Heathrow and Gatwick airports have been shortlisted for an additional runway by 2030 according to an interim report from the UK Airports Commission.
The three shortlisted options include a new runway to the south of the existing one at Gatwick Airport, a new 3,500m runway to the northwest of Heathrow Airport, and extending its existing northern runway and splitting it in two.
A detailed appraisal of these options will be undertaken in the next phase, with a public consultation scheduled for the third quarter of 2014.
The commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, will also consider option to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and will conduct a further study in the first half of 2014 to decide on the credibility of the proposal.
Its independent review also shows that there is expected to be a demand case for a second new runway to be operational by 2050.
Although the commission did not shortlist options for expansion at Stansted or Birmingham, it is likely to consider them as potential options for any second new runway.
The interim report also comprises recommendations to the government for immediate action to improve the use of existing runway capacity.
In its final report, the Airports Commission will also outline its recommendations on the process for decision making on additional capacity beyond 2030.
Sir Howard said: "Decisions on airport capacity are important national strategic choices and must be based upon the best evidence available.
"The commission will now focus on the challenge of appraising the three options, further assessing the case for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and delivering a robust final recommendation to government in summer 2015."
These latest conclusions are valid across a variety of assumptions concerning the future demand rise, and are in line with the Committee of Climate Change's advice to government on complying with its legislated climate change targets.
Image: The UK Airport Commission's interim report comprises recommendations to the government for immediate action to improve the use of existing capacity. Photo: courtesy of Airports Commission.