Third runway ‘not needed’ for business

Release Date: 15 June 2018

A third Heathrow runway would be taken up by mainly short-haul routes with just three additional long-haul destinations.

There is no need for a third runway to meet demand for business travel. This is almost entirely met by a two-runway airport.

Department for Transport (DfT) forecasts show that while a third runway would create a net gain of 45 destinations at Heathrow only three of these would be long-haul routes.

The DfT figures also show that without a third runway effectively all UK long haul and domestic business passenger demand is met until at least 2050.

Nationally, there is an unmet short-haul demand of around 27 million passengers and 8 million long-haul – almost all of which is for leisure purposes.  This could be accommodated by substantial spare runway capacity at other UK airports.

A two-runway Heathrow would continue to serve an increasing number of passengers whose journeys start or end in the UK. The DfT predicts 60 per cent growth at Heathrow by 2050 as a result of increased aircraft loads and reduced international transfer passengers.

Peter Willan of the Richmond Heathrow Campaign (RHC) says the enormous costs of building a third runway cannot be justified by the DfT’s passenger demand forecasts:

“Nationally, you only get a net increase of 10 million terminating passengers a year from a third runway and nearly all of these will be short-haul leisure. These are not the long-haul or business passengers that we have been told are so economically important.

“The simple conclusion is that the UK’s airports including Heathrow could meet all UK demand without adding expensive new runways. It would surely be better for demand to be shared across the country rather than concentrated at a single overcrowded airport.”

The RHC published an analysis of DfT figures earlier this week showing that while a third Heathrow runway would serve 43 million passengers, some 17 million of these would be taken from other UK airports. After allowing for 16 million international transfer passengers who do not leave the airport the net gain is just 10 million terminating passengers.

The contribution of a third runway to connectivity nationally is minimal.  Overall the country sees a loss of three short-haul destinations, a gain of two long-haul destinations and no change in domestic destinations. There are more than 1,000 routes from UK airports.

A third runway would also mean less frequent flights per destination from other UK  airports.

There is an increase of one destination to newly industrialised countries and no change to least developed countries - both of which are intended beneficiaries of a third runway.

Richmond Council Leader, Gareth Roberts added:

“It is astonishing that the UK Government which produced these figures still insists there is need for a third runway.

“We keep being told this runway will show Britain is open for business but this is not borne out by the DfT forecasts.  Neither business nor leisure users will see much value in flights to destinations that are already well served.

“When MPs vote on the third runway they would do well to ask whether such a high-cost and high-risk project is really worth it. It won’t deliver for business but it will clog up the roads of west London. It won’t improve connectivity for the UK but it will end up costing the taxpayer dearly.

“We need a national airports policy that delivers economic benefits for the whole country – not a runway plan that only works for Heathrow’s shareholders.”

The Dft estimates that the larger UK airports will still have spare capacity of around 139 million passengers per annum by 2050. This includes Manchester (31 mppa), Newcastle (22 mppa), Liverpool (24 mppa), Bristol (19 mppa), Glasgow (18 mppa), Edinburgh (10 mppa), Stansted (8 mppa) and Luton (7 mppa).

The full RHC report analysing the DfT demand forecasts is available at Richmond's Heathrow campaign website

Richmond Council is part of a four-borough alliance opposed to expansion including Wandsworth, Hillingdon and Windsor and Maidenhead Councils.

Notes for editors

For media information, contact Elinor Firth on 020 8487 5159 or Peter Willan on 07530 266436.

Reference: P304/18

Updated: 14 August 2019