Letter on the need to control excessive costs of London Heathrow Runway 3
Published in “The Times” newspaper, 26 May 2017
Much has been spoken in the election campaign on the need for Britain to strengthen its economic competitiveness. Unfortunately, for airport charges and taxes, the UK remains at the bottom of the global competitiveness league – in 133rd place according to the latest World Economic Forum tourism competitiveness report. One way to remedy this is to ensure that the forthcoming expansion of Heathrow is done in the national interest and at a price which is affordable.
The Davies Commission concluded that a new runway will bring substantial economic benefits to the UK. But these will be greatly eroded if the runway is built at an excessive price. Heathrow’s owners proposed an eye-watering cost of £17 billion, which would have been enough to build and run the 2012 London Olympics twice over.
It is not UK taxpayers who fund airport expansion, it is air passengers, who already pay the highest airport charge in the world at Heathrow. Every unnecessary pound spent on the new runway threatens to push up this charge making the UK less competitive and a less attractive international destination, particularly for some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. This approach runs counter to the need to encourage stronger global trading links as Britain prepares for Brexit.
This week marks the end of the consultation period for government’s National Policy Statement for Heathrow. We are calling for the NPS to state unequivocally that Heathrow’s charges should not rise above current levels. A third runway is the right decision for Heathrow, but for the good of the country, let’s ensure it is built at the right price.
Craig Kreeger, CEO, Virgin Atlantic Airways
Willie Walsh, CEO, International Airlines Group
Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO, International Air Transport Association