Page last updated at 01:02 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Heathrow expansion: Construction

aerial photo of Heathrow
The expansion of Heathrow means the loss of 700 homes and a primary school

Plans for a third runway and a sixth terminal have been approved and are set to result in a massive construction project at Heathrow.

The world's busiest international airport could expand to become the busiest in the world in terms of passenger numbers and flights.


London's Heathrow airport currently boasts two runways at 12,801ft (3,902m) and 12,001ft (3,658m) in length.


Surface can be grooved to prevent build up of standing water, increase surface friction

2 Bituminous material or asphalt - stronger and more expensive than concrete, easier to repair after surface deterioration

3 Lean concrete - cheap, filler layer, less water and cement than in regular concrete

4 Granular material such as crushed limestone - construction platform, strengthens the underlying material

The third runway, set to be 7,218ft (2,200m) long, would "accommodate an efficient mix of all but the largest four-engined aircraft," according to the Department for Transport's Adding Capacity at Heathrow consultation document.

Heathrow's current runways are asphalt or flexible construction - composed of bituminous material layered over lean concrete and granular material such as crushed limestone.

To lay a new runway, first the construction crews would have to clear the existing buildings in the area.

Materials such as old concrete reclaimed from demolished buildings could be reused in the lower layers of the runway, civil engineers say. All wood, glass, metal and most brick would have to be removed.

A flexible construction runway of the length proposed could be built in as little as 12 months by a crew of about 150 operators in ideal conditions.

Heathrow: 67.3m
Terminal 5 (designed for): 35m
New Terminal: 35m
Gatwick: 35m
Stansted: 22.8m
Chicago O'Hare: 76m
Paris Charles de Gaulle: 55m
Amsterdam Schipol: 48m

The new terminal's layout is expected to be similar to Heathrow's latest terminal, Terminal 5.

Proposals include a main terminal building with through taxiways and aircraft parked in front of the main terminal building and around two remote satellites.

Terminal 5 was built over five and a half years, with construction starting in September 2002 and ending in March 2008.

BAA says the new terminal should support 35 million passengers per year, the same amount that Terminal 5 should manage at capacity.

Between the two terminals, Heathrow's passenger capacity could more than double.


Engineering firm Arup is proposing a £4.5bn rail link - or Heathrow Hub - to serve the existing airport, possible sixth terminal and an expanded high speed rail network across the country.


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Initially, a 12-platform station would provide a direct link to Heathrow from the Great Western Main line and rail routes to continental Europe.

Arup believes the best spot for the hub, out of 22 potential locations, is on the Great Western Main Line, somewhere between the M25 and West Drayton.

The firm says the area would have the least impact and is only 3km north of terminal five.

The Heathrow Hub has been set up to continue developing the proposal and is looking for £10m in investment to carry out further feasibility studies.

Arup says the proposal - subject to the usual planning permissions - is a stand-alone project and does not require the completion of a third runway to work.

Possible completion date: 2020.

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