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Analysis: Heathrow Airport Expansion Receives Official Backing

The proposed expansion to Heathrow Airport becomes the 2nd major project take a significant step towards being built in the matter of a month. I wrote last month about the £18Bn Hinkley Point C project being given the go ahead, and in that article I also expressed my concern that Heathrow's expansion may be the least likely to go ahead out of 3 major projects (H2S, Heathrow and Hinkley) awaiting approval.

Instead, a Government committee made up of senior Ministers decided this week that the Heathrow 3rd Runway Expansion was in fact the best solution out of 3 proposed plans for Britain to increase our capacity for air travel and keep up with other major cities in this regard.

It's key to point out that this is not the end of the matter and this decision will now go through a considerable Consultation period before a planned Parliamentary vote in 2017 / 2018. However the official Government backing is certainly a major step in the right direction for those that are backing this project.

Heathrow Expansion in Brief

  • The planned expansion to Heathrow is estimated to be priced at a total value of £16Bn.
  • A 3rd Runway to be built to the North West of the Airport
  • Construction will include a new Terminal 6 based on the West side of the Airport as well as a new business park
  • Terminal 2 to be extended
  • Significant improvement to transport links, including connection to 5 rail lines and an easy connection service to HS2
  • New Retail and Leisure facilities
  • £105m spent on public green space around the Airport
  • A new Transit System cutting transfer times to as little as 45 mins
  • Significant funding to Traffic Management in and around the airport

Proposed Benefits of Heathrow Expansion

It is proposed that the expansion to Heathrow will have significant benefits to the UK Economy and that the passenger experience will be transformed. Benefits include:

  • Over £147Bn in economic growth
  • 180,000 jobs created either directly or indirectly as a result of the project (40,000 at the Airport)
  • 40 new long haul destinations to fly to from Heathrow
  • More flights to domestic airports
  • Improved public transfer links, making Heathrow a UK accessible airport rather than a London accessible airport
  • Improved cargo facilities to assist businesses with importing and exporting goods
  • Upgrades to the M25 Motorway
  • Transfer times decreased to as little as 45 mins

Reaction to the News

Despite Heathrow being one of the busiest airports in the World already, it has been running at 98% capacity for a decade now. The planned expansion has rumbled on for 15 years now and business leaders, politicians and trade unions have welcomed the decision describing the planned expansion as "Essential to grow the UK economy".

It's not to say that the public opinion for this project is overwhelming positive though. Many oppose the planned expansion, particularly local residents in the local area. Hundreds of homes could be under threat in the Harmondsworth area of London as space will need to be made for the 3rd runway. As well as that, residents in the local area have serious concerns about noise and air pollution which it is claimed are already at dangerous levels in the surrounding area.

Summary

Despite today's news, there does still appear to be a degree of scepticism as to whether this project will ever go ahead or not. Maybe a 15 year history of 'will it happen? Won't it happen' is the reasoning behind this. Can it ever really get public and parliamentary approval to be built?

A report suggests that two thirds of MP's nationally support the project, however key figures such as Boris Johnson are strongly against the plans and he came out within minutes of the decision to voice his disapproval.

The government are also tasked with a potential legal battle as there are strong health and environment claims being raised that could be hard to overcome.

In the end, it looks unlikely that we will see this project start before the next general election scheduled for May 2020, making this a potentially big policy for parties in the next General Election. Will the project fall victim to politicians using it as a bargaining chip in a plea for votes before 2020? We'll have to wait and see.

Despite the scepticism expressed in this article, this is good news for those in the Construction Industry with another major, multi billion Pound infrastructure in the pipeline for the near future. Public opinion as a whole seems to be more positive than negative towards the expansion, however we have a long way to go before a shovel breaks the ground on this particular development and it looks like there are several hurdles along the way.

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Stuart Hackett
Senior Recruitment Consultant – UK & Middle East

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