London Heathrow Airport will close one of its two runways following a 90 per cent drop in traffic caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The airport, Europe’s busiest, insists the move is to carry out repairs during the lull, however it comes less than a week before a key Supreme Court appeal regarding its plans to build a third runway.
The decision to concentrate all of its traffic to one strip until October has angered noise campaigners who will now hear concentrated sounds from 5am to 11pm every day.
Heathrow issued a “Notice to Airmen” (Notam) on the weekend to pilots and airlines wanting to use the southern runway, known as 09R/27L, which it stated would close on Sunday, 12 July until 30 September.
Teriminal 4, which is adjacent, closed in April.
The move is significant for locals because the two runways usually take turns at handling take-off or landing, with a switch happening at 3pm to give respite to residents.
However, the move will be seen as a blow to the airport’s hopes of winning a crucial Supreme Court case to overturn a decision to stop it from being able to build a third runway.
Even if the business is successful, the ruling Conservative government has hinted it would not support the decision.
World of Aviation reported in February how the airport failed in its first bid to build the new strip, which it insists is crucial to its long-term future.
Heathrow said in a statement, “Reduced passenger demand as a result of COVID-19 means we have an opportunity to undertake necessary repairs to the southern runway with less disruption caused than if we were operating at full capacity.
“Over coming weeks, we will close the southern runway for an initial short period to allow preliminary works to take place.
“Once these initial works are completed, we will reopen the runway during the day and undertake subsequent works at night. This will allow us to limit the impact on local communities by providing runway alternation.”