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Press releases
Nov 16, 2020

An Extended Runway would reduce Heathrow and airline emissions by over a third


  • An extended northern runway could reduce CO2 emissions from aircraft operations at Heathrow by 37%
  • Reduced congestion at the airfield would save fuel, emissions, time, and money, benefitting airlines, passengers, and local communities
  • Our incremental expansion proposal would make Heathrow more resilient and help position it for recovery and refinancing

New research, commissioned by Heathrow Hub, the independent promoter of the proposal to extend the northern runway at Heathrow (ENR), reveals how an extended runway could reduce CO2 emissions from Heathrow’s local operations by as much as 210,000 tonnes per annum.

This is a 37% reduction of the CO2 emissions from aircraft operations at the airport (i.e. aircraft Landings and Take Offs, stack holding, taxiing and ground movements, but excluding the Cruise Climb Descent or flight phase). It essentially arises from reduced delays and congestion. The airport has been effectively running at full capacity prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

The saving is equivalent to 10% of total emissions from local operations at Heathrow when emissions from buildings and surface access are included.

The Extended Northern Runway would assist both Heathrow Airport and the airlines in meeting their legal obligations to reduce emissions at a time when the Government is seeking to underscore its own environmental credentials and position the UK as a leader in the move to net zero emissions.

Increasing capacity at Heathrow Airport would save both time and money – valued at £6bn over 20 years. Shorter flight times, as a result of reduced delays, reduced taxiing distances and reduced stacking in the air means an Extended Northern Runway would free up 2.5 million minutes of aircraft time at Heathrow per year. An Extended Runway would also help lower fares by delivering £300m of annual financial benefits to the airlines and passengers, including £150m of direct cost savings per year to the airlines and £134m of savings per year to passengers, measured by Passenger value of time (PVoT). Enhanced noise respite for local communities would be achieved via staggered approaches.

As Heathrow grapples with the cost of the pandemic and the effect on its finances, its plans for a third runway now look impossible to deliver. The Court of Appeal has already ruled that the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was unlawful on environmental grounds. The Supreme Court judgement is expected in January 2021, but the scheme lacks government backing and at £38 billion is prohibitively expensive.

The independent Heathrow Hub consortium contends that its extended runway is now the only viable option to put Heathrow on a sustainable footing. Extending the northern runway, at just £4.3bn for its first phase, is much cheaper than a third runway, meaning it is not reliant on additional air traffic movements for funding. In the first instance, the additional capacity would make Heathrow more efficient and resilient from its existing operations and any new capacity need not be released unless environmental targets are met.

Jock Lowe, Heathrow Hub, commented: “Reducing carbon emissions is now a legal duty for Heathrow and the airlines. Our proposal would help them deliver it.

“It has become increasingly clear that Heathrow’s 3rd runway will not go ahead. Whatever the result of the Supreme Court case, it is too expensive, too complicated and totally incompatible with the Government’s net zero emissions by 2050 target.

“By contrast, our extended northern runway proposal, can help make Heathrow more efficient and resilient, reducing congestion and emissions and saving time and money. Its low cost and incremental approach spreads risk and ensures new flights need only be allowed once environmental and noise targets have been met and demand resumes.

“Unlike the 3rd Runway, the extended runway is a detailed, fully-costed scheme with a safety-case. It would also incentivise additional financing from Heathrow’s shareholders.

“Our proposal would create a more sustainable global hub, well positioned and ready for future growth when the time comes. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary and John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s chief executive, should stop prevaricating and get it done.”