Heathrow Airport will be penalised by Britain’s transport watchdog if it fails to build its planned third runway efficiently.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has placed a new clause into the airport’s licence due to concerns the project could go over-budget.
The clause is the first of its kind.
A CAA spokesperson said: “The licence condition covers the operation of the airport and is also one of the tools the CAA is developing so that Heathrow expansion is delivered in a way that is affordable, financeable and, critically, in the interest of consumers.
“Heathrow Airport Limited needs to be efficient in everything it does.”
Airlines are concerned that construction of the runway could spiral out of control and eventually fall onto passengers, making flying to and from the airport unaffordable.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways owner International Airports Group (IAG), has complained on multiple occasions there was no incentive for keeping costs down.
This is due to a quirk which sees Heathrow owners able to earn more money by increasing spending.
Investment can be levied through passenger charges, with the airport’s owners recently trying to foist £3.3bn of spending onto passengers.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Heathrow is extremely efficient and viewed as a benchmark for major infrastructure projects.
“The current level of scrutiny and transparency around capital investment at Heathrow is already unmatched at any airport globally.”
The controversial project has also been derided by environmental campaigners.
They claim the third runway would increase air pollution, climate change and disruption to local residents.
Environment minister Zac Goldsmith has been a vocal critic of the expansion plans and Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London said he would lie down in front of bulldozers if the project went ahead.
However, the Prime Minister seems to have softened his stance on the issue and has been non-committal as of late when asked where he stands.
Heathrow Airport was contacted for comment.