New proposal shakes up Heathrow debate

Government's consultation on its draft national policy statement on expanding Heathrow Airport has attracted a radical proposal for an alternative design that promises to cut the project's overall cost by over a third. The new ideas for Heathrow have come from the hotel and property company the Arora Group supported by consultants including Bechtel, which was commissioned by Arora to review Heathrow Airport Ltd's (HAL) plans.

The alternative proposed by Arora, would cut the £17.6bn scheme by £6.7bn, mainly by altering new terminal design and doing away with any further Terminal 2 expansion and HAL's proposed airside passenger transit system. According to Arora, a total of £5.2bn would be saved by these changes plus a 20% reduction in land-take and associated compulsory purchase, demolition and groundworks costs.

This would not mean any major alteration to the overall configuration of a new third runway to the north west of the existing airport, Arora says. It adds that a further £1.5bn can be saved by moving the new runway 500m to the east, so preventing any need for major reconstruction of the M25 and M4 motorways to the west of the airport.

Hopes for moving the runway may get short shrift, however, as this would increase noise underneath the flight path in west London. The reason for the north west runway design configuration is mostly for reduction of noise effects.

The Arora plans have been welcomed by leading airlines including Virgin Atlantic and British Airways owner IAG. The new proposal present "fresh thinking", according to the head of Virgin Atlantic, Craig Kreeger and a "welcome alternative to HAL's costly scheme", said IAG chief executive Willie Walsh, quoted in the Daily Telegraph over the weekend.

Arora's chairman and founder, Surinder Arora, said: “We want passengers to be at the heart of our plans and the current monopoly at Heathrow, which over-charges airlines and in turn raises fares for passengers, is not the right model for the future. Heathrow needs competition and innovation which puts passengers and airlines at the heart of the expansion project."

We have brought together some of the world’s leading experts in infrastructure and aviation to develop the proposals that we have submitted to the government. We are now calling on the Government to consider more carefully how competition can improve Heathrow's offer to passengers, and how airlines at the heart of these plans will benefit passengers. We look forward to working with the new Government to discuss these issues and how our proposals can help improve the airport's expansion."