Runway And Terminal 6 Developments Engineering Essay

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The problem that I have decided to research and gather a greater understanding of, is the expansion of Heathrow. This is a greatly debated topic at the moment, and something that comes under scrutiney from numerous people and parties. If this work is successful it would show people that real issues surrounding the very controversial expansion, and the solutions that the expansion will solve, and the new ones that it will create. The problem I am looking at is the likely impacts of Heathrow's 3rd runway and terminal 6 developments. I am going to be looking specifically at the environmental, economic and social problems caused by the possible expansion. For my research, I looked at recent news articles, websites and documents released by the government, and other organizations that look into developments like this. I think that the answer that I found with this research was that the airport should not be allowed to expand, however, Stansted airport should. The answer that I have come up with is potentially possible.

Assess the likely impacts of Heathrow's 3rd runway and Terminal 6 developments.

On the 16th December 2003, the British Government announced its intentions for the future of air travel in the UK. This included the 3rd runway at Heathrow, as well as the 6th Terminal. There has been considerable opposition to this development, especially from Environmental Groups, such as Greenpeace. This essay will assess the likely environmental, social and economic impacts of having the third runway, and whether some of the current imapcts of the airport will be resolved.

Heathrow is the UK's biggest and busiest airport. It is also one of the busiest airports in the world. It is located in the Hillingdon Borough of London. The airport is about 14 miles west of Central London. The airport has very good access with two main roads near it, these being the

M4 and the M5. [1] 

From the maps, we can see the

airport is located to the west of the city. As the airport has East-West runways, there are tighter operating restrictions on when planes can arrive and depart. Most of the major European airports, such as Amsterdam and Charles-de-Gaulle, are located North of South of their respective cities. Amsterdam has runways in 5 different directions, meaning that planes can arrive and depart at most times of the day without disturbing anybody. Charles-de-Gaulle has East-West runways, but can operate more freely as there is no city in its way. These airports do not run the risk of arrivals and departures over people's house at unsociable times. Heathrow has to clamp down its operations during the night so as not to disturb nearby residents.

Heathrow is operating at about 99% capacity, while Amsterdam and Charles-de-Gaulle are operating at about 70% capacity. As both these airports have at least double the current number of runways at Heathrow, they are airports that could start taking business away from Heathrow and the UK. [2] 

The government issued some strict policies for the 3rd runway. Firstly, the third runway will operate at half its capacity when it opens, (scheduled in 2020), raising the total number of flights at Heathrow from 480,000 to 600,000 rather than the 702,000 that was inteded. Secondly, the total carbon emissions from UK aviation must fall below 2005 levels by 2050. And finally, aircraft using the third runway will have to meet strict greenhouse gas emissions standards. This is the toughest climate challenge for aviation in any country in the world. [3] 

There are numerous impacts that the 3rd runway and the Terminal 6 developments could have. I have broken these down into environmental, economical and sociable reasons.

The environment could be hit hard by the 3rd runway and Terminal 6 developments.

Firstly, surface runoff will be increased. Surface runoff occurs when the ground cannot soak up any more water, and the excess water ends up flowing across the top of the ground. At Heathrow, this problem will be escalated by the high amount of impenetrable surfaces, such as concrete and tarmac. This extra surface runoff could cause flooding, or depending on where it is directed (if at all), it could make the drainage system fill with silt. Flooding could then become a bigger problem, or, depending on the drainage system type, erosion could occur. The erosion would be more noticeable on a natural drain, such as a river or stream.

Airports use large amounts of aviation fuel and, in the winter, large amounts of de-icing fluid. This, if ending up on the ground, could get into a water source, and start contaminating water. A problem noticed at airports other than Heathrow, such as airports in countries with a colder climate and that are more prone to snow and icy conditions, would be fluids ending up in the snow. They are not visible to the naked eye, but when the snow starts melting, they become a big problem, as they usually enter a water source through surface runoff.

