Model T2: The new blueprint?

heathrow t2

The opening of Terminal 2 is at the heart of a revised submission to the Airports Commission which hopes to see Heathrow as a new fully integrated airport with better baggage and transit systems as well as that all-important third runway.

heathrow t2The original Terminal 2 was Heathrow’s first passenger terminal. When it was opened in 1955, it was the most modern airport facility of its day with silver service restaurants, a cocktail lounge and a rooftop viewing gallery but by the beginning of the 21st century Terminal 2 had outlived its intended purpose. Designed to welcome 1 million passengers, by the turn of the century it was straining under the weight of 8 million. The opening of Terminal 5 in March 2008 created the opportunity to demolish the old building and make way for a modern terminal to replace Terminals 1 and 2.

The new Terminal 2, which opened in June this year, is the next step in the transformation of passenger service at Heathrow. It is now home to United, Air Canada, ANA and Air China. Eventually it will be home to 26 airlines – 23 members of the Star Alliance as well as Aer Lingus, Germanwings and Virgin Atlantic Little Red. Airlines will move into the new terminal in phases over the next six months. When fully occupied, Terminal 2 will have 332 daily flights to 54 global destinations.

The new terminal is a £2.5 billion project and marks the latest phase of an £11 billion private sector investment that tincludes the construction of Terminal 2A and B, Terminal 5 A, B and C, a new control tower, and the refurbishment of Terminals 3 and 4.

Model T

But it has wider significance than that. It is now a central part of Heathrow’s revised submission to the Airports Commission which was published in May and is the mainstay of a plan to completely change the way the airport operates if a third runway is given the green light some time after the next election. 

Since the airport published its initial options last July and was shortlisted by the Commission in December as one of the options for increasing capacity in the south east of England it has re-submitted  its expansion plans in response. In this refreshed scheme, it has  located the much talked about option for a third runway further south and closer to the existing runways. It claims this reduces noise impacts and protects more homes and important heritage sites. The number of people affected by significant noise will fall by at least 12,000 compared to the submission last July, according to the airport. The number of properties requiring compulsory purchase has been reduced by 200. The revised scheme also avoids the need to redevelop the M4/M25 junction.

Moving the runway further south avoids the need to rebuild the M4/M25 junction, cutting the time taken to deliver a third runway. “If Government takes a clear policy decision after the Commission reports then planning consent can be delivered by 2019, with the first flights using a third runway in 2025. This is nine years earlier than a Thames Estuary hub could open and as quick as a second runway at Gatwick. Any delay is critical because the UK is already losing more than £14bn a year in trade due to constraints at Heathrow.” 

Six to two 

But the main purpose of the revised plan is that it delivers one integrated airport. Rather than six terminals, the revised plans see the creation of two main passenger terminal and transport hubs as front doors for the airport: Heathrow West (Terminals 5 and 6) and Heathrow East (an extended Terminal 2). 

These main terminals and their satellite buildings will be connected by one underground passenger transit and baggage system. Buy By making these changes the airport feels that Heathrow will feel like a single integrated airport, creating simpler journeys for passengers.

The new terminal and baggage systems have been designed to improve transfers. The extension of passenger track transit and modern transfer baggage facilities will see minimum connection times between terminals reduce from 75 minutes to 60 minutes, and minimum connection times within a terminal reduce from 60 to 45 minutes. This will equal the best connection times offered by Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris, the airport claims 

Heathrow West and Heathrow East will provide direct terminal access to passengers from every mode of transport. They will be connected to the Underground network and have fast dedicated rail services to London provided by Heathrow Express. But the airport’s revised plan is also looking at the successful completion of a number of other transport projects to connect it better to the rest of the UK.

It says that by 2019 Crossrail will link Heathrow to the City, Canary Wharf and East London. By 2021, Western Rail Access will provide fast direct services to the West and South Wales. Southern Rail Access will connect Heathrow to Waterloo and the South and South-West mainlines. In 2026 the new HS2 rail line will provide fast access to Heathrow from the Midlands and the North. Access to the M25, M4, M40 and M3 will all be improved, it claims.

A third runway at Heathrow will provide an opportunity to redevelop one of the most congested sections of the M25 according to the revised submission.  The airport has begun discussions with the Highways Agency to help achieve this it says. A new tunneled section of the M25 would be completed and opened before the existing route was closed. 

“Our new proposal avoids the M25/M4 interchange and uses existing M25 junctions. We can construct the new section without reducing the capacity of the M25, and once complete our proposal would deliver new lanes which would allow drivers to bypass traffic leaving the M25 at Heathrow or the M4. This will segregate local and airport traffic from through traffic, improving capacity on the M25 and relieving congestion,” according to the airport.

