Heathrow is ready for record Olympics traffic

Marion Dakers
AIRPORT owner BAA said it was ready for record-breaking traffic at Heathrow expected today, while boss Colin Matthews trumpeted the firm’s investment in the hub as vital for the British economy.

BAA spent close to £550m in improving Heathrow in the first half of the year – and the firm plans to spend a further £3bn over the next five years.

“This is possibly the biggest privately funded investment project going on,” he told City A.M. “And this [type of investment] is recognised as possibly the most important contributing factor for the UK’s economic growth.”

He added that he was “delighted” that Border Agency staff have called off a planned strike due today, though he will be on the ground at Heathrow regardless to ensure visitors to the Games have a smooth arrival.

“We won’t be relaxing until the end of September when the Paralympics are over,” he said.

BAA yesterday reported an 8.4 per cent rise in revenues to £1.16bn for the first half of the year, squeezing out growth at close-to-capacity Heathrow by hiking airline tariffs and raking in more money from retail outlets at the airport.

Britain’s biggest airport saw a 2.2 per cent rise in passenger numbers to 33.6m, breaking a record set in 2006.

Pre-tax losses at BAA, owned by Spain’s Ferrovial, narrowed to £50.9m in the half-year, down from £249m a year ago despite the rise in operating costs and a pensions charge.

The firm hopes to find out today whether its latest appeal against an order to sell Stansted is successful. Traffic at Stansted fell 4.5 per cent to 8.2m in the period.

•Public relations firm Portland has taken over the mandate for BAA, replacing RLM Finsbury. The new role is a coup for Portland’s newest consultant, former Labour adviser Alistair Campbell, who is said to have played a key role in winning the work.