For Heathrow's latest terminal building (Terminal 5), they have designed a SWOT system. SWOT stands for storm water outfall tunnel. All surface runoff water is pumped into a specially built reservoir, 2 km's away from the airport. Before the water is allowed into the reservoir, it is thoroughly cleaned. The system is helping to reduce the environmental impact of the airport as well. Some of the cleaned water is pumped back to Terminal 5 and used in the heating system and in toilet flushing. [4] 

The lack of vegetation will mean that there is more soil infiltration taking place. Water will be absorbed quicker into the soil, which means that it will become more saturated in a smaller amount of time. This means that surface runoff may be a bigger problem at the airport when it rains.

The extra runway and terminal will cause lots of extra congestion around London. This is enhanced by the airports location on the M4, and very close to the M4/M25 intersection. Any accidents in and around the airport will have a knock on effect on the surrounding roads. If people are sitting in queues, then they are using fuel without moving anywhere. The increased passenger numbers through the airport will increase pollution from cars as people will have to get to the airport. Planes will still leave the airport at their scheduled time, whether passengers are onboard or not. This means that planes are still polluting the atmosphere, but with less people on board, and the people that are not on board, are still polluting the atmosphere by being in queues.

After the construction phase of the airport, any habitats that have not already been destroyed will be severely affected. The surface runoff could temporarily destroy habitats. A lack of wildlife in the area would look bad on the airport, as airports try to encourage some sort of wildlife into the area. However, birds and planes do not mix very well, as was proved on 15th January 2009, with the River Hudson plane crash. [5] The airport would have a lack of vegetation around it, apart from grass, and a lack of vegetation reduces humidity. A lack of humidity may cause animals to leave the area.

Figure Noise pollution will become another major issue. The animals around the airport eventually get used to the noise. Humans living around the airport have to get used to the sound of the airport, but they are never satisfied, despite the lower and lower noise regulations. Figure 1 shows the current (2008) noise levels (in decibels) around the airport. [6] 

Figure 2

Figure 2 shows the predicted noise levels in 2030, again measured in decibels. As you can see, the 57 decibel mark has moved much closer to the airport. This is due to planes becoming more powerful, and quieter. This means that they can climb higher out of the built up areas. When the plane is higher, the sound of the ground is reduced, and something that is good for the environment would be that the higher a plane goes, generally, the less fuel that is uses. [7] 

Figure 3Figure 3 shows the 57 decibel mark around the airport in 2030. This map has the added feature of showing the average daily usage of each projected departure route. The 3rd runway predicted departure routes do not merge with the existing runway depature routes, this could be due to the runway only serving short haul destinations. [8] 

Figure 4The use of bigger planes, such as the Airbus A380 will help the surrounding area. This plane can carry up to 800 people, with a 1000 people varient on the way. Encouraging the use of larger aircraft could be one way that Heathrow reduces its damaging effects on the environment.

At the moment, Heathrow is cutting back on noise levels. However, this has been done by not letting older planes use the airport. The effects of the noise levels being cut down are slowing, however, as there are a very limited number of older planes that use the airport. Night flights have also been reduced, and there are only a number of planes that are allowed to land at night, due to noise restrictions.

Figure 4 shows the holding stacks used by Heathrow.

These are currently situated at Bovingdon, Lambourne, Ockham and Biggin. The holding stacks are used to hold planes while they wait in line for their landing slot. With a 3rd runway only to be used for short haul flights, and at half capacity (initially), the airport could make use of the runway to get planes on the ground quicker. This means that planes are flying for less time, saving fuel and reducing pollution. This will obviously help the environment. At the end of a long haul flight, the aircraft weighs about the same as a plane that is about to start a short haul flight. As landing distances are always shorter than take off distances, the 3rd runway could be used to help get planes on the ground. It should be pointed out that the diagram is for the current two runway layout that the airport already possesses. This does not take into account any holding stacks that could be made by the new runway, or holding stacks that have to be moved or made nonexistent for the future.

The airport could end up with its own microclimate due to the darker surfaces absorbing heat and releasing it slowly throughout the day. This could make the temperatures at the airport 1-2°C warmer. As the air is warmer, it will be able to hold more moisture. Warm air rises until it reaches the dew point, and then it will start to form clouds. The clouds will eventually release the moisture as rain. The airport could be wetter by between 5 and 10%. The pollution around the airport will increase the effect of the clouds, as raindrops form around pollution. At the airport, there would be lots of pollution, and so lots of rain will be forming here.