Better rail connections

Better rail connections will include Crossrail, the Piccadilly Line upgrade; Western Rail Access; Southern Rail Access; and HS2. Heathrow’s rail capacity will treble from 5,000 to nearly 15,000 seats per hour or from 18 to 40 trains per hour. Journey times to cities around the UK will fall dramatically, according to the airport. 

“Passengers boarding a train at Sheffield or Manchester could be checking in for their flight at Heathrow 90 minutes later. We will also work with airlines and Government to deliver better air links between UK regions and Heathrow.”

In its revised submission Heathrow argues that the uniqueness of hubs is shown by the spare capacity elsewhere in the London system. 

“There is spare capacity at point- to-point airports in London like Gatwick, Stansted and Luton until around 2040. It is the flights from a hub airport that are critical to connecting Britain to long-haul markets. Heathrow needs a third runway as quickly as possible or Britain will fall behind its competitors in links to these markets.”

Yes to a second runway at Gatwick?

Heathrow now says it would support Gatwick being allowed to grow and flourish but claims that the two airports are very different and should be treated as such. “Heathrow is a hub airport and serves long-haul business destinations by pooling demand from across Europe. Gatwick is a point-to-point airport and serves mainly short- haul and leisure destinations. Serving business and leisure destinations are both important but only a third runway at Heathrow can connect the UK to long-haul growth markets,” it argues.

It adds that a second runway at Gatwick will only make Britain better connected to Europe. “Flights that rely on transfer passengers cannot operate from point-to-point airports. Network airlines have a different business model from point-to-point carriers. They do not have the expensive transfer baggage or freight handling facilities of a hub. Adding capacity at Heathrow will provide future capacity in the London system for any type of flight. Adding capacity at Gatwick will not provide any capacity for network airlines who rely on transfer passengers, meaning the UK
will lose its aviation hub status.”

Lower fares

Heathrow has been unable to add more flights for a decade but demand has continued to increase, pushing up prices. Research by Frontier Economics estimates that passengers travelling through Heathrow are already paying an average of £95 more for a return ticket than they would do if Heathrow had a third runway. In future un-met demand will be even greater. By 2030 the average return ticket price could be £300 less with an unconstrained Heathrow than with a two-runway Heathrow. The figures take into account the costs of building a third runway and show that the savings delivered to consumers by additional capacity are far greater than the costs of construction.

Many passengers in UK nations and regions no longer have the choice of flying via Heathrow because domestic flights have been squeezed out as capacity has become constrained, the revised submission argues. Heathrow offers flights to seven UK airports while Amsterdam has routes to 24 UK airports. For some UK regions the only available option is to fly to Amsterdam. Spare capacity at Heathrow would increase competition giving UK passengers more choice, leading to lower fares and better service. For this reason it has established a Taskforce for Regional Connectivity to Heathrow to develop proposals for how regional air links can be improved.

Lord John Shipley of Gosforth has been appointed as the independent chair of the National Connectivity Task Force, which was first announced by Heathrow in its May submission to the Airports Commission.

The challenge is to make sure that Heathrow can regain the air links to regions and nations that were lost as capacity constraints squeezed out domestic traffic. Members from business, academia and industry experts from across the UK will be invited to make up the 15-strong Task Force whose purpose is to develop policy proposals and recommendations for improving regional access to an expanded Heathrow. They will report their findings to Heathrow by the end of 2014 to ensure they form a valuable contribution to Airports Commission’s final report and recommendations.

The end of hubs?

In its revised submission the airport acknowledges that some aviation experts have argued that the development of new aircraft such as B787s will change airline business models, and mean that hub airports will be less important in future. These new more efficient and longer range aircraft are important industry developments that allow people to travel further with less noise and fewer emissions.

But there is no evidence that they spell the end of the hub airport according to the submission. It adds that 87% of orders for B787s are from network airlines operating from hubs. “Heathrow has nearly ten times as many B787 departures than Gatwick. And the flights to Heathrow are to traditional long-haul business destinations, while the flights from Gatwick are to traditional long-haul leisure destinations such as Florida or the Caribbean. The aircraft might be more efficient but airlines still need to fill the seats to operate to long-haul destinations – and that means attracting transfer passengers through a hub.”

Ryanair and easyjet have recently placed orders for more than 300 aircraft, costing more than £15 billion, the submission points out. “Not a single long-haul aircraft is among them,” it adds. “A number of airlines have tried to set up low-cost long-haul in the past and failed – including Laker Airlines in the 1970s, and AirAsia X, Hong Kong Oasis and Zoom in the last decade. Low-cost carriers are fundamentally different to network airlines – they carry very few transfer passengers, no freight, and don’t have business, first or premium cabins. These are all elements which are needed to make long-haul routes viable but which are not necessary on short-haul or seasonal leisure routes.”

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