Heathrow Airport: The Third Runway

The Third Runway Debate

Heathrow Airport has had various initiatives related to prioritizing certain aspects of its operations and services. For instance, it has had strategies in place to prioritize environmental sustainability, customer service, and efficient operations. However, few have been as contenrious as the issue about getting a third runway.

The expansion of Heathrow Airport with a third runway has been a contentious issue for many years. While there are compelling economic reasons to expand the airport, there are also several reasons why the third runway has not been built as of my knowledge cutoff in 2021. Here are some of the key issues:

  1. Environmental Concerns: The expansion would significantly increase carbon emissions at a time when the UK, like many countries, is trying to reduce its overall carbon footprint to tackle climate change. An increase in flights would also lead to increased noise and air pollution in the surrounding area.

  2. Community Impact: The proposed third runway would require the demolition of several local villages and the displacement of many residents. This has led to strong opposition from local communities and from some local and national politicians.

  3. Legal Challenges: In February 2020, the Court of Appeal in London ruled that plans for a third runway were illegal because they didn’t adequately take into account the UK’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement. While the Supreme Court overturned this ruling in December 2020, saying that the third runway could legally go ahead, this example illustrates the kind of legal challenges that the expansion has faced.

  4. Costs: The estimated cost of the third runway is very high, running into billions of pounds. There has been debate over who should bear these costs and whether the economic benefits of the expansion would outweigh the costs.

  5. COVID-19 Pandemic: The pandemic caused a significant drop in air travel globally. This drop in demand, and the uncertainty about the future of air travel, may have implications for whether the third runway is built.