London airport expansion: Gatwick confronts Heathrow over £6bn “black hole” in funding for third runway

 
Sarah Spickernell
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The Airports Commission recommended building a new runway at Heathrow, rather than Gatwick
The Airports Commission recommended building a new runway at Heathrow, rather than Gatwick (Source: Getty)

Gatwick has called on Heathrow to explain how it intends to fill a £6bn “black hole” in funding for its third runway.

The airport said its rival had not factored in the costs of nearby road and rail improvements associated with the expansion, and that this had resulted in a large gap in financing.

Read more: Gatwick Airport boss Stewart Wingate blasts Heathrow recommendation

The two London airports have been competing for government backing to build a new runway catering for increased demand in the capital, but in July the government's Airports Commission published a review recommending Heathrow.

The additional costs were highlighted yesterday in parliament by transport minister Robert Goodwill, who said the government would not make up the difference. It said it expected the “scheme promoter to meet the costs of any surface access proposals required as a direct result of airport expansion”. A third runway at Heathrow will require changes to the M4 and tunnelling under the M25.

By contrast, Gatwick said it had already committed to paying for any additional rail and road costs within its budget. Chief executive Stewart Wingate said:

There is now a £6bn black hole at the heart of Heathrow’s plan. Heathrow has said it won’t meet the bill and the now the Government has done the same.

In stark contrast, Gatwick’s plan is financeable and deliverable with none of the environmental challenges that would effectively make expansion at Heathrow unlawful.

A spokesperson for Heathrow responded to City A.M. by saying the government had not ruled out funding the improvements for Heathrow, as there could be other beneficiaries of the expansion - the policy states that where a scheme has a wider range of beneficiaries, it will consider the need for additional funding on a case-by-case basis. “The Minister has simply confirmed what was already understood as government policy," she said.

In another blow to Heathrow's plan, a group of five London councils published a report this morning criticising the Airport Commission's decision to favour Heathrow, and called on their MPs to oppose the recommendation.

They claim the commission failed to thoroughly examine the case for a third runway, and that it was incorrect in its predictions about increased connectivity, economic benefits, air quality and deliverability.

Ray Puddifoot, leader of Hillingdon council and one of the backers of the report, said:

The critical factors which present the biggest challenge to a potential third runway have been either avoided, or worse, misinterpreted by the commission.

There is a distinct lack of information on air quality and flightpaths and instead there are inflated claims about a colossal economic windfall that the commission says will come from a handful of new trade routes. It's clear to me that the case for expansion at Heathrow doesn't add up and a third runway will never happen, no ifs or buts.

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