Spotlight on Airports: Heathrow

Posted by Steve Thomas on Friday, July 12, 2019

Heathrow Airport’s third runway expansion has been talked about for years, but at last some plans are being made to bring this airport project about. With the consultation on their plans recently released, a third runway at Heathrow Airport is one step closer to becoming a reality.  While the third runway provides the impetus for this project, there is far more to this aviation proposal than meets the eye. 

The Heathrow Megaproject

The Heathrow masterplan has four phases, with the third runway being built in Phase 1 by 2026. Future phases lay out plans for continued expansion until 2050 and beyond. Yet this airport project isn’t just for aviation engineers, quantity surveyors and commercial managers. While the initial plans are currently undergoing consultation, the works involve far more than laying some tarmac down for a third runway. 

Phase 1 of the Heathrow masterplan includes building a tunnel for the M25 to run 4–5m under the proposed runway and moving the existing alignment up to 150m west. Upgrades will be required for Junctions 14 and 14a as a result of the new alignment. The plans also affect the A4 and the A3044, which would both have to be moved to accommodate the new runway – so expect to see more jobs for highway engineers and tunnelling engineer vacancies. 

Complex Challenges

Roads aren’t the only assets that need moving, either. Two rivers will need diverting in order to accommodate the new runway, one of which currently passes beneath the proposed runway. New drainage and pollution control areas will be required in addition to the river diversions. As these are critical activities for providing the space for the proposals, there will be plenty of interesting challenges for civil engineers, environmental engineers, quantity surveyors, and commercial managers to resolve in order to deliver these ambitious plans. 

Several existing airport buildings are being relocated and new buildings are being added as well to support future growth. Some community facilities are also being displaced and will need relocating elsewhere, requiring skilled construction site managers and project managers. Green infrastructure plays a part of the airport’s plans in their Landscape Strategy, so there will also be plenty of jobs for landscape engineers and environmental engineers. 

How Does Heathrow’s Third Runway Compare?

Worldwide, international airports are putting plans in place to expand services for forecast increases in passenger numbers: Toronto Pearson International Airport, Dubai International Airport, and Hong Kong International Airport are just a few who are expanding their existing services and infrastructure. Heathrow currently serves 80 million passengers per annum (mppa), and the third runway will see that rise to 130mppa by the end of Phase 2 in 2030. This is roughly equivalent to Hong Kong International Airport, who currently serves around 70mppa and expects 100mppa by 2030, whereas Toronto Pearson International Airport currently serves 49mppa and expects to reach 94mppa by 2037. 

Jobs for Every Discipline

Much like Terminal 5 and the Olympics before it, Heathrow’s third runway is set to be one of the UK’s landmark projects, drawing construction professionals from around the country. While aviation experience is always desirable, the wide range of works on this project means that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a civil engineer, quantity surveyor, or construction site manager – there will be something you can help with at Heathrow. To be one of the first to hear about aviation jobs, either send us your CV or set up our job alerts service and we’ll keep you updated with the latest aviation vacancies.

About the Author

Steve Thomas
Construction Recruitment Director, UK & Canada
I am responsible for the Maxim Recruitment office in the UK where our team of recruitment consultants specialise in the recruitment of quantity surveyors, commercial managers, delay, dispute and claims consultants for civil engineering and building contractors and specialist construction consultancies.  I am also responsible for growing our recruitment operation in Canada and the USA where we are increasingly busy.  I have over 20 years’ experience in construction recruitment and enjoy working on both contingency and search/headhunting assignments for our repeat clients.
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