Heathrow airport set for expansion

LONDON: The UK government’s long-awaited decision on airport expansion is set to be announced, with Heathrow airport set for expansion with the addition of a third runway.

UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is to make a statement to Parliament around lunchtime on Tuesday, October 25.

The choice had been between expanding Heathrow and Gatwick airports. There has been opposition to expansion of both airports from residents in the respective areas.

The Heathrow layout and the area where the expansion is to happen (Source BBC)

A study last year, led by Sir Howard Davies, recommended a third runway at Heathrow but other options include a new runway at Gatwick or extending one of Heathrow’s existing runways, reports BBC.

Writing in the Telegraph on Monday Sir Howard said the case for expanding Heathrow had “strengthened in recent months” and that the case was now “overwhelming”.

Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the country and is already operating at 98% capacity.

Gatwick is expected to run out of space in the next few years.

Airlines and business groups favour expansion of Heathrow,  which offers more direct connections than Gatwick and handles more freight.

A Heathrow expansion is also strongly opposed by Education Secretary Justine Greening and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has pledged to “lie down” in front of bulldozers to stop the building.

As many as 60 Tory backbenchers could also vote against expansion at Heathrow, and Zac Goldsmith, Tory MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, has vowed to resign if it goes ahead.

A final decision on which London airport to expand has been years in the making.

In 2009, former prime minister David Cameron pledged that there would be no new runway at Heathrow.

In July 2015, the Airports Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies backed a new third runway at Heathrow, but did not rule out the option of expanding Gatwick.

Musafir Namah Bureau