THIRTEEN climate-change activists were in custody tonight after chaining themselves to railings on the north runway at Heathrow airport.
The members of activist group Plane Stupid cut a hole in a fence in the early hours and lay down on the Tarmac. The campaigners, who were protesting against airport expansion, were cut free and removed by police.
A video posted online showed several activists chained together and being spoken to by an officer.
The officer told them: “As a consequence of you being here, you are causing severe disruption and it will be in the millions of pounds because it will take us a while to remove you.
“The cost will be in the couple of millions. The airport will attempt to make a civil recovery.”
He added: “There are international flights now being diverted.”
The Metropolitan Police confirmed some of the demonstrators chained themselves together using a so-called “tripod”.
Ella Gilbert, one of the activists on the runway, said: “Building more runways goes against everything we’re being told by scientists on climate change. This would massively increase carbon emissions exactly when we need to massively reduce them. That’s why we’re here.
“We want to say sorry to anyone whose day we’ve ruined, and we’re not saying that everybody who wants to fly is a bad person. It’s those who fly frequently and unnecessarily who are driving the need for expansion, and we cannot keep ignoring the terrifying consequences of flying like there’s no tomorrow.
“No ifs, no buts, no third runway. And we mean it.”
The demonstration caused delays for passengers around the world and 22 flights out of the airport were cancelled. Louise Rogers, 35, and Ciara Lalor, 34, had their flight home to Dublin cancelled.
Ms Rogers said: “It’s affecting an awful lot of people’s lives. I’m not one bit impressed. They should be shot with rubber bullets.”
Ms Lalor said: “They’ve disrupted so many people. They shouldn’t be allowed. Get the fire engine out and hose them down.”
Travellers also took to Twitter to vent their frustration.
One passenger, Jonathan Peat, posted: “What’s happening at Heathrow? Waiting to leave Newcastle and been told there are protesters on runway?”
Jacob Firsel, who was delayed in Israel, tweeted: “Protests at Heathrow and we’re stuck on the runway in Tel Aviv. So much for good start to our vacation.” Other flyers were more sympathetic to the protesters, with Eamonn Maguire posting: “As someone sitting waiting at Glasgow airport about to board a flight to Heathrow: fair doos.”
Afzal Ashraf, a consultant fellow at defence and security think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, said the security breach was a “concern”.
“If they did manage to get to a runway before being apprehended then there is a bit of an issue,” he said.
“If a terrorist group came up to the fence, it would take a few minutes to cut through. It’s very easy to get to a fence before the police are able to react.”
Earlier this month, a long-awaited report recommended a new runway should be built at Heathrow rather than Gatwick.