MPs urged not to trust Heathrow plan

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The boss of British Airways’ parent company has urged MPs not to “trust” Heathrow over its expansion plans.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh claimed the third runway scheme should not be approved unless the airport guarantees that landing charges will not be increased.

Heathrow has previously said it is “confident” that it can meet the Department for Transport’s (DfT) challenge of keeping fees close to current levels of around £22 per passenger.

Mr Walsh told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee that he has “zero” confidence that the west London hub can build a third runway on time and on budget.

He gave the chaotic opening of Terminal 5 in 2008 as one reason for his scepticism.

“History does not demonstrate that Heathrow is capable of delivering on time and