The UK Government ruled out spending public money for the related costs of Heathrow’s third runway.
If correct, this is a huge blow to Heathrow whose surface access costs are more than five times those of Gatwick’s proposal.
The Airports Commission has estimated a cost of £5 billion for improvements to surface access, a figure Transport for London (TfL) believes is closer to £20 billion.
In response to a parliamentary question tabled by Conservative MP and prominent Third Runway opponent Adam Afriyie, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said:
“In terms of surface access proposals, the Government has been clear that it expects the scheme promoter to meet the costs of any surface access proposals that are required as a direct result of airport expansion and from which they will directly benefit.”
Adam Afriyie, Tory MP for Windsor, said on his blog:
“It is welcome news that the Government has ruled out paying the costs of upgrading the railways and local roads or moving or tunnelling the M25.
“If Heathrow won’t pay and the Government won’t pay, then the third runway is already dead in the water and it would be foolhardy for the Government to choose Heathrow expansion.
“It is quite right that the public should not be made to fork out up to 20 billion pounds’ of subsidies to a private company which refuses to pay its own costs of expansion.
“Heathrow’s proposals already fail on air quality targets, will impose noise pollution on far more people than any other airport in Europe and will not enable the UK to compete in the long term.
“Heathrow’s Third Runway is a sticking plaster to the UK’s aviation challenge. We need a strategic, long-term solution that will keep us at the forefront of world trade for decades to come. An offshore airport must be brought firmly back on the agenda.”
Gatwick will pay for all surface access costs
Gatwick has confirmed that it will meet any additional surface access costs and will be road and rail ready for a second runway by 2021. Heathrow has already ruled out paying the £6 billion bill for road and rail work required to expand Heathrow, including tunnelling the M25.
Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport, said:
“There is now a £6bn black hole at the heart of Heathrow’s plan. Heathrow has said it won’t meet the bill and the now the Government has done the same.
“As we approach a decision on expansion, Heathrow owes taxpayers, passengers, airlines and Government an explanation of how they plan to meet it as this cost increase alone is almost the entire cost of the Gatwick scheme.
“In stark contrast Gatwick’s plan is financeable and deliverable with none of the environmental challenges that would effectively make expansion at Heathrow unlawful.
“It is becoming clearer by the day that if we actually want something to be built and Britain to get the benefits then Gatwick is the only credible option.”
TFL full response to APPG on Surface Access