GMB, the UK union of airport workers, has urged the UK Government to consider building a third runway at Heathrow Airport and to link it to the recently approved high speed rail project (HS2). The union argues that building a third runway at Heathrow will be less expensive and can be completed earlier than building a new airport hub, starting from scratch, in north Kent or in the Thames Estuary as the government previously indicated.
GMB National Officer for the civil aviation industry Mick Rix said the decision to go ahead with HS2 puts into sharp contrast the announcement by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in the Autumn Statement that the government was looking at another airport hub in the south of England, but not at Heathrow.
"GMB consider that this is profoundly wrong and calls on all political parties to reopen the issue of the third runway at Heathrow," Rix said.
Building a third runway will make Heathrow Airport an integrated transport hub, which could reduce road congestion and increase public transport access for the benefit of travellers and the workforce, according to GMB. A third runway will safeguard the jobs of the tens of thousands of workers in West London whose livelihoods depend on Heathrow.
"Heathrow's worldwide destinations are already decreasing due to capacity constraints, which have not been addressed by successive governments," stated GMB. "New runways at many European hub airports are already taking Heathrow business."
The union suggested that the money to be spent on building a new airport elsewhere should instead be spent on much-needed energy and transport infrastructure projects across the UK. GMB said that some of the money saved could be spent on sound insulation for properties in Heathrow's flight path.
The UK Government, along with Architects Foster + Partners and infrastructure consultant Halcrow, is working on a new plan for a £50bn Thames Airport in London. The proposed facility will be located in the Thames Estuary to replace Heathrow as the UK's major transport hub. The plan includes a 150 million passenger airport powered by a tidal energy barrage and a new flood protection barrier.
Caption: Heathrow Airport has two runways: the 3,902m x 45m northern runway and the 3,658m x 45m southern runway. Credit: Warren Rohner