Skift Take

Heathrow has managed to function as a major international hub despite its runway limitations. But future passenger growth means it will need to expand, if it is to hold a leadership position both in Europe and around the world.

Heathrow Airport has released renderings and a video revealing its vision for the airport with a third runway expansion. Facilities include a new central terminal, hotels, and a business park.

The third runway at Heathrow would be 3,200 meters long, which can accommodate any aircraft type. The airport also plans various operational improvements, including a new traffic management system.

Heathrow describes the new airport as a “toast rack” formation, with satellite terminals between two main Terminal areas (Heathrow West and East). It describes this lay out as “significantly more efficient compared to today’s.”

“A three-runway Heathrow will provide up to 740,000 flights a year. That’s enough for Heathrow to compete on an equal footing with Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. It also provides sufficient hub-airport capacity until at least 2040,” the airport states. “Our proposal compliments existing plans already in place to better connect Heathrow and the UK. This means that by the time a third runway is operational, new rail services to the north, east, south and west are due to be delivered.”

Additional features of the future Heathrow, as stated by the airport include:

  • Two main passenger terminals and transport hubs: Heathrow West (Terminals 5 and 6) and Heathrow East (an extended Terminal 2), connected by an underground passenger transit and baggage system.
  • Overhauled cargo facilities with improved and increased capacity. Heathrow states that it carries more freight exports and imports by value than every other UK airport combined—with £101 billion worth of goods passing through the airport in 2014.
  • Commercial developments such as offices and hotels, which will replace commercial premises lost to build the third runway.
  • The new Central Terminal would be located to the west of Terminal 5, and the new hotels would be located within minutes of Terminal 2.

Heathrow argues that in needs the extra capacity generated by this plan, after operating at 98% of its capacity for a decade. But the push to build this third runway has been drawn out, politically charged, and contentious. Delays in development at Heathrow have allowed other European airports to grow. Other international airports, like Dubai International, have flourished during this time.

Heathrow also faces competing bids from rivals Gatwick and London City Airport for expansion.


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Tags: development, heathrow, lhr, london

Photo credit: Rendering of connector bridge at Heathrow's proposed new Central Terminal. Heathrow Airport

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