Sir Howard Davies, who heads the Airports Commission and its review on increasing airport capacity in the south east, currently has two proposals to do so on his desk.
The reason this needs considering is that Heathrow is already full and London’s other airports are going to get full in the not-too-distant future. The Commission’s Interim Report estimates that Gatwick will be full by 2020, London City by 2024, Luton by 2030 and Stansted by 2041.
As a result, the Commission said “there is a clear case for one net additional runway in London and the South East, to come into operation by 2030″ and that “there is likely to be a demand case for a second additional runway in operation by 2050 or, in some scenarios, earlier”.
It now has two proposals on its desk -" one from Heathrow and one from Gatwick -" and has reserved judgement on a third proposal to build a brand-new airport in the Thames Estuary.
But how can this extra capacity be created sustainably?
In its submission to the Commission, Taking Britain Further, Heathrow Airport believes it can reduce emissions substantially on 2010 levels despite demand being 2.5 half times what it was in that year. Its projections on how it will reduce emissions are show below.
The increasing efficiency of planes using the airport -" such as the Airbus A380, Boeing 787 and Airbus A320 NEO -" is expected to bring the biggest benefits.
The airport is also looking at energy management. It says, “The airport in 2030 will produce 60% less carbon from energy use compared to 2010. This will be achieved by a combination of technologies including ground source heat pumps, thin film photovoltaics, and combined heat and power.”
It adds, “Compared to today the airport will consume less water, and result in less waste per passenger with over 80% of waste recycled. This will be achieved by investing in new technologies and practices that increase the efficiency of the airport.”
The airport also wants those using the airport to reduce their footprint. In its submission, the airport says it supports the implementation of a congestion charging zone at the airport to reduce private vehicle journeys to the airport which it believes “would improve air quality and reduce congestion while raising money for public transport improvements”. There would be exemptions for the greenest vehicles, the local community and for taxis. Funds could be ring-fenced to pay for transport schemes and local community improvements. “Heathrow will be able to deliver more flights without increasing the traffic on the road due to the airport,” it claims.
Gatwick’s vision of a constellation of airports around London, as opposed to an enlarged hub at Heathrow, “disperses and reduces overall airport related travel, supporting sustainable travel patterns”, the airport says in its long-term proposals submitted to the Commission last July.
In its May 2014 submission to the Commission, a summary of which is here, Gatwick said it was “pursuing several industry-leading initiatives to drive down carbon emissions and would continue to meet the legal air quality standards which Heathrow regularly breaches today”.
Gatwick says that its three options for a second runway all result in an increase in total carbon emissions. However, it already has a target to reduce emissions by 50% (off a 1990 baseline) by 2020 and has already achieved a 40% cut.
The airport has investigated three options for a second runway.
It says that Option 1 -" a 3.4km runway close to the existing runway -" would have the lowest environmental impact but that Option 3 -" where the existing runway and a new runway 1km from it are used for both take-offs and landings -" is the preferred option.
“Whilst Option 1 has the lowest overall environmental impact, Option 3 brings the greatest social and economic benefits, greatest operational efficiency, and lower impacts per passenger,” the airport said.
In terms of sustainable access to the airport, Gatwick says that it is already industry-leading.
Hugh Sumner, senior transport advisor for London Gatwick, said: “Gatwick already has the highest proportion of passengers travelling by public transport…We want 60% of our customers to use public transport, comparable with the best globally and better than any UK airport.”
Improvements to rail services, such as new Thameslink services under the franchise awarded to Govia, will give Gatwick direct connections to 175 mainline stations and 1000 with a single change by 2020, the airport says.
The Airports Commission will now analyse the two detailed submissions and decide whether to accept a submission for a new Thames Estuary airport. It will issue its recommendations by next summer, after the General Election.