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A Third runway for Heathrow by 2020?

There could be a third runway at Heathrow by 2020 after the government today published a new consultation document on Heathrow's future.

The document - Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport - looks at whether a third runway could be built at Heathrow supported by a new sixth terminal with access to the road and rail network.

"If nothing changes Heathrow's status as a world-class airport will be gradually eroded - jobs will be lost and the economy will suffer. London and the UK's nations and regions alike are reliant on the good international connections that the Heathrow hub provides," says transport secretary, Ruth Kelly.

A third runway would enable Heathrow to handle around 700,000 flights a year, and increase passenger numbers from around 67 million now to 120 million by 2020.

Local and environmental campaigners are bound to oppose the proposals. Around 700 homes would have to be demolished to make way for the third runway. "I fully understand this is an issue which raises strong feelings on all sides which is why we are making every effort to encourage people to make their views known," says Kelly. The closing date for responses to the consultation is 27 February 2008.

If a third runway is built at Heathrow it is unlikely that Stansted Airport will also get a new runway. Airport operator BAA currently has a planning application to increase the number of flights at Stansted by 75,000 a year, which could increase the number of passengers to 35 million a year.

Written by: Nick Purdom