UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has urged London Heathrow Airport to make its planned expansion and development of a third runway as cost-efficient as possible.
The Davies Commission voted for the implementation of a third runway at Heathrow in 2015 and, being long overdue, Grayling said that “Heathrow’s customers should not pay for a ‘gold plated’ solution”.
With costs to build the third runway estimated to be around £14bn, a host of airlines that use the airport demanded that there should be no increase in charges during or after the completion of the project. Speaking last year on behalf of the protesting airlines, IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said that Heathrow’s plan is a “ridiculous glory project”.
In response, the government said it couldn’t guarantee to keep costs low, though committed to keeping ‘airport charges as close as possible to current levels’, and commissioned the Civil Aviation Authority to intermediate during the negotiations between the airport and the airlines.
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “Airlines support expansion at Heathrow as it’s best placed to deliver the biggest gains to passengers and the wider economy.
“Expansion is paid for not by Heathrow but by airline customers in the form of charges. Heathrow must not increase these to pay for a disproportionately expensive scheme.”
A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport said: “We welcome the secretary of state’s desire for new airlines to help shape our plans for expansion, putting the interests of passengers at the heart of developing solutions to some of the industry’s challenges.
“We know, from our continuous engagement with new and current operators at the airport throughout the expansion planning process, that a healthy mix of airline experts helps to improve choice and competition, resulting in better service and value for money for passengers.”
Heathrow’s expansion project was chosen by the Davies Commission over both the Heathrow Hub extended runway scheme and plans to build a second runaway at Gatwick Airport.
But as delays on the completion of the project continue, a promoter of the Hub has filed a complaint to the Competition and Market Authority, claiming that Heathrow Airport Limited ‘abused its dominant market position’ by refusing to support the scheme were it to be chosen.
Heathrow Hub director Jock Lowe said: “After years of trying to work cooperatively with Heathrow Airport and the Department for Transport [DfT], we have decided it is time to take the gloves off.
“The consequence of Heathrow’s veto and the flawed process run by the DfT is that consumers and airlines are being saddled with its unnecessarily complex, noisy and expensive third runway which will take years to build. Our scheme is cheaper, quicker, quieter and easier to build than the third runway.”
A Heathrow spokesperson replied: “It is untrue to suggest we vetoed the plans submitted by Heathrow Hub. The northwest runway scheme has gained the support of the government, backing by the independent Airports Commission process and most recently, the Transport Select Committee.
“We are taking forward a plan that delivers for our passengers, our partners, businesses across Britain and importantly for our local communities – it’s now time to deliver it.”