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John Holland-Kaye

Heathrow to start planning runway construction

Heathrow Airport is to start talks immediately with its supply chain over construction of a £17.6bn new runway the airport’s boss John Holland-Kaye announced at the Runways UK conference today. It will also kick off the planning process, he said.

The airport is pushing to build on the momentum behind construction of a third runway at Heathrow after the publication of Sir Howard Davies’ report last week which unequivocally backed the north west option at the airport. Government has promised a decision by the autumn/ end of the year.

“We can find a further £16bn over the next 10 years to invest in the airport, to add to the £11bn spent in last decade. It is significant that the world’s infrastructure funds want to invest is a sign of confidence in the airport" John Holland-Kaye

“We are calling for an early decision from the Government, with shovels in the ground by 2020 and benefits coming through to the economy by 2025,” Holland-Kaye said. “We’ll start on planning consent and will continue to engage with the local community. Traffic surveys will begin over the summer and we are engaging now with the supply chain to establish the skills that we will need.”

Holland-Kaye was upbeat about Heathrow’s future and delighted by the Airport’s Commission’s decision. Added weight to Heathrow’s case comes from the willingness of international funders to back the new runway he suggested.

“We can find a further £16bn over the next 10 years to invest in the airport, to add to the £11bn spent in last decade. It is significant that the world’s infrastructure funds want to invest is a sign of confidence in the airport,” he said.

However former transport secretary Lord Adonis who backs the new third runway cautioned that the battle for Heathrow was far from won.

“Sir Howard has made it possible for Heathrow to proceed and it will be very difficult in the short term for another option to proceed,” he said. “But this is absolutely not the green light. It's kind of flashing amber.

“The only serious option on the table is now Heathrow. But that doesn’t mean it will happen. It is not a choice between Heathrow and Gatwick (for the government) but a choice between action and inaction. And there is nothing more attractive for politicians as inaction or doing something that involves appearing to be further considering the issue but not actually taking a decision that will lead to any action in the short term.”

In Adonis’s view “ the early omens are not particularly encouraging".

“Government,” he said, “did not take a firm and decisive lead last week. It said it would firmly and decisively read the report and take many months to do it.”

The promise of a decision by autumn, he said, should be interpreted flexibly.  “Autumn in government terms can last to the end of the year or well into 2016. It can easily mean next spring or indeed after the next London mayoral election.”

The easiest thing to do is to let the debate run on or instigate new studies particularly around noise and air quality, he said.

“But, there will be at least one new runway in the south east in the next 20 years,” he predicted.  “Last week’s report might make Heathrow more likely but I would not put money on it.”

 

 

If you would like to contact Jackie Whitelaw about this, or any other story, please email jackie.whitelaw@infrastructure-intelligence.com.