Heathrow hits back at rival's claim it "vetoed" cheaper expansion proposal

Rebecca Smith
Heathrow has said it can trim £2.5bn off costs for expansion plans
Heathrow has said it can trim £2.5bn off costs for expansion plans (Source: Getty)

Heathrow has hit back at claims it "vetoed" a rival expansion plan for the airport, after transport secretary Chris Grayling told MPs the alternative scheme was "innovative" but could not secure a guarantee from Heathrow.

The Heathrow Hub proposal says its plans would see the first phase of the extended runway delivered for £3.9bn, which it says will be the cheapest option for expansion at £9.7bn for the full scheme, and have no impact on air passenger charges. Backers say it would also destroy far fewer houses than the option backed by government in October 2016.

Discussing the pros and cons of the various options pitched for airport expansion in the south east, Chris Grayling told MPs on the Transport Select Committee yesterday that the extended runway was "a very innovative" idea, but it "could not secure a written guarantee" that the owners of Heathrow would pursue it if it was chosen.

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He added that a range of factors led to the selection of Heathrow's third runway as the preferred choice.

Former pilot Jock Lowe, director of the Heathrow Hub extended runway option, said: "It clearly is not right that Heathrow Airport and its shareholders should be able to inflict on passengers and the country as a whole a much more expensive, more noisy and complex scheme by vetoing our scheme. What was the point of inviting the Airports Commission to consider ideas, if only airport operators can win?"

A spokesperson for the airport said:

Heathrow did not ever veto any plan. As the secretary of state identified, there were several issues which led to the government choosing a north west runway at Heathrow.

In the end, the government followed the advice of the Airports Commission which after its 2.5 year, £20m study - the biggest ever into the issue - found a north west runway delivers on all fronts including economic value, safety and benefits to local communities.

The Heathrow third runway was the preferred choice chosen by the Airports Commission and then the government, though Grayling said it was "not an easy decision". He added yesterday that the government had "not yet reached a final view on this", and would take on board all evidence before deciding how to proceed.

The government has though, said a vote on its national policy statement for Heathrow expansion will go before MPs in the summer.

The airport has launched a consultation on its own proposals, saying it has found ways to shave £2.5bn off the cost of expansion.

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