- After nearly 20 years of contentious negotiations and planning, the U.K. Parliament voted 415 to 119 to permit a third runway at London Heathrow Airport that would expand capacity from 85.5 million passengers per year to 130 million. The project will cost an estimated £14 billion and enter service in 2026.
- Air cargo officials support the new runway to make Heathrow more competitive globally and improve access for local exports, including Scottish salmon and whiskey.
- The vote drew protestors, and members of Parliament have resigned over the issue. Detractors said the third runway would force 4,000 homes to be razed and up to 10,000 people to be involuntarily relocated from their communities.
Airport officials have said the expansion will lead to 250,000 more flights, purportedly without any additional auto traffic or noise.
Air freight accounts for about 40% of the value of the U.K.'s imports and exports, which will take on greater importance as international trading partners may shift in the wake of Brexit. In addition to passenger traffic, air cargo traffic has been growing at Heathrow as well, up 6.9% in January 2018 year over year.
Heathrow officials have said the airport is operating at virtually full capacity, with the number of flights allowed on the existing runways limited by noise regulations. It's the airport of choice for cargo and passengers over other London-area options. Adding the runway will allow Heathrow to grow as a hub for international connecting flights primarily for business travelers.
Better regional services connecting the rest of the British Isles to Heathrow will help drive additional exports, airport proponents said.
Also, large numbers of travelers from China arrive in Scotland via Heathrow already, and additional tourist spending is a big incentive for the runway expansion.
The project's backers say it will be funded privately by raising Airports Commission fees, although the government has pledged to hold the line on landing charges.
However, transport infrastructure improvements to take advantage of the additional air traffic could cost £15 billion or more during a time when other projects are being cut due to lack of funding.