European airports are generally busy, but none reaches the number of passengers that annually fly through London’s Heathrow Airport. Located a short distance outside the city center and easily accessible by the London Underground and other public transportation options, Heathrow has needed an expansion for years. That expansion is about to begin.
Delays To The Heathrow Expansion
A number of groups challenged the approval that the airport received for its expansion. A couple of the major opponents included the group Friends of the Earth and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The main reason for opposition to the addition of another runway at the UK’s flagship airport was concern over the environment. Critics of the expansion argued that the airport’s plans violated the nation’s environmental policies related to climate change, in addition to the Paris climate accord. The UK has ratified the Paris accord, but it’s not an official part of UK law. In addition to concerns over increased pollution in the area, there are concerns in the local area regarding the number of houses that would need to be demolished to make room for the expansion.
The court system ultimately rejected the argument from the critics of the planned expansion. There was an acknowledgement from the judges who provided the ruling that there was substance to the arguments of these opponents. However, the main concern of the judges was the legality of the project. The judges returned a unanimous ruling that decided that Heathrow could proceed with its planned expansion.
Benefits Of The Expansion
The airport was thrilled with the decision of the court system. However, it was not alone in its satisfaction. Virgin Atlantic plans to take advantage of the new third runway to increase the number of flights it routes through Heathrow, something that would be impossible without the expansion. It’s expected that construction on the new runway could begin as early as 2021. The scheduled opening for the expansion is 2026.
This development will lead to a massive increase in the number of passengers that could utilize Heathrow. In 2018, approximately 80.1 million people flew through the airport. The third runway is expected to increase this capacity greatly. It’s estimated that the airport will be able to handle 135 million passengers once the expansion is completed.