Safety Concerns At Heathrow And Gatwick

UK Airports Tackle Concrete Issue

Stock image of plane approaching Heathrow Airport. Credit: Fasttailwind/

The recent scandal surrounding Britain’s schools and the use of crumbling concrete has also impacted the two busiest UK airports

Recently, details have emerged that both Heathrow and Gatwick, the UK’s leading airports, discovered the presence of a particular type of concrete known for its limited lifespan, according to the Evening Standard.

RAAC: A Historical Concern

Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) was identified within these airports. This type of concrete, known for its airy and bubbly texture, offers a cost-effective alternative to traditional concrete. However, its expected lifespan is roughly 30 years, after which it becomes susceptible to deterioration.

Historically, RAAC was popular from the 1950s to the 1990s and was used in numerous public structures, notably many educational institutions.

Airports Take Action

Last year, this concrete was detected at Heathrow’s Terminal Three, leading to immediate corrective measures. Heathrow‘s official statement read: ‘Industry has been aware and acting on the remedial steps that should be taken in buildings that contain this material.

‘We, like many others, have been assessing our estate and will continue to mitigate the risk where this material is found. Passenger and colleague safety will always be our first priority, and we will continue to update stakeholders across the sector as our plans for permanent solutions progress.’

Gatwick‘s representatives also acknowledged the presence of RAAC but emphasised the absence of any threat to travellers. ‘We have a register of locations containing RAAC on the airport campus, which are closely monitored through a regular comprehensive structural inspection regime,’ a spokesperson commented. ‘Our most recent inspection in June 2023 did not present any concerns, and we will continue to monitor on a regular basis.’

National Implications

The RAAC issue gained significant attention when over 100 educational institutions in England, including more than 10 in London, were mandated to shut down due to concerns related to this material. The Department for Education disclosed that a total of 147 schools faced challenges with this deteriorating concrete.

An incident where a beam, previously deemed safe, collapsed during the summer prompted a re-evaluation of structures containing RAAC. The situation became even more contentious when Education Secretary Gillian Keegan faced backlash for her remarks, questioning why no-one says ‘you’ve done a f****** good job’ while ‘everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothing’ regarding the concrete issue.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.