LHR expansion plans move forward, Brexit tensions stew

London Heathrow Airport

After much anticipation, progress has finally been made in the London Heathrow Airport (LHR) expansion saga. On Tuesday, the Cabinet of the United Kingdom signed off on plans to move forward with the proposal to add a third runway to the airport, but the proposal now awaits being voted on by the members of parliament (MPs) – and is still subject to rejection.

“Hopefully, today’s news is the beginning of the end of years of procrastination over the expansion of U.K. aviation capacity,” said Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA). “However… given the track record of parliament on this issue over the last 20 years, uncertainties remain.”

Outside of the frustration surrounding the capacity limitations at the nation’s major hub, tensions continue to stew as Brexit’s implications to European Union-U.K. trade loom on the horizon. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) released a statement on Tuesday emphasizing the importance of air freight to the U.K. economy – attributing 40 percent of the U.K.’s imports and exports to air transportation.

The plan for the placement of LHR’s third runway, shown in maroon.

The organization highlighted its continued concern over trade negotiations between the U.K. and the E.U., saying that with three weeks to go until Brexit talks in Brussels, there has been little to no progress as of yet.

“Of the eight demands made in FTA’s list of essentials to ‘Keep Britain Trading’ issued at the beginning of the year, not a single one has been progressed,” said James Hookham, deputy chief executive at the FTA.  “Details of whether or not the country will have a transition/implementation period are still unclear, there is still no decision on what Customs arrangements we will have from March 2019 onwards.”

Regarding the future outlook of LHR’s plans for a third runway, Keen said, “I hope I am proved wrong, but I won’t be booking a ticket for the opening ceremony just yet.”

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