Industry welcomes government decision to expand Heathrow

The government has thrown its support behind the expansion of Heathrow, which is being welcomed by the industry as a timely confidence boost.

However, some have expressed concern that the final decision next year must not be delayed and that in the long term even more capcity will be needed than just the expansion of Heathrow.

Reaction round-up

Amanda Clack, head of infrastructure advisory at EY, said:

Amanda Clack

“Although long overdue, today’s decision is a milestone. It strengthens Heathrow’s place as an international hub for air travel and ensures that London will remain a gateway to Europe and the rest of the world.

“However, in the longer term the UK will need even more capacity. The parallel expansion of Gatwick and other key regional airports should not be ruled out if the UK is to maintain its attractiveness in the eyes of international travellers.

David Sleath, chief executive of SEGRO said:

“We welcome the Government’s support for a third runway at Heathrow, which gives business confidence that the new Government is serious about infrastructure delivery and maintaining Britain’s position as a global trader. As a company, we have been clear from the outset that for Britain to succeed in the global economy, we need more capacity at a hub airport, and Heathrow is the right solution. What’s more, 84% of our customers support this decision. Air cargo accounts for 40% of Britain’s exports by value, and more goods leave Britain via Heathrow than from all other UK airports combined. Giving the go ahead for a third runway would provide a shot in the arm for the many established businesses and SMEs across the UK that rely on access to international trade markets.

“Expansion at Heathrow will allow Britain’s businesses to connect with emerging markets and create new opportunities, demonstrating that Britain really is open for business. We urge the country to come together and do what is right for the nation as a whole, which is to support the delivery of a third runway at Heathrow”.

Aecom chief executive for civil infrastructure in Europe, Middle East, India and Africa Richard Robinson said:

Richard Robinson

“This is the right decision, not a moment too soon. As the UK prepares for post-Brexit scenarios, decisive action to increase aviation capacity where it is most needed is all the more critical. Giving Heathrow the green light for a third runway will enable the UK to be more outward-facing and better positioned to compete on the global stage.

“This is a welcome fillip for the UK’s infrastructure sector and the businesses that rely on it. The collective sigh of relief following today’s long-awaited decision is almost audible.

“The focus now must be on accelerating delivery. Quickly securing the right legal mandate via the necessary environmental and planning approvals is vital.”

Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said:

“Expanding Heathrow would be a hugely damaging blow for local people, and makes a complete mockery of government commitments to tackle climate change.

“Local communities now face more noise, more air pollution and more misery from a quarter of a million extra flights each year.

“However this is only the first step on a long journey that will see communities, councils and climate campaigners continue the battle to reverse this misjudged and damaging decision.”

Vincent Clancy, chief executive of Turner & Townsend, said:


“The government’s backing of a third runway is both a testament to Heathrow’s economic importance and an investment in UK Plc.

“The decision will give a shot in the arm to Britain’s construction industry and create thousands of jobs as the delivery phase begins. But the long-term economic prize is likely to be the huge trade potential that will be unlocked by Heathrow’s extra capacity.

“Heathrow’s business case has been successfully made. But now it must be successfully delivered. The challenge for Britain’s construction industry is clear - together we must ensure that the third runway cements Heathrow’s position as the world-class, sustainable hub airport that the UK needs, and that global airlines demand.”

Nick Baveystock, director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers said:

“The government’s decision to increase UK aviation capacity is welcome. It provides a huge boost to UK Plc at a time of uncertainty.

“This decision also reaffirms that the UK is open for international business and serious about retaining Heathrow’s status as a global hub airport.”

Mace chief operating officer for major programmes and infrastructure Jason Millett said:

Jason Millet

“This is fantastic news for the UK. Not only will Heathrow’s third runway mean an estimated £211bn boost of additional business and trade for the UK, but it will also create 180,000 skilled jobs across the country. 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.”

JLL head of UK research Jon Neale said:

“Today’s commitment to Heathrow expansion shows that the UK remains a highly open and international economy despite the recent vote to leave the EU. Indeed, airport and infrastructure improvements are especially important in light of this as UK Plc will be looking for closer business and trade agreements with non EU countries.

“From an environmental and sustainable perspective, reducing global air traffic must be all governments’ strategic aim. A larger hub airport promotes this as it enables the use of fewer, bigger, more fuel efficient aircrafts that benefit from technical advances at the same time.

“The debate over airport capacity has been long and tortured and a final decision is still a long while off. There has been a lot of hand wringing over this decision but there is enough private sector investment to get expansion at Gatwick underway also. A second runway at Gatwick would provide a boost to Croydon and businesses in the area, improving connectivity. This will open up the property markets of new and emerging areas of London.

Paul Drechsler CBE, CBI President, said:

“The Prime Minister’s green light to expand the UK’s aviation capacity comes as an enormous relief to firms in every corner of the country.

