London Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, on Tuesday June 18th issued plans for its third runway, including the rerouting of rivers and roads. AFP reports that it also sought to soothe environmental concerns surrounding the controversial project, the first phase of which is due for completion in 2026.
The UK government last year finally approved the third runway after decades of acrimonious debate, during which Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson had promised to “lie down in front of the bulldozers” to prevent the runway’s construction.
"Heathrow today unveils its preferred masterplan for expansion," said a statement from the airport, which is owned by a consortium led by Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial.
As part of the plan, the M25 motorway that rings London will be rerouted under the new runway, while river corridors will also be diverted. There will also be "tough new measures" to reduce emissions, limit noise and curb night-time flights.
Construction is expected to start in 2022, with the runway built by approximately 2026. New terminals will not be ready until around 2050.
The expansion is expected to cost about £30 billion ($38 billion, €34 billion), according to the BBC, including £14 billion on the first phase.
Heathrow plans to issue compensation for affected homeowners and establish a noise insulation policy and a community fund.
The hub, west of London, aims to increase its total capacity to 130 million passengers per day, compared with the current level of about 78 million. The airport’s cargo handling, currently 1.7 million tonnes per year, will also be boosted by 100% when the project is complete.
"Expansion must not come at any cost," said Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow's executive director for expansion, presenting a new public consultation that will run until September.
"That is why we have been working with partners at the airport, in local communities and in government to ensure our plans show how we can grow sustainably and responsibly – with environmental considerations at the heart of expansion,” Gilthorpe added.
In an interview on Sky's Ian King Live, Gilthorpe brushed off any fears that Boris Johnson, as possible future prime minister, could block the expansion. It "fits with his global Britain narrative" she said, adding that the ‘biggest task on his desk will I think be Brexit.”
The third runway has faced stiff opposition for many years from campaigners who cited the negative impacts on noise and air pollution, habitat destruction, transport congestion, and climate change.
Last month, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, along with environmental charities and local councils, lost a court battle to prevent the Heathrow expansion.
Britain's Conservative government argues that the project will provide a major boost to Britain's post-Brexit economy and could create up to 114,000 local jobs by 2030.