There will be less humidity around the airport (as mentioned earlier, due to the lack of vegetation). Even though there will be more rain, the airport will be hotter, so the moisture will be evaporated quicker. And as the prevailing wind direction is from the west, the clouds and rain could be moved over the main city of London.

In microclimates, sometimes the wind is altered. At Heathrow, it depends on where you are, as to how the wind has been altered. The prevailing wind direction is from the west (heading east). A lot of the buildings at the airport are North-South facing (even more so when Terminal East is built), and so you will be protected from the wind more when you are between these buildings.

There are going to be numerous social impacts of the airport being expanded.

The residents of the area that Heathrow most directly affects (West London) are going to have noticeable impacts on their day to day life if/when the third runway are built. Firstly, the airport will be busier, meaning that the noise from the airport will start earlier, and may also be louder. The airport has a policy that no planes should land before 5 am, unless it is an emergency, however, British Airways have a flight from Honk Kong that lands at 4:30 am every morning. [9] This disrupts residents, and as a result, many suffer from lack of sleep. The sound from the planes taking off is heard all day long. Even in the areas that are not classed as 'noise affected', the plane noise is very loud, and pretty much constant. Residents complain that after one plane has gone out of ear shot, another plane enters, and the cycle starts all over again.

Some residents' health is going to be affected by the airport expansion, mainly because air pollution will increase. Asthma in young children is severely affected by air pollution. Apparently, Heathrow already breaks the EU regulations on nitrous oxide. Even more flights would mean that the levels of this gas would be greater than ever before. A lot of efforts to make airport noise quieter normally mean that more nitrous oxide is produced.

Sipson, a village near the airport would have to be cleared for this 3rd runway. The village would lose about 700 homes, a church and eight grade II listed buildings and graveyard would have to be bulldozed to make way for the new transport links.

The noise levels from the airport would be greater as there would be more flights. BAA has said that the noise levels would not exceed 2002 noise levels. However, in 2002, Concorde was still operational. The noise from just one Concorde flight every 4 hours is the equivalent of 120 flights, one every two minutes, spread of the same time period. Also, with the noise pollution, the diagram on page 3, showing the 57 decibel mark is a true diagram. However, noise annoyance does start at around 50 decibels. There are only 258,000 people living within the 57 decibel mark region, but there are over 2 million people living in the 50 decibel area. [10] 

Lastly, there are going to be economical impacts to do with the expansion.

The government have outlined some figures on what the runway will bring to the economy, and what it will cost the economy. The figures are shown below:

Generated user benefit

+£9 Billion

Producer benefit

+£5 Billion

Government revenue

+£3 Billion

Climate costs

-£4.8 Billion

Building costs

-£6.8-7.6 Billion


An undecided positive amount

Other costs/benifits

-£0.3 Billion

Total net economic benefit

+£5.1-5.9 Billion

The terms in the above table are defined as:

The Generated user benefits are the economic benefits to future passengers who will be taking a flight in the future, when flying is cheaper. The flying will be cheaper, as the more capacity an airport has, the cheaper the flights. The Producer Benefit and Government Revenue figures are benefits due to the extra revenue that the airports operator's gain and the greater tax revenue the government gets, due to greater passenger numbers. Climate costs are an estimation of the cost of the damage caused by the additional emissions from the extra aircraft using Heathrow. Building costs are the estimated building costs of building the 3rd runway, and the extra infrastructure that it needs. Other costs and benefits are estimations of the damage caused by the extra noise pollution, and other costs that may not be documented. Tourism costs are a figure that is harder to define, mainly because the extra runway could be used in two ways. Tourists could come to the UK and boost the economy over here, or people from Britain could be going abroad on holiday, meaning they boost the economy of other countries. [11] 

Figures of about £30 Billion over 60 years have been forecasted, however, the initial figure has been released of around £5.5 Billion over 60 years. BAA (the airport owner) has said that the runway could be worth as much as £7 Billion a year. This is due to the current economic climate and the growth of air travel at the moment. When we come out of the recession, this figure will no doubt be massively increased. The extra money that would be created due to the runway would not be directly associated with the airport. The runway would create extra jobs, and mean that London becomes an even bigger international business location. The 6th Terminal has not been mentioned in these prices, but more jobs would be created in the process of this terminal being built, and being made operational. The airport would have to employ more staff to keep the Terminal functioning properly.

The runway would manage to reduce delays and increase the frequency of flights. This means that people could be more productive (especially business people) as they would not be travelling for as long to foreign destinations. The average cost of a minute delay in a plane is £23.40 (In 2005 prices). Taking into account the average plane delay time at Heathrow in 2005 and the cost of a delay, the total cost of delays to all the airlines operating at Heathrow was estimated to be more than £185 million. The 3rd runway should help to reduce delays, meaning that money is not going to be spent on delayed planes. It should be mentioned here, that not all flights are delayed due to airport capacity. Sometimes passengers do not turn up for their flights, and their luggage needs to be unloaded, adding to the departure time, and effectively delaying planes. The weather can also mean that planes are delayed. Sometimes, airports are closed due to the weather. However, Heathrow airport is rarely closed due to the weather.

Destinations within the UK would be more easily accessible as well. The new runway and Terminal may allow extra destinations to be reached by the airport, reducing the need for transfers at airports outside of the UK.

The delays in the runway being built are losing the UK economy an estimated £900 million to £1.1 billion each year. [12] This is a serious amount of money, and in the current economic climate (3rd quarter of 2009), could be money that would really help to boost the economy within the UK. This money would mostly be spent on jobs and tax meaning that many unemployed people in London and the surrounding area would find direct employment with the airport, and people further afield would be able to find jobs to do with the airport, but not necessarily at the airport.

There are other alternatives to expanding the airport. These would eradicate the problems associated with the current site of the airport, and they would also enable the UK to increase its airport capacity. The new sites that have been considered include an airport in the Thames Estuary, Maplin sands, near Southend-on-sea in Essex and expanding Stansted.

The planning and evaluation stage of Maplin sands didn't get going as there was a lack of public money for this project.

Expanding Stansted airport has been another option that has been deeply explored. If Stansted had two runways, then it would have a higher passenger capacity per year than Heathrow does. Also, it would be able to have flights going during more hours of the day than Heathrow does, due to the operating restrictions surrounding each individual airport. There are plans for Stansted to have up to 4 runways, considerably increasing its passenger capacity, and making it the busiest airport in the world.

The airport in the Thames Estuary would have virtually all its flights leaving over the North Sea, meaning that noise pollution would not affect anybody and the airports actions would have minimal impact on people if the airport was built in the estuary.

Since the 1960's, 13 major cities have moved their main airports from inside the cities to the outskirts of the cities. These include Paris, Milan and New York. The most recent and noticeable airport move would be Hong Kong International airport. The government spent 6 years and $20 Billion on construction of an artificial island for the airport, building the new airport, and linking the airport to the city with a high speed bullet train.

The main reasons for not moving Heathrow would be the money issues. The expansion has already had £65 million spent on it, and the spending has to come to a stop. This is because the Labour party are the only party that are pushing forward for the expansion and there is not much point spending any more money if the airport will not be allowed to expand under a new government.

If the government decide to move the airport, building the 6th terminal and 3rd runway would have been a waste of time and money.

In conclusion, therefore, the Heathrow expansion does have numerous problems surrounding it. Some problems that the current airport has are solved, but these solutions mean that more problems will be caused. Some of the solutions for the airport as a whole are very promising, such as building a new airport, or expanding Stansted. However, these will inevitably bring new problems. In my opinion, the airport should not be closed down, nor should it be expanded. They should simply finish building the current Terminal East, and leave the airport as it is. Stansted should then be expanded and some of Heathrow's daily flights moved there. Heathrow airport would then be able to carry on as it was, without having any extra problems created. As BAA own Stansted anyway, they would still be getting a greater income, but without having to expand Heathrow. There are lots of questions surrounding the expansion of Heathrow airport, and in my opinion, I do not think that the expansion should go ahead. The problems that it would solve would not counteract the problems that would be created.