London Heathrow airport – Europe’s busiest and most important hub to trans-Atlantic flights – has recently won funding from a government-appointed committee for a third runway, in hopes that the issue of runway capacity shortage will be alleviated.

Independent Airports Commission is the one to win the bid for the expansion in a race against rival contender Gatwick Airport and its owner Global Infrastructure Partners. However, more than $20 billion will be invested in the building of the new runway at Heathrow.

After efforts to come up with a plan for the runway capacity shortage occurring in the London area have failed, the current panel was called into action, back in November 2012. Its job was to make sure that a third-party group would propose a viable plan.

Given that the U.K. has been going through elections, the commission kept the verdict on the low-key until after the finalization of general elections. Back in the 2010 elections, the Conservative Party – with Prime Minister David Cameron at helm – led a harsh campaign against Heathrow expansion, but that changed while the party was in office.

According to U.K. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, the government should not refuse what he called “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to answer a vital question.” He is scheduled to present upcoming plans in parliament on Wednesday.

Doing nothing about the Heathrow issue is not an option – it could deprive the wider economy of more than £45 billion ($70 billion), according to the panel. Adding a new runway, however, would not only create opportunities for connections to new travel destinations, but it would also add 70,000 jobs by 2050.

Before approving the current Heathrow third-runway proposal, the commission had rejected prepositions of building a brand-new airport and a nontraditional alternative of upgrading an existing runway by extending it and using it as two independent airstrips.

Making the Heathrow hub even larger has raised plenty of local concerns from environmentalists who worry about increasing pollution and noise. However, the commission has proved to hear and listen to their concerns by completely ruling out any possibility of a fourth runway, alongside the fact that no night flights will fly from 11:30 p.m. until 6 a.m.

Even though the commission has declined the alternate Heathrow runway plan, it was considered for a while to be a feasible solution. However, growth options and economic benefits would have been limited, as the additional capacity would have focused on intra-European routes rather than trans-Atlantic ones.
Image Source: Express.co.uk