Watching our backs

By | Category: Travel news

Heathrow has announced that the building of a third runway has been delayed by “at least 12 months” because the CAA (the regulator for airports and airlines in the UK) has rejected its spending plans. The airport now says that completion will be in 2028 or 2029

The design for the third runway at Heathrow. Image © Heathrow Airport

Given that the airport hasn’t even started the physical work of building the runway – it doesn’t even have planning permission yet – this might be considered a little strange.

That is until you learn that the CAA has concerns over the bill rising from £650 million to £2.4 million. How is it that the airport couldn’t have estimated this figure when it was pitching its growth opportunities against its rivals? To jump by four times requires some explanation from the airport. Is it just moving money forward that would have been spent later in the construction?

But the CAA also has to explain its reasons for rejecting the figure and that it has done.

It is concerned that the airport might move the burden for paying for this cost overrun by charging passengers which is precisely the thoughts uttered by Willie Walsh (the boss of IAG which owns BA, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Iberia plus the new low-cost airline, Level.) before Heathrow even got the government’s nod.

Just the bill for planning is now estimated at £500 million and that is before a sod of earth is moved.

The very short statement issued by the airport talked about unlocking “the initial £1.5 – 2 billion of private investment over the next two years at no cost to the taxpayer.” So whilst the first tranche of money won’t cost the taxpayer anything, what of the remaining funds?

The CAA has stepped in to protect to passengers paying for the pre-ground breaking work. I hope it does the same when the actual construction work begins.

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