Jock Lowe devises £7.5bn plan to extend runways at Heathrow

"The cheapest option to solve the capacity crunch in the south-east."

Heathrow airport's southern runway. Photograph: Getty Images.

William "Jock" Lowe has devised a £7.5bn plan to extend the existing northern and southern runways at the Heathrow airport from 3,900 and 3,700 metres to 7,500 metres.

As well as doubling the airport’s passenger capacity from 70m to 140m, the extension of runways will increase the number of flights from 480,000 per year to almost 1m. Heathrow currently uses only one runway at a time for jet take-offs or landings.

Lowe, a former executive director at British Airways who is currently in charge of Gatwick Airport, also proposed to move part of the M25 motorway in his plans, submitted to the Davies commission which is examining how to preserve the UK’s status as an international aviation hub.

John Stewart, head of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, told the Financial Times: “For people under the existing flight paths, there would be uproar. They would be getting a double whammy – more planes, and planes all day long. My sense is that it could be as unpopular in west London as a third runway.”

Lowe further said that aircraft noise could be reduced by flying jets higher over London, bringing them into Heathrow on steeper descents and flying in over less populated areas.

Lowe added: “The airlines and air traffic control have done very little on noise mitigation on arrival and even on take-off. When we started hearing about all these various ideas, I thought this is just getting really rather silly. Heathrow is in the ideal spot… For UK Ltd, why would you dream of putting it somewhere else?”

Lowe, who is working with Mark Bostock, a former director at engineers firm Arup, claims that his proposed plan is the cheapest option to solve the capacity crunch in the south east and would not put jobs and businesses at risk, compared to the £10bn proposal by economist Tim Leunig.

Lowe estimates that the full plan could be completed in phases within ten years and a limited extension of the airport’s northern runway could be completed within three years.

As part of the first phase, the airport will be connected to Crossrail and the Great Western rail line. In the subsequent phases, Heathrow will be linked to the High Speed 2 rail line connecting London with northern England, and the high-speed link to Europe, which is expected to take longer time.

Lowe and his team are working on the impact on greenhouse gas emissions due to extension of runways.