UK freight group urges government to push on with Heathrow expansion

By Damian Brett

The UK’s Freight Transport Association (FTA) is urging the country’s government to push ahead with the expansion of Heathrow Airport as the IAG Group continues to express its concerns about the cost of the project and environmental groups plan to up their protests.

The FTA said that an expanded Heathrow is vital to support the UK’s global trading ambitions post-Brexit and added that it is positive about the contents of Heathrow Airport Limited’s expansion consultation, which closes today.

Alex Veitch, head of multimodal policy at the FTA, said: “FTA was thrilled by the government’s decision to expand Heathrow Airport because of the opportunity it will offer to develop the UK’s trading base; airfreight growth has stalled in recent years due to capacity constraints, while a third runway is vital for Britain to achieve its global trading aspirations, especially after the UK leaves the EU.

“The Airport Expansion Consultation lays out a comprehensive airport growth strategy which supports and expands the nation’s trading opportunities: FTA is urging the Department for Transport (DfT) to support Heathrow Limited’s ambition so it can press ahead with construction.

“Heathrow’s proposals for the night-time operation of the third runway reflect the legal requirement for reduced services. We will work with the government and industry to make sure the proposed operations are workable; the plans must strike a fair compromise between the needs of UK businesses, consumers and local residents. We look forward to working closely with the government and stakeholders as the detail for noise controls develops.” 

The plans also include an ultra-low emissions zone around the airport. However, freight vehicles are not included in the scheme.

Natalie Chapman, FTA’s head of urban policy, said: “While we support the urgent need to improve air quality, Heathrow Airport is right to exclude freight vehicles from the scheme: environmentally friendly HGVs and vans are already flooding the market and HGVs will be subject to a tightening of the London-wide Low Emission Zone from next year. As such, including freight vehicles within the HULEZ would present no long-term benefit to air quality.” 

Meanwhile, in its submission to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), IAG, which own British Airways, said it has “absolutely no confidence in Heathrow’s ability to deliver cost-effective expansion”.

It said that initial construction and planning costs, originally forecast at £915m, have jumped by more than 250% in two years.

Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive, said: “Advance costs are spiralling out of control and total expansion costs are being covered up. This latest development proves beyond doubt that Heathrow can’t be trusted. 

“The airport’s chief executive thinks expansion is a ‘fait accompli’ but with judicial, environmental and political hurdles ahead, there’s no guarantee. Spending £3.3bn before receiving planning permission is irresponsible and it’s completely unacceptable to expect passengers to pick up the tab.  

“Heathrow’s on a massive gravy train and will do everything to protect that. We have absolutely no confidence in its ability to deliver cost-effective expansion.

“The total bill for expansion is already running at £32 billion and yet they are trying to deceive everyone by continuing to claim that it can be done for £14bn.”

Meanwhile, environmental groups are set to make their feelings about the proposed expansion known today when the try to bring operations at the airport to a standstill by flying toy drones around the hub.

Two protesters from the Heathrow Pause group have already been arrested as they tried to launch drones within the airports exclusion zone earlier this morning.

The airport has confirmed that flights are not being affected.

 

 

 

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