Britain’s government is expected to announce this week where new runway capacity for London will be sited.
Heathrow and Gatwick airports are competing for the new infrastructure, but rumors are circulating, based on an article in New Civil Engineer, that both may get the green light, along with an extra runway for Birmingham.
Former chancellor George Osborne, in line with the Airport Commission study concluded while he was in government, has recommended Heathrow for expansion, possibly followed by Gatwick.
He’s also pressing for a quick decision, which is cheeky considering that in power he kicked the Heathrow can as far down the road as a listless street urchin.
As in his time, though, none of the government’s options are particularly appealing.
A new Heathrow runway, for instance, could well be subject to judicial review by the local authority of prime minister Theresa May’s own constituency, Windsor & Maidenhead, which is under the flight path.
May herself is no fan of a bigger Heathrow, but could now approve it in order to burnish the government business credentials that have been sorely tarnished by its hard line on Brexit.
Putting aside Heathrow’s better connections and popularity with major airlines, Gatwick’s rural location makes it a much sounder choice for a new runway, and it will have to get one eventually.
Thus approvals for both airports seems sensible, but Manchester Airports Group, which owns London Stansted, has promised an immediate legal challenge should this occur.
Since government studies only looked at the site for one extra runway, MAG argues that it wasn’t allowed to present a proper case for Stansted being the recipient of the now-mooted second.
Also, Osborne has said that only one project should be prioritized to avoid any further drift in an infrastructure plan that has been on the table since the 1950s.
And even if Heathrow does get the nod, its new runway – either an extension of an existing one or a separate, third runway – is not expected to be operational until 2025.