Heathrow: Report Recommends Four Runways
An economist's study into the country's airport capacity recommends a four-runway airport at Heathrow.
As a fierce debate rages over the prospect of even a third, controversial, runway at the west London hub, Tim Leunig said it was clear the UK needed a four-runway airport if Britain was to compete with other big airports across Europe.
In the report for the think tank Policy Exchange, the best option is said to be four runways immediately west of the current Heathrow site in a move that would involve the M25 running under the airport and relocating the Wraysbury reservoir.
The existing two runways would be decommissioned under the plan which could apparently deliver a 75% increase in flights and passengers.
A four-runway airport at Luton in Bedfordshire would be the next-best but it said Thames Estuary airport plans, as supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson and by architect Lord Foster, were not practical.
Policy Exchange said an estuary airport would be too difficult to get to for too many people and would present greater environmental and construction challenges than expansion at Heathrow.
Also ruled out were four-runway airports at Gatwick or Stansted.
The report also called for a complete ban on the noisiest of aircraft at all times, a complete ban on night flights (between 11pm and 6.15am) and steeper landing angles to cut down on noise.
Mr Leunig said: "We can and should expand aviation capacity in south east England. Doing so will send a much needed signal to people that Britain is open for business.
"It is possible to expand Heathrow in such a way that it cements itself as Europe's number one hub, while significantly reducing the noise nuisance over west London.
"A four-runway airport would be straightforward to construct and relatively low cost by the standards of hub airports. It causes the lowest level of disruption to the wider economy of any likely airport expansion scenario."
A DfT spokeswoman said: "The strength with which the different options are put forward shows precisely why we were right to set up a proper independent review with the timescale to consider fully what is in the country's interest.
"Maintaining the UK's status as a leading aviation hub is vital to our economy and history suggests that, without an agreed evidence base and a high degree of political consensus, it will not be possible to deliver a lasting solution that is right for the UK."
Ministers have put off the final decision over whether to build a third runway at Heathrow until after the next general election.
Birmingham International Airport has been promoting itself as an alternative to expansion in the south east.
Paul Kehoe, its chief executive, told Sky's Jeff Randall Live he was "staggered" by the recommendation of four runways for Heathrow.
He said: " Heathrow is already a very constrained site. It's an excellent airport on two runways ...but it just can't cope in that location with extra runways.
"The third runway is a real challenge because of the requirements for Terminal 6 and widening of the M4 and re-widening of the M25 and all the extra infrastructure."
He concluded: "It just won't fit on that site."