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  • UPDATED 2 SEPTEMBER 2020

    Whilst we are experiencing lower flight volumes because of the impacts of COVID-19, we are carrying out some repairs to the southern runway. These works began in the week commencing 13 July 2020.

    In order to undertake the repairs, we need to close the southern runway, meaning we will only operate from the northern runway during certain time periods outlined below. This means that for these periods of time, communities overflown by flights using the northern runway will experience more aircraft noise than they currently do today, whilst those communities usually overflown by flights using the southern runway will experience less aircraft noise. We appreciate that this is disruptive for local communities and we have planned our works to minimise this disruption.

    The following videos explain more about the runway repairs....

    Repairs explained – Part 1

    Repairs explained – Part 2

    We plan to complete the works in phases and the following sets out the details of this.

    Phase 1 – full closure of the southern runway 

    In the first phase, from 13 July to 2 August 2020, the southern runway was fully closed (day and night) so that we could carry out more extensive repairs that require deeper excavation. During this period, only the northern runway was in operation.

    Because of the length of time required to carry out this type of repair, it was not possible to carry out these repairs overnight as we have done for previous runway maintenance, such as routine runway resurfacing or the works we will do in Phase 2 (see below).

    Phase 1 Summary

    1. From 13 July to 2 August 2020 the southern runway was closed (during the day and night).

    2. The works took place Monday to Saturday between 7am – 7pm.

    3. Only the northern runway was in use during this period and so no runway alternation took place.

     
    Phase 2 – overnight closure of the southern runway (Monday to Friday, 8pm - 7am)

    In this second phase, from 2 August 2020 the works continue overnight from Monday to Friday 8pm - 7am, but both runways are in use during the day and on Saturday and Sunday nights. During this period, we are following the published runway alternation schedule and runway alternation will take place at its usual time at 3pm when we are on westerly operations. We anticipate these works will continue through to early October.

    At 8pm each evening, the southern runway is closed until 7am the following morning - meaning the northern runway is the only runway in use during that time. Unlike in Phase 1, we are not carrying out deep repairs during the night period - the repairs in Phase 2 are less extensive so there is enough time to carry out the repairs overnight and have the southern runway serviceable again by the next morning.

    (Note: Phase 2 works were paused from Saturday 22 August at 7am until Tuesday 1 September at 8pm to allow us to transition to the next stage of the works.)

    Phase 2 Summary

    1. From 2 August 2020 into September/October 2020, the southern runway will be closed for repairs from Monday to Friday between 8pm – 7am so only the northern runway will be in use during this period.

    2. Both runways will be in use between the hours of 7am – 8pm and on Saturday and Sunday nights, with runway alternation taking place at 3pm.

     

    We anticipate that these works will continue through to early October, however we will need to review this nearer the time as this will depend on the operational situation such as the number of flight movements. We of course will keep you updated on the plans for this.

    We recognise this may be disruptive to local communities, however by carrying out the repairs now whilst flight volumes are significantly lower than normal, we believe this provides us with the opportunity to carry out the works in the most efficient and quickest way. This should then minimise unplanned repairs in the future, causing less disruption to both our operations and local communities e.g. with fewer interrupted respite periods.

    We would like to assure you that the southern runway is safe to use – the deep repairs in Phase 1 were an opportunity for us to provide some further resilience to our operations, whilst the repairs in Phase 2 are planned maintenance work that we would need to carry out in the near future regardless.

    We can also assure you that Heathrow remains committed to finding ways to reduce the impact of our operations, working closely with our local residents and industry partners such as our airlines and NATS air traffic controllers.

    We will ensure to keep you updated on the works as they progress.

    FAQs

    The global impacts of COVID-19 were completely unexpected and not something we could have planned for. One of the key factors we needed to understand at the beginning was how long this was going to affect the aviation industry.

    When it became clear that it would have longer term impacts to the airport, we explored the opportunity of carrying out runway repairs whilst flight levels where significantly lower than usual. Since then, we have developed the scope of the work and carried out detailed surveys as well as assessing the best options to minimise the local community impacts, whilst ensuring that regulatory processes were duly followed. Given the complexity of these factors this has consequently taken some time to develop.

    Yes, the southern runway is safe to use – the deep repairs in Phase 1 are an opportunity for us to provide some further resilience to our runway and operation, whilst the repairs in Phase 2 are planned maintenance work that we would need to carry out in the near future regardless.

    When on westerly operations, areas affected will include those under the final approach to the northern runway such as Cranford, Kew and Fulham, and those affected by departures such as Colnbrook and Wraysbury.

    When on easterly operations, areas affected will include those under the final approach to the northern runway such as Colnbrook and Windsor, and those affected by departures such as Cranford, Southall, Hounslow and Twickenham.

    Areas further out along the departure routes are unlikely to be affected by the runway closure, as the departure routes for the northern and southern runways merge once aircraft have left the airport.

    A day of westerly operations on the northern runway (27R)
    A day of westerly operations on the northern runway (27R)
    A day of easterly operations on the northern runway (09L)
    A day of easterly operations on the northern runway (09L)

    The works we are carrying out in Phase 1 are more extensive repairs because they require a deeper excavation. The excavation itself takes several hours to do, followed by the repair and backfilling which must be completed in layers as each layer needs time to set and cool. We then need to relay the tarmac which also requires several hours to cool.

    However, the repairs we plan to undertake in Phase 2 are less extensive and will consist of general maintenance and works to the top surface. There will therefore be enough time to carry out the repairs overnight and have the southern runway serviceable again by the next morning.

    Other than when the equipment is brought on site on the first day and taken off site when the works are finished, equipment will remain within the airport boundaries throughout the duration of the works.

    No, the routine runway resurfacing that takes place every 10 years is to replace the top surface of the runway (known as the wearing course). The works we are carrying out are deeper repairs.