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Construction Jobs at UK Airports

The industry is excited about the plans for a third runway at Heathrow which won government approval last month, but how long will it be before the construction job market sees the impact?

It's part of a much bigger infrastructure plan that the government is hoping to implement over the next few decades. This is definitely good news for construction professionals as long as all the projects come to fruition.

Jason Millett, Mace Chief Operating Officer, feels the government proposal for Heathrow is 'fantastic news' for the industry and will create 180,000 skilled jobs. That can't be bad. He commented:

“The project’s skills legacy will benefit young people and our industry for generations.We have been working with Heathrow to develop a robust timetable for delivery to get spades in the ground as quickly as possible, giving a boost to the economy and international trade.”

However, with a public consultation to come before MPs vote on this development finally, the UK construction industry is unlikely to see much movement before 2020.

We have covered the agreed Heathrow expansion which has been in discussion for years, in some detail, and ending on a positive note about future jobs in the construction industry. While we wait for the eventual go-ahead, we thought we'd look around the regional airports to see if the future there is bright and maybe closer to execution.

Looking Beyond Heathrow

Heathrow is the busiest airport in the UK and one of the airports based in or near the capital. It is nearing capacity so the third runway is long overdue. The new runway will service long haul destinations.But there has been a long battle as to whether the additional runway should land at Heathrow or Gatwick. It seems that Heathrow has won - at least for now.

Gatwick and Stansted

Operating with just one runway, Gatwick argues the case for a second runway will be easier than one at Heathrow. A ban to build at Gatwick will come to an end in 2019, so the authorities there argue that this second runway could be built by 2025 - at half the cost of the Heathrow one and privately funded. But it still faces opposition concerning air pollution and noise, and obviously the outcome of the consultation regarding Heathrow.

Stansted, the UK's fourth busiest airport, is underused however it is well placed to meet future travel needs for the capital and the east. Civil engineer Henri Pageot, who was in charge of planning and specification of Heathrow's Terminals 4 and 5 and Gatwick's North Terminal, is now responsible for the same at Stansted. He is keen for another runway at Stansted. He says:

"The UK should expand Stansted because it would be faster to achieve, strategically more logical, and would be a more long-term solution to the problem of UK airport capacity and associated access, than either Heathrow or Gatwick," he says.

He would like to build a new short-haul runway there and free up the current underused long haul runway for more traffic. He sees the expansion of the Asia-Pacific market offering Stansted many opportunities for business travel and easy access for manufacturing companies in the Midlands and to Cambridge and London.


Others argue a case for Luton Airport. The local council is currently applying for permission to build a light rail link between its main station and the airport which the council is funding. This will mean that passengers could reach the airport from the capital in 30 minutes - faster than the link to Gatwick.They are also investing in developing the terminals and the layout of the airport.


Manchester is the third busiest airport and already in the pipeline are expansion plans worth £1bn. With two runways already in existence, the developments will focus on the existing terminals and include a new security hall and pre-flight customer clearance for those travelling to the United States.

With the development of the Northern Powerhouse and links with HS2 and HS3, Manchester Airport is an intrinsic link in the area's infrastructure.

The future looks bright for Manchester as the Airports Commission has assessed the need for one new runway to be built before 2030 but with a need for a second new one to fulfil demand by 2050.


Edinburgh Airport is no longer a mere feeder airport for London. Passengers want to fly direct to their destination from the airport which is currently in the middle of a five year £150m investment programme.

By the end of this year, the Edinburgh Gateway Rail Station is due to open making it easier to reach the airport from the city by rail.


Birmingham Airport has been making improvements in recent years, although they have just announced another £100m of investments for facilities and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, plans for immediate expansion have been rejected by the Airports Commission who believe that the airport won't be operating at full capacity until the 2040s. The idea is to look at this again, once the impact of HS2 on travel plans can be assessed.

A Positive Outlook

It seems that there will be ongoing opportunities in this area of the country's infrastructure for several years to come which is good news for the construction industry in the UK.

So, if you are in the market for professional opportunities in engineering, quantity surveying, planning and more, keep an eye on the market here. Ensure you don't miss out by sending us your up to date CV and regularly check out our jobs pages.



Steve Thomas
Director - Hong Kong & UK Construction Recruitment Specialist

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