Heathrow publishes 'masterplan' for controversial third runway

London (AFP) –


London Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, on Tuesday issued plans for its controversial third runway, including the rerouting of rivers and roads, as it sought also to allay environmental concerns.

Britain's government last year finally approved the third runway after decades of acrimonious debate.

"Heathrow today unveils its preferred masterplan for expansion," said a statement from the airport, which is owned by a consortium led by Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial.

The detailed plan includes "tough new measures" to reduce emissions, limit noise and curb night-time flights.

The M25 motorway that rings London will be rerouted under the new runway, while river corridors will also be diverted.

"We're working with those impacted residents, communities and local authorities to identify appropriate mitigation measures," the plan said.

"New river corridors will be created to channel the existing rivers and wildlife away from construction sites and the new runway."

Construction is expected to start in 2022, with the runway built by approximately 2026. New terminals will not be ready until around 2050.

The expansion is expected to cost about £30 billion ($38 billion, 34 billion euros), according to the BBC, including £14 billion on the first phase.

The hub, west of London, aims to increase its total capacity to 130 million passengers per day, compared with the current level of about 78 million.

- Public consultation -

"Expansion must not come at any cost," said Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow's executive director for expansion, presenting a new public consultation that will run until September.

"That is why we have been working with partners at the airport, in local communities and in government to ensure our plans show how we can grow sustainably and responsibly -- with environmental considerations at the heart of expansion.

"This consultation is an opportunity for people to have their say on our preferred masterplan," she added.

Heathrow will also issue compensation for affected homeowners, and establish a noise insulation policy and a community fund.

The third runway has faced stiff opposition for many years from campaigners who cited the negative impacts on noise and air pollution, habitat destruction, transport congestion, and climate change.

Last month, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, along with environmental charities and local councils, lost a court battle to prevent the Heathrow expansion.

Britain's Conservative government argues that the project will provide a major boost to Britain's post-Brexit economy and could create up to 114,000 local jobs by 2030.

Heathrow is owned by an investment consortium comprising also sovereign wealth funds from nations including China, Singapore and Qatar.