Young consultants anticipate the challenge of Heathrow’s third runway

With the Davies Commission’s recommendation now in, we’ve captured some thoughts from Progress Network members, asking what the construction of the third runway at Heathrow could mean for young consultants, write Megan Radcliffe and Joseph Roberts.

First some background to the Commission’s findings. The third runway recommendation is dependent on a number of measures including:

  • a ban on an all scheduled night flights;
  • a legally binding “noise envelope” and acceptable performance on air quality;
  • local training opportunities/apprenticeships;
  • a commitment to spend more than £1bn on community compensation;
  • a major shift in mode-share; and
  • acceptable performance on air quality.

Why Heathrow? 

While the scheme is set to cost £17bn to implement and will require the demolition of 783 homes, the commission found it would generate £147bn in GDP over 60 years, create 70,000 new jobs by 2050 and add 40 new destinations, including 10-12 new long-haul routes.

Following delivery of the final report the Government has said a decision on whether to implement the recommendation will be made by the end of the year. 

What challenges and what opportunities does this recommendation bring for young professionals? 

Heathrow will bring a unique challenge for the best and the brightest to produce world class design to deliver the project in this tight urban space. This mega project is expected to provide in the region of 10,000 new apprenticeships. Those involved in the construction will no doubt be valuable assets during the operational phase, producing a generation of “as-built” brains to serve Heathrow in the future or to act as global exports for other major infrastructure projects. 
As arguably the most climate aware generation this expansion brings major ethical concerns, with aviation looking likely to be one of the last sectors to displace fossil fuels. However, the shift in approach to deliver a sustainable airport is something that our network members felt they were well placed to provide. 

What, if anything, should our industry do to encourage further political and public support for an additional runway at Heathrow?

An encouraging aspect of the debate is that the UK’s ability to deliver such complex projects is no longer in question by either the Commission or the public. The confidence in the industry, thanks to projects such as the Olympics and Crossrail, is testament to the talents of built environment professionals. In order to advocate development of this kind, professionals will need to continue to champion the capabilities of the industry and prove that we can produce a sustainable development in this dense urban environment. 
In addition, consultants can align themselves with programmes such as Flight Path 2050, the EU’s goal to reduce the aviation sector's nitrous oxide emissions by 90 percent, noise pollution by 65 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 75 percent by 2050 thus furthering sustainable air travel. 

What impact will a third runway have on the next generation?

Heathrow should not just be seen as a single cash injection for UK construction. If the analysis of the Commission is correct, the third runway will help the UK remain economically competitive in the global market. UK based consultancies have always been outwards looking, providing the world with expertise. International transport links will remain essential for UK firms to stay connected and stay competitive. 

There is clearly excitement from the industry who are keen to address the challenges and opportunities of providing tomorrow’s infrastructure. However, this view is cautioned by the need to make aviation more sustainable and its impact less contentious. 
Heathrow has the recommendation it wanted. We now wait to see whether the Government will endorse the recommendation or propose an alternative. If the recommendation is implemented Heathrow will need to rely on the full breadth and depth of the world’s professional services capability to deliver the project within the parameters set by the Commission. 

By Megan Radcliffe (Beale & Company Solicitors LLP) and Joseph Roberts (Joint Vice-Chairs of the Progress Network Committee) with thanks to Jay Rao (Glanville Group) and Andrew Kidd 

Progress Network is ACE’s community for young professional consultants and engineers working in the natural and built environments and provides opportunities to meet, learn, share experiences and network at events nationwide http://www.acenet.co.uk/ProgressNetwork/624

If you would like to contact Jackie Whitelaw about this, or any other story, please email jackie.whitelaw@infrastructure-intelligence.com.