FTA: Runway delay at Heathrow costly to U.K.’s image

HeathrowRunway-bigAfter this week’s announcement from the British government that the decision to add a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport will be delayed until mid-2016, the U.K.’s Freight Transport Association (FTA) weighed in on Thursday, warning that further delays will do irreparable harm to the U.K.’s ability to seek investment from overseas.

“Yet another delay in a decision on future investment in airport capacity is damaging the UK’s international competitiveness,” said Chris Welsh, FTA’s director of global and European policy, in a prepared statement. As the government “dithers” over the decision, he said, foreign investors “are likely to question the U.K.’s capability to invest in vital infrastructure required to maintain and enhance the U.K.’s connectivity.”

Welsh cited the July 2015 Davies Commission report, which declared Heathrow to be the “best option for airport expansion in the southeast” of Great Britain. The study also found that airfreight transport is necessary for about 40 percent of the U.K.’s imports and exports.

These Davies findings jibe with FTA’s own commissioned report on Heathrow’s economic importance in 2014, Welsh said. The earlier report, conducted by York Aviation, found that Heathrow – serving 191 destinations and moving 1.5 million tonnes of airfreight per year – is already operating at 98 percent capacity and needs to expand to meet demand.

The FTA statement also noted that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Bank consider intervention on behalf of governments regarding infrastructure investment are “essential in attaining good connectivity and efficient logistics.”

In November, Heathrow announced plans to invest roughly US$273 million to upgrade its cargo facilities in order to double its existing cargo capacity and cut processing times in half. However, Welsh added, the only way that the airport can make good on these goals and remain competitive with other European air hubs is to add a third runway.

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