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Bigger and Quieter: The right answer for aviation is Policy Exchange and CentreForum's joint proposal for an upgraded Heathrow as a means for solving the UK's airport capacity crisis. The report is being considered by the Airports Commission headed by Sir Howard Davies and has been endorsed by The Economist, The Financial Times and the Transport Select Committee.
Bigger and Quieter: The right answer for aviation examines all of the options for increasing airport capacity in the UK. It supports placing four runways immediately west of the current Heathrow site. This would double the existing capacity to 130 million passengers, cementing it as Europe’s premier hub. If this was politically unfeasible, then a four runway airport at Luton would be the next best option.
The report says that the UK needs a new hub airport located in the South East which has spare capacity to accommodate the likely increase in demand, especially to cope with the rise in middle class travellers from emerging markets.
It doesn’t rule out the current proposal to build a third runway to the north of Heathrow, but claims that less people would be affected by aircraft noise if the four runways were instead located 3km to the west of Heathrow.
To reduce the effect of noise the report proposes:
A complete ban on the noisiest aircraft at all times, rather than just at night. Airlines would have to ensure their fleet complied with new decibel measures by the time the new runways were ready for use Imposing a complete ban on night flights. The increase in the number of slots available would mean no planes would arrive or depart between 11pm and 6:15am Landing narrow bodied planes at a steeper angle as they already do at London City airport. This again means they are higher over any part of West London on their descent. For example, a plane would be 925m rather than 260m above Hounslow In addition, moving the airport west means planes will be higher over London than at present
Because the proposal reuses existing terminals and infrastructure, the price is likely to be around half that of Foster’s proposal for an estuary airport. Approximately 700 properties would need to be demolished compared to the 1,400 that would need to go to make way for the estuary airport. The cost and ease of travel to Heathrow as well as the fact many businesses are already located near the current airport makes it the most suitable site.