Heathrow’s Third Runway Is Finally Approved

Filed Under: Travel

For decades the UK has been trying to decide how to expand air connectivity in London. From my perspective, there’s not a city in the world with a more botched system of airports. You have five airports at different ends of the city with very little connectivity between them.


Never mind that London’s biggest airport, Heathrow, is poorly designed, with limited connectivity between terminals.

So for years the debate has been how to expand capacity in London. The most common suggestion has been building a third runway at Heathrow Airport. After all, there’s something to be said for scaling one airport as much as possible, to maximize connectivity between airlines.


Understandably there has been a lot of opposition to the concept of a third runway at Heathrow, from people who live in the area, people who live under the flight path, environmentalists, etc.

So while a third runway has been debated to no end, it looks like a decision has finally been made… sort of… kind of… we’ll see if they don’t change their mind.

Ministers have finally recommended the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, meaning they’ve gotten further along in the planning process than ever before. Per BBC:

We have a long way to go before the we see the proverbial shovels in the ground – there will be legal and planning challenges aplenty to come. However, with today’s decision to recommend a third runway, this government has arrived at a point its predecessors failed to. From beating ourselves up for not being to build anything, the UK is suddenly building everything.

A public consultation will now be held on the effects of airport expansion before the government makes a final decision as part of a national policy statement on aviation.

MPs will then vote on that decision in the winter of 2017-18. It is unlikely that any new runway capacity would be operational before 2025.

Construction is not likely to begin until 2020 or 2021, the Airports Commission has said.

As you can see, at best construction won’t begin for another five or so years, and the third runway likely won’t be complete for another decade or so. This is all assuming that the plan doesn’t get squashed in the coming months, which is also possible.

A third runway at Heathrow has always seemed like the most sensible option to me, though of course I understand why those living near Heathrow hate this concept.

What do you make of a third runway being built at Heathrow?

  1. Had to be done at LHR. So many more incoming passengers than outgoing passengers and if we want to have the foreign expenditure in London, it had to be there. Gatwick will never be that incoming hub. But as you said, connectivity between LDN airports is awful – if you have a connection between LHR and LGW, and only 3 hours, to make it you’re in for a mighty rush to make the flight! Also being BA Silver, I love LHR and will fly from there wherever possible. Expansion can’t hurt.

  2. Very controversial decision over here. I think Gatwick could have been much easier in the short term, so I’d say the most important thing is making Heathrow viable in the long term, whilst doing the best for local communities. Was the only feasible option for keeping the UK aviation industry competitive. Perhaps Brexit has something to do with it, with the uncertainty/fear ahead?

  3. Better to be a Gulf kingdom and decide that the poor people who live near the airports don’t matter … runway would be operational by Q1 ’17.

  4. To be honest, they should have said yes to both LGW and LHR. By the time they’re both built, they will be congested again.

    On the other hand LCY has started the extension of their runway, in case you missed that news. Mainly to add a taxiway, because at the moment you taxi on the runway itself, but I recall it’s being extended too. Maybe they can land something bigger than the A319 !

  5. Anyone who bought a place to live next to an airport is just a moron. Why should the country suffer because some idiot is living next to an airport. Bloody ridiculous

  6. As regards connections between LHR and LGW, National Express offers four coaches an hour, non-stop, with a journey time of 40 mins, and they don’t go via London. No one ever mentions these. Chances are you’ll be on an empty coach as well.

  7. Is there no way at all that the third runway could run diagonally? There can’t be a major European city with as many aircraft flying across its centre as London.

  8. I’ve always said one of the best things about living in London was how easy it was to leave London…..with now 6 International airports(including Southend). We hated having to go to LTN and LHR as we were in N1 so LCY, LGW and STN were where we’d look first for departing flights. Not sure how I feel about those little villages near LHR that will have to be moved but then I’m sure all that money they’ll give them will soften the blow for them. I would have expected LGW would have expanded before LHR.

  9. Heathwick high speed rail would have connected people from LHR to LGW in 15 minutes and pax could go through transit immigration upon arrival. This would be the best option IMO. Move all short hauls to LGW, move LCC’s to STN or LUT and perhaps put a second runway at Gatwick. Doubt it will ever happen though.

  10. Maybe some of your London readers can comment but on a previous visit a year or two ago I recall reading in one of the newspapers that the 3rd runway had been reviewed for many years and was ultimately cancelled at some level in the government. The 3rd runway has many lined up against it for various reasons. Maybe the new Lord Mayor and PM can get it done.

  11. James, if you’re going to include Southend Airport as “London” then you might as well include Southampton, Bournemouth and Birmingham. Maybe even Bristol

  12. @Bob From the BBC News, “The government has approved a third runway at Heathrow to expand UK airport capacity following a cabinet committee meeting on Tuesday.”

    Sounds like more than a recommendation, unless the BBC is wrong.

  13. Have to clarify the point by Andrew H. Connection between LHR and LGW is not great. Yes, there are 3-4 buses that connect every hour, but the journey is a minimum of 1hr15mins (not 40 minutes, ever), and since it is on the M25, it can take up to 2 hours during rush hour. The recommended layover time to connect is 3 hours, but only if you are connecting through Terminal 5 at LHR, the last stop at LHR before heading to LGW. If you are flying into Terminal 2/3, it is a minimum of 4 hours layover. That’s nice great. When you factor in clearing immigration, getting your luggage, walking forever to get out of the terminal, taking the bus, dropping off luggage, going through security, before finally getting to your gate, it’s a pretty miserable transfer.

  14. Drew, sounds like we have had pretty different experiences on that route. All I can say is that when I’ve used it (3 or 4 times) it’s always been 40-45 mins. I always get on the coach at T5. I’ve only used it on weekdays at off-peak times, however.

    The only disadvantage for me is the price (£21), which is almost double the cost if you go via London by train.

    However, the quick journey time makes up for it. So the lesson is presumably, don’t use the service at peak times!

  15. Andrew, I don’t see how you can get from LHR to LGW by train via London for half of 21 quid.

    The cheapest way into London by train from Paddington is the tube. That’s 6 quid. Get off at Victoria and take the Gatwick Express – that’s 20 quid. Seems more expensive to me, and even more so if you take the Paddington Express or Connect as well as the tube.

  16. Hi Martin! You can indeed do it for approx. half of £21. First, you use your contactless card or Oyster card to travel on the tube from LHR to Victoria. That’s £3.10 off peak. Then you use the same payment method to go from Victoria rail station to Gatwick. That’s £10.20 off peak. Just swipe in using your card. You can use any service except the Gatwick Express. Total: £13.30.

    The £10.20 cost is the official line. However, when I travelled from Gatwick to Victoria in June, they only charged me £8 when I swiped in. Journey time was only 35 mins, too!

    There are other ways of going cheap, but only VERY slowly. The N9 night bus from Heathrow to London, for example (£1.50), followed by an Easybus ticket for use on National Express coaches to LGW (£2), though I’ve never tried that combo 🙂 Obviously it would be far from fast!

  17. If you want to check the prices, just go to the Transport for London website and use the journey planner. Despite being an overground service, Gatwick is now considered part of the London network and you can swipe in and out with your Contactless/Oyster card, as if you were in London.

  18. I doubt whether the airports of New York are well connected either with each other? Apart from that, most US cities only have one or two airports, never mind 5.

  19. I get why people under the flight path don’t like this, but if you don’t like the noise of planes going over every 2 minutes, then why buy a house where this happens? London is big, why pick there if you know you won’t like it.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *