'Winners and Losers' in New Measures Set To Tackle Heathrow Delays

Proposals could allow airport operator to use both runways simultaneously

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New Government measures set to tackle delays at Heathrow signal further suffering for residents from greater aircraft noise.

The plans are set out in the final report by the Government's South East Airports Taskforce focused on making Heathrow more resilient and better able to recover on days when the airport´s operations are disrupted by poor weather or other problems. When such problems occur, these proposals would allow both Heathrow's runways to be used simultaneously for either arrivals or departures as a way to cut delays and cancellations and get punctuality back on track.

Admitting there will be 'winners and losers', Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers said: "These measures have the potential to deliver greater reliability for passengers, while reducing the impact of unscheduled night flights on local communities. Trialling these changes will allow their benefits and impacts to be assessed and there will be extensive engagement and consultation with local communities before any decision is taken on whether to make the changes permanent."

Under existing arrangements, Heathrow operates largely on a runway alternation system, whereby one runway is used for arrivals and the other for departures - with the roles reversed halfway through the day to provide respite from noise for residents living near the end of the runways.

Currently, BAA are permitted, under certain circumstances, to use both runways simultaneously for arrivals to clear major backlogs of flights waiting to land - a process known as Tactically Enhanced Arrival Measures (TEAM). Under the new proposals there would be more flexibility for the operator as to when these measures would be used and this approach would be extended to cover departures.

Trials of the new measures will be run over the autumn and next summer. They will be overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority, the UK´s independent aviation regulator, and will involve BAA working closely with local residents to ensure transparency, take account of their views and monitor the impact of such operations on those communities nearest the airport.

July 20, 2011