Patrick McLoughlin having final talks with Heathrow and Gatwick on their runway plans
Sky News is reporting that Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, is to hold a final round of talks with Gatwick and Heathrow in the next week or so, with the Airports Commission announcement expected around the end of the month. Mr McLoughlin is to visit both London airports to discuss the prospective financing of their multi-billion pound schemes as well as crucial issues such as the environmental impact of new runway capacity. The DfT has already drafted in bankers from Rothschild to help assess the deliverability of the 3 runway schemes. All the runway schemes would mean huge expenses, which are not yet clearly known, for the taxpayer – due to extra infrastructure required. Spokesmen for Gatwick, Heathrow and Heathrow Hub all declined to comment on the meetings with Mr McLoughlin. The date of the Commission’s announcement is not yet known, and there is speculation it could be late June, or possibly on the 8th July, when George Osborne delivers is Emergency (or Summer) Budget. Osborne said in a speech to the CBI last month that the Government would act swiftly to get a new runway built.
McLoughlin Set For Talks With Runway Bidders
By Mark Kleinman, City Editor
Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, is to hold a final round of talks with Gatwick and Heathrow airports just days before a recommendation about a new runway that could spark a protracted legal battle.
Sky News has learnt that Mr McLoughlin is to visit both London airports in the coming weeks to discuss the prospective financing of their multibillion pound schemes as well as crucial issues such as the environmental impact of new runway capacity.
The Transport Secretary will also meet the backers of Heathrow Hub, the third shortlisted contender, which is proposing to extend one of the airport’s runways and divide it into two.
Mr McLoughlin’s discussions will take place shortly before the Airports Commission, which is chaired by Sir Howard Davies, publishes its final recommendations about the preferred location for a new runway.
Speculation has gathered pace in recent weeks that Gatwick is emerging as a slight favourite, although people close to the process insist that a decision has yet to be taken.
In a statement issued to Sky News, a Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: “The Transport Secretary regularly meets a range of stakeholders from across the aviation industry, including those shortlisted by the Airports Commission.”
Spokesmen for Gatwick, Heathrow and Heathrow Hub all declined to comment on their forthcoming meetings with Mr McLoughlin.
The Government has not set a firm date for the publication of Sir Howard’s report, although some insiders believe that it could take place in the same week as George Osborne’s emergency Budget, which will be delivered on July 8.
The Chancellor said in a speech to the CBI last month that the Government would act swiftly to get a new runway built, pleasing a business audience which has long argued that delays to airport expansion are stifling UK trade growth.
In recent months, Gatwick and Heathrow have intensified their battle to win public support for their respective expansion proposals, spending millions of pounds on advertising and public relations campaigns.
The Airports Commission has costed Heathrow Airports Holdings’ standalone third runway plan at £18.6bn, without factoring in public money for improved road and rail links; Heathrow Hub’s plan would cost £13.5bn; and Gatwick’s expansion is projected to require an outlay of £9.3bn.
Sky News revealed in April that the DfT had drafted in bankers from Rothschild to help assess the deliverability of the three competing proposals.
Heathrow’s expansion is regarded as offering the biggest economic benefits in terms of job creation, while Gatwick argues that the noise impact would be far greater at its rival airport.
A new public consultation relating to the impact of expansion on air quality was launched by the Commission last month and [ended on 29th May].
The organisation, Runways UK, is holding a conference on 6th and 7th July – and seriously hoping the announcement would have been made by then. Bit inconvenient for them if it happens the day afterwards …
Sir Howard Davies joins the Board of RBS at the end of June. Link