“A new runway at Heathrow is really fantastic news, especially as the country has waited nearly 50 years for this decision. It will create the air links that will do so much to drive jobs and unlock growth across the UK, allowing even more of our innovative, ambitious and internationally focussed firms, from Bristol to Belfast, to take off and break into new markets.

“With contracts to tender for, apprentices to recruit and supply chains to build, this decision must be taken forward swiftly, giving businesses the confidence to invest. Our aviation capacity is set to run out as early as 2025, so it’s crucial we get spades in the ground as soon as possible to reap the benefits for jobs and growth, precisely when the country needs them most.

“This project should form part of a long-term framework for aviation capacity for the whole of the UK. Pressing ahead with key infrastructure projects like this will provide not only a welcome economic stimulus, but will show the world that we are well and truly open for business as we negotiate our exit from the EU.”

Keith Cannin, managing director of aviation at construction and infrastructure group Morgan Sindall said:

“We are delighted that the Government has made the decision for Airport expansion in the south east and rubber-stamped the Heathrow proposal. Morgan Sindall looks forward to continuing its support for Heathrow Airport Limited in the coming year or so when Parliament makes its crucial vote.”

Sir George Iacobescu CBE, chairman and chief executive of Canary Wharf Group said:

“It is welcome news that Heathrow will now be able to expand to serve more destinations. When Crossrail opens in just over two years’ time people will be able to get from London’s hub airport to Canary Wharf in just 39 minutes.”

“This decision shows the government is serious about the UK and London being open for business, we look forward to a detailed delivery plan bringing the new capacity as soon as possible.”

Civil Engineering Contractors Association head of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said:

“CECA welcomes today’s long overdue decision to expand airport capacity at Heathrow.

“International connectivity is extremely important for the UK economy and it is good news that the government has now finally committed to the third runway.

“CECA offers its support to government in making the case for airport expansion at Heathrow, which is desperately needed, and we hope that the final decision which is of substantial national importance will be swift. Any further delay is unacceptable to the public and UK Plc.”

Jason Brooks, UK head of aviation at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff said:

Jason Brooks WSP PB

“This is a landmark moment for UK aviation that we are rightly celebrating. As with Hinkley, the biggest boost this provides to the construction industry is our confidence. Our business plans and recruitment drive can continue with conviction. However, this should be seen as just the first step to increasing airport capacity in the South East. The strategic importance and growth potential of London Gatwick remains critical, we also need a new runway there too in due course, for the UK to be able to maintain its position as a leading global aviation player and economic powerhouse.

“The building of a third runway will provide enormous logistical, engineering and environmental challenges. We know sustainability will rightly play a crucial role for the duration and legacy of its construction. The industry’s response should be to seize the opportunity, continue working hard to attract the best and the brightest minds, and use this platform to become the world leader for major infrastructure design.”

Croydon Council’s leader councillor Tony Newman said:

“It’s a calamitous decision. It’s clear whatever side of the argument you’re on, the only option that can realistically deliver is Gatwick. Heathrow will be mired in consultations and judicial reviews for decades to come and will never happen.

“All of our neighbouring councils regardless of political party, are against this decision. Gatwick’s expansion could have meant economic growth, jobs and skills for Croydon and south London. As leader of Croydon Council I am determined to ensure the fight goes on to secure the best for Croydon residents and businesses.”

Michael O’Callaghan, construction director and aviation sector lead at Kier said:

“Today’s announcement in support of a third runway at Heathrow brings much needed expansion to UK aviation, in particular our capacity in the south-east of England, which without investment and intervention would be facing saturation at the latest by 2030 or possibly 2025.

“It’s also an important statement of intent from the government confirming its appetite to drive further investment in major infrastructure, coming only days after its confirmation of HS2. And in light of Brexit shows shrewd recognition of a need to expand our global aviation capacity, whilst also reinforcing the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub.”

Giles Kavanagh, who heads the global aerospace team at Holman Fenwick Willan said:

“This decision is an attempt to end years of uncertainty. But actually in choosing the third runway at Heathrow, this is the one option that will create more uncertainty - and be the most likely to spark legal challenges. The one certainty that remains is that it will be years before any shovel hits this ground.”

Nicholas Dennys QC of Atkin Chambers, a specialist in global construction & infrastructure projects, said:

“It is ironic that our decision to leave the EU has finally ended years of procrastination by successive governments and forced a decision on the third runway at Heathrow, to show that Britain is still open for business. But trouble lies ahead: re-routing the M25 is a major engineering undertaking. As Gibraltarians will know, the tunnel under the runway at Gibraltar airport still has not been built even through the decision to build it was taken more than seven years ago.

“Major airport infrastructure projects have not always met the challenging timetable that has been set for them by politicians. The terminal in Doha was finally opened after more than three years of postponement for example. And so the chances of a third runway at Heathrow being delivered within the Government’s publicly stated timetable seems fanciful.”