Government body calls Heathrow delay: ‘Most serious infrastructure failing of all’.

Another month, another report about Heathrow expansion. The latest Government body to weigh in on this is the National Infrastructure Commission.  It published, earlier this month, a vast 218-page consultation document on national infrastructure assessment, which makes up for in content what it lacks in brevity.  Its conclusion on Heathrow is worth quoting in full:

The delay in the planning of new national airport capacity is the most egregious failure of all.  Thirteen years after a statement of state policy for the construction of a third runway at the UK’s principal hub airport, Heathrow, parliamentary consent to proceed has still not been given.  All regions of the UK which rely on Heathrow for international passenger and high-value freight services are suffering.  In a Brexit Britain, which will live or die by global trade, the ‘Heathrow full’ sign must be hauled down without delay.

Back in July, the Government’s aviation strategy consultation document pointed out that in 2015, goods worth around £160 billion were shipped by air between the UK and non-EU countries. Air was the only mode where exports were greater than imports. This represented over 40% of the UK’s extra-EU trade by value and shows the importance of aviation to our global trade.  At FTA we have consistently argued that capacity constraint at Heathrow is hampering British trade, and with Brexit looming it is even more important that this issue is progressed.

Currently the Heathrow process is stuck in parliamentary purgatory waiting for debating time, so that MPs can vote on the government’s proposals.  The parliamentary timing is unclear, particularly given the Brexit regulatory issues at the moment, but we believe the vote will take place around the summer of 2018.

The politics of Heathrow expansion are difficult, to say the least, with several senior figures in the Conservatives and Labour firmly opposed, despite support from their parties.  FTA will engage with the parliamentary debate again next year, where we will continue patiently making the case that with Brexit looming and trade in focus it is time now to set politics aside and finally approve this crucial piece of national infrastructure.


Alex Veitch, Head of Global Policy, FTA