Cabinet ministers have approved the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) on plans for a third runway at Heathrow, which means transport secretary Chris Grayling will be asking MPs to vote on the issue in the coming weeks. The industry has been responding to the news today, with mixed reactions.
Other UK airports have praised the cabinet for reaching a decision after years of debate, but warn that the process needs to move quickly from here out and should take regional airports into account when looking at spare capacity.
Nick Barton, CEO of Luton airport, said: “Now that we have cabinet approval for a third runway, the government owes it to business and the British public to move quickly by getting the plans through Parliament. We have had uncertainty and indecision for too long. The South East is facing unprecedented demand for air capacity, and the solution does not lie with Heathrow alone. London is a system of airports and each needs to be able to reach their full potential for London and the UK to thrive. That will be achieved by two things – airspace modernisation and improving links between rail and air.”
Ken O’Toole, CEO of Stansted airport, commented: “...we welcome today’s statement from government confirming its support for airports looking to make best use of existing capacity. It is vital for the UK economy that the country has the best possible aviation connections and that there is an urgent need to actively support airports, like London Stansted, that can deliver that access now.”
Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester airport, added: “Manchester airport has demonstrated the role it can play in connecting the North to key overseas markets through the launch of services to the likes of Hong Kong, Beijing, San Francisco and Boston in recent years and the announcement of new routes to Africa and India in the past few weeks. Manchester is also serving as a second global gateway to the UK for investors and visitors.”
Karen Smart, MD of East Midlands airport, said: “The government must now match its support for Heathrow with specific and practical proposals to maximise EMA’s global connectivity in the period to 2030, including support for better rail connectivity serving East Midlands Parkway, and backing regional transit infrastructure to link the proposed HS2 Toton to the airport.”
Dafydd Llewellyn, MD of UK SMB at SAP Concur, welcomed the news, which was decades in the making. “Although it’s been a long time coming, the confirmation from Chris Grayling that the third runway expansion in Heathrow will go ahead is a much-needed investment in UK infrastructure – which is bursting at the seams. This isn’t surprising considering the 1940s was the last time a full-length runway was built in the South East.
“This makes a third runway great news for British businesses – especially small and medium-sized ones – trying to grow and the business travellers themselves. In the short term, companies in and around Heathrow will profit, and in the longer term, the additional destinations will help companies break into fast-growing markets and ensure Britain remains a key figure in the globalised economy.”
Looking to the future, engineering firm AECOM says the “focus now must be on accelerating delivery” of the third runway.
Richard Robinson, chief executive of civil infrastructure for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa at AECOM, commented: “Once fully approved by the Commons, the government must invest in forming strong partnerships with local communities and industry if the full potential of the schemes is to be realised. They must also ensure any expansion is complemented with appropriate local infrastructure and transport links, such as the AECOM-backed Heathrow Southern Rail proposal.
“As an investor and partner in the scheme, we have provided funding and technical expertise, including early business case models, realistic capital cost estimates and advice to inform the selection of route options that minimise environmental impact.”
Meanwhile, Mark Tanzer, CEO of ABTA, said: “ABTA welcomes the government’s announcement of the Airports National Policy Statement and urges MPs to support expansion when they vote in Parliament in the coming weeks. While ABTA recognises that expansion must be delivered in a sustainable manner, constraints on airport capacity in the South East, in particular Heathrow, severely inhibit the UK’s ability to grow. In 2017, 78 million passengers passed through Heathrow, 67 per cent on leisure trips and the rest on business. It is currently operating at almost 100 per cent capacity.
“Airport expansion will boost the wider UK economy, creating thousands of jobs and delivering the increased connectivity the UK needs, especially in a post-Brexit world. However, it is also important that consumers aren’t burdened with the costs of expansion and that additional capacity is delivered in a cost-effective manner.”
The GTMC said on its Twitter page: “The GTMC welcomes today’s news announcing that the government has given its long-awaited approval for a third runway at Heathrow. This is key to realising ambitions for growth, not only in airport capacity but also economic growth of UK PLC.”
Surinder Arora, chairman and founder of the Arora Group, which submitted its own proposal for building new terminal facilities to support expansion at Heathrow, commented: “It’s excellent that the government has backed the Heathrow northwest runway expansion scheme. While Mr Grayling’s comments indicate that HAL are ‘currently the only credible promoter’ of the expansion project ‘in entirety’, we’re pleased to see the Airports NPS specifically avoids identifying any statutory undertaker as the appropriate person/s to carry out the preferred scheme, and in particular that the NPS reiterates the option for different components (such as the terminal) to be dealt with by different parties. As such, the Arora Group remains committed to the expansion of Heathrow and will engage constructively with all relevant bodies to support the delivery of an expanded, world-class hub airport.”
Jason Geall, vice president and general manager for Northern Europe at American Express Global Business Travel, commented: “It appears that common sense is prevailing. With the prospect of Brexit driving the need to strengthen UK trade connections around the world, businesses and their travellers need the broadest possible global network and reliable, regular services – an expanded hub airport is a key enabler. It’s vital that the right consultation processes are followed, but further delays should be minimised.
“In this current environment of uncertainty, a government matching its words with solid decisions on critical infrastructure schemes goes some way to providing reassurance for businesses and the UK economy.”
While industry support remains strong, the plan faces opposition in Parliament, with foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who is MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, saying he would be willing to “lie down in front of bulldozers” to prevent the runway being built.
Putney MP Justine Greening, who supports expanding Gatwick, claims the third runway project will come with hidden costs – such as the price of upgrading local roads and infrastructure – that are in danger of being passed on to the airport’s passengers.
Greening also said the government should focus instead on improving regional capacity, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Why should people who are living in Newcastle spend hours travelling down to London, then fly out somewhere else? There is nothing national about this national policy statement. It is just a runway in Heathrow.”