Airlines appear to have won the support of transport secretary Chris Grayling for their calls to keep Heathrow expansion costs down.
Grayling suggested he had heeded airline warnings that the airport’s new runway must not be so expensive that passengers end up paying higher prices.
He gave an insight into the government’s position in a speech to Airlines UK yesterday, saying the new runway should not result in passengers paying much higher ticket prices.
A failure by government to reach a final decision on Heathrow expansion would be “an act of national self sabotage,” he added, warning that Parliamentary support “is far from a done deal”.
“Heathrow’s customers should not pay for a ‘gold plated’ solution,” Grayling said. “The expansion of the airport must provide value for money to every party.”
Airlines like British Airways-owner International Airlines Group and Virgin Atlantic have raised concerns that a third runway could be too costly.
Grayling said he was taking those concerns on board.
“It remains one of my fundamental priorities to deliver the ambition I set in 2016 – to keep airport charges as close as possible to current levels – so price increases are not passed on to airlines, and ultimately consumers,” he added.
Grayling said the Civil Aviation Authority would oversee discussions between the airport and airlines on the new runway, and that carriers who want to use Heathrow in future would also be consulted.
The aviation regulator has powers to ensure the scheme is “fairly priced”. The government is currently working on its draft Airports National Policy Statement.
Once published, parliament will vote on the matter, which Grayling has said will take place before the end of the first half of this year.
He said: “A thriving and successful aviation sector is fundamental to our modern economy. But our main hub airport is now full. And expansion is long overdue.
“I believe that a failure on behalf of government and Parliament to reach a final decision would be an act of national self sabotage.
“It is time to settle – once and for all – a debate which governments have been wrestling with for far too long.
“So let’s put decades of dithering behind us. Let’s get out there and make the case. And deliver for the benefit of the whole country.”
MPs will vote on whether to approve its expansion before July, but first the policy details on which they will vote must be finalised.
Heathrow has estimated the bill for expansion at £14 billion, having said last year it could cut £2.5 billion off the original estimate.
Grayling’s comments came on the day independent rival expansion scheme Heathrow Hub, which proposes extending the airport’s existing northern runway, called for the Competitions and Markets Authority to intervene over claims that the airport abused its dominant position to veto the alternative option.
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