London Heathrow third runway is OFF the table for at least a decade

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Heathrow third runway is OFF the table for at least a decade: CEO says Covid means expansion may not be needed until economy recovers in ’10 to 15 years’ as airport loses £200m a month

  • Boss John Holland-Kaye says airport’s £14bn expansion plan is no longer priority
  • He suggested a failure to reboot the economy could see it scrapped altogether
  • Airport has spent years arguing that third runway is needed to boost economy
  • But the coronavirus pandemic means future of aviation industry is uncertain
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

The boss of London Heathrow has admitted it could be 10 to 15 years before the airport needs a third runway because of the coronavirus crisis.

John Holland-Kaye told MPs the airport’s £14billion expansion plan is no longer a priority – and suggested a failure to reboot the economy could see it scrapped altogether.

Heathrow have spent years arguing that a third runway is needed to boost the economy and keep up with an ever-increasing demand for air travel.

London Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye gives evidence to an online remote session of a Parliamentary transport committee hearing on the ‘Implications for Transport’ today

But the coronavirus pandemic means the future of the aviation industry is uncertain. The crisis is likely lead to a long-term fall in passenger numbers, with airlines flying reduced schedules for months or even years to come.

To add to the uncertainty, households have been warned to brace themselves for the worst recession in living memory – jeopardising the future of many big infrastructure projects, including Heathrow.

Speaking to the Commons transport committee, Mr Holland-Kaye said: ‘Whether that [third runway] will be needed we will have to see how things turn out over the next few years.

‘If we are successful in rebuilding the UK economy, we will be needed that in 10-15 years’ time if not, then I think we’re all in a different world.’

Mr Holland-Kaye also revealed the airport was burning through £200 million a month during the economic shutdown but has the liquidity to survive for up to a year. 

The empty concourse at Heathrow Terminal Five just before the Easter weekend last month

The empty concourse at Heathrow Terminal Five just before the Easter weekend last month

Heathrow’s expansion plans were already in question following a Court of Appeal ruling in February, in which judges said the project was illegal because the Government had failed to take its climate commitments into account.

The airport has been due to challenge the court’s decision at the Supreme Court. Anti-third runway campaigners are now calling for the project to be scrapped.

Paul Beckford, policy director of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: ‘It is remarkable that even Heathrow’s chief executive now appears to accept that there may be no need for his expensive and climate busting third runway.

‘The economic case for a third runway has always been negligible, has been eroded by delays even before a planning application has been submitted and must now be non-existent given the uncertainty around future demand.’ 

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