needs to expand, so if a third runway at Heathrow is not an option, what can be done instead?

We do not propose any of these measures in particular, we just wish to make it clear that there are a large number of options that don’t include the expansion of Heathrow.

Don’t do anything

It is possible not to look for a solution. By not increasing UK airport capacity you put constraints on demand, cap noise levels and ensure that we don’t continue to increase the levels of air pollution and aviation’s growing contribution to climate change in the UK.

Thames Estuary Airport

The possibility of a floating airport built in the Thames Estuary has been proposed by a number of architecture firms, aviation companies and individuals, and was most recently championed by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.

By building the airport in the Thames Estuary, the issues of noise, air pollution and space would all be mitigated, as well as providing the opportunity to ensure the airport would be in an optimal position for flight paths.

This would also provide the chance to close Heathrow entirely, eliminating the issues that have plagued West London and allowing new development of the area.

Expansion of Gatwick or Stansted airports

Both Gatwick and Stansted airports are in much less densely inhabited areas, reducing or entirely removing the issues of noise, air pollution and space/community destruction.

Combine Heathrow and Gatwick into a ‘Super-Hub’

The use of a high-speed rail link between London’s two biggest airports could form a ‘super-hub’, providing the extra capacity currently needed as well as possibilities for expansion around Gatwick.

A new airport hub elsewhere

The construction of an entirely new airport hub elsewhere in the country is also a possibility. Recent reports say one company is looking at Oxfordshire and a 1971 government commission proposed Cublington, Buckinghamshire as the ideal location.

A bigger role for regional airports

There are a large number of regional airports elsewhere in the UK with plenty of spare capacity so it would be possible to use them. One of the arguments used for the expansion of Heathrow is that it will bring great economic benefits for the local area and this could be used to revitalise other areas in the UK rather than London. It would also mean that people far from London would have a major airport hub much closer to home.

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Updated: 22 July 2015