The Government has piled more pressure on Heathrow to keep a lid on its expansion costs after broadening powers which enable the aviation regulator to more closely scrutinise the airport’s plans.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) would now be able to seek views on the expansion of Heathrow from a wider pool and would also be able to benchmark the price of the project against international comparisons.
The CAA had already been reporting to Mr Grayling on a quarterly basis on how Heathrow was engaging with airlines over its proposed third runway scheme.
But those oversight powers, which ended last month and have now been renewed, will see the regulator able to get the views of airlines which don’t yet operate from the airport. Furthermore, Mr Grayling said it would go further in trying to achieve value for money by “ensuring expansion plans are benchmarked against international comparators”.
The Government said the dialogue between Heathrow and airlines had led to the £2.5bn in savings which Heathrow announced last year after it altered its plans.
The boss of British Airways owner IAG, Willie Walsh, said Mr Grayling’s challenge to Heathrow to keep expansion costs low “could not be more stark”.
“Benchmarking its cost proposals against similar schemes is critical and very welcome. It is imperative that Heathrow provides a full, detailed cost breakdown for expansion before Parliament votes on it this summer.”
This comes as Heathrow Hub, the rival expansion scheme proposed by former Concorde pilot Jock Lowe, has submitted a formal complaint about the airport to the Competition and Markets Authority.
Heathrow Hub contends the airport “unfairly vetoed” its extended northern runway plan and failed to confirm that it would work with Mr Lowe’s team if his scheme was selected by the Government.
Mr Lowe said: “Our scheme is cheaper, quicker, quieter and easier to build than the third runway. After years of trying to work cooperatively with Heathrow Airport and the Department for Transport, we have decided it is time to take the gloves off.
“The consequence of Heathrow’s veto and the flawed process run by the DfT is that consumers and airlines are being saddled with its unnecessarily complex, noisy and expensive third runway which will take years to build.”
From the Chris Grayling speech on 24th May at
“The government has launched a new commission for the independent aviation regulator, the CAA, to oversee engagement between Heathrow and airlines on a new runway.
“These discussions will start in summer and if the plans proceed, will continue until the submission of a formal planning application by the airport.
“The CAA will champion the interests of consumers during industry discussions and provide regular updates to government on Heathrow’s engagement with airlines and how passengers are set to benefit.”
“Crucially, the new standards will also mean that the formal invitation to help shape plans will be open to all airlines, not just those who already have slots at the airport. This will widen the discussion and ensure that all passenger views are represented.
“The new process will also involve industry experts comparing Heathrow expansion plans with other international airports and major infrastructure projects.
“The Transport Secretary also urged airlines to back expansion at Heathrow because of the economic and regional benefits it will bring to help the UK prosper.”