Why Not Expand Heathrow?


The Government is giving hints that it might back-track on its previous pledge not to expand Heathrow. Instead, they might decide to add a third runway. That is what the major airlines would like to happen, and they are a powerful lobby. But a new runway at Heathrow would be a disaster.
First, because, with its vast numbers of passengers, it is already crowded with people having to spend well over an hour in queues. There are also problems with access: indeed, the M4 has been blocked for several days following a bridge repair. The M25 has frequent delays caused by traffic trying to reach Heathrow.
The other problem with Heathrow is how it blights what were once delightful villages outside London, like Barnes, Richmond and Twickenham. Almost every incoming flight flies low over the River Thames and affects the surrounding population. They now consistently have planes flying over their houses and gardens every minute of the day, normally for half a day at a time, with changes to another flight-path giving brief relief before the planes come back again. A third terminal would result in an extra third of planes and passengers on top of the current levels, making the problems above even worse.
Lastly, the elephant in the room. Though rarely mentioned, having jumbo-jets flying over heavily populated areas, is a disaster waiting to happen. There are several “near-misses” every week near Heathrow, owing to such heavy aerial traffic. Luckily, the skill of the air traffic controllers has avoided any such crash so far.  Adding another third to the numbers of such planes flying low and converging on that location, makes such a disaster much more likely. Just one jet containing hundreds of people, crashing on any town within a couple of miles of Heathrow, is likely to cause thousands of deaths. A collision between two such jets would have even worse consequences. No other major city in the world has such a major concentration of dense population living close to the flight path.
No-one wants to close Heathrow. We have to live with it. But it must not be expanded.