Nigel Rudd, the chairman of airport operator BAA, at the weekend warned that preventing Heathrow from building a third runway poses a significant threat to the UK’s competitiveness.
Rudd said that the decision to pull plans for the third runway, a central promise made by the coalition government after the general election in May, would make Heathrow a “second tier” airport, lagging behind its European peers.
“The question I want answering is, if there is going to be no third runway, and no more in the South East of England, how does the nation cope with the fact that we’re going to receive an ever decreasing share of international passengers as all the other major international airports are expanding?” Rudd asked in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.
“We’re becoming less competitive,” he added. “Even if we continue to make operational improvements, [Heathrow] will still be a world class but second tier airport.”
Rudd, who made his business name building up conglomerate Williams Holdings with Centrica chairman Roger Carr in the 1980s, said BAA’s major investors were befuddled by the decision not to go ahead with the third runway.
Majority owner Ferrovial, the Spanish construction group, and smaller stakeholder GIC, the Singapore-backed investment company, “don’t understand why we’re not championing the UK”, Rudd said.
His comments come after the Tories and Liberal Democrats officially pledged in their coalition agreement in May to drop the third runway at Heathrow. The government also agreed to block future new runway developments at Stansted and Gatwick.
The issue has previously drawn an emotive response from the business world as well as green campaigners.
Last year, a group of influential City figures – including Kingfisher chief executive Ian Cheshire, Credit Suisse banker Russell Chambers, Sainsbury’s boss Justin King, private equity guru Jon Moulton and Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse – united to lobby against the new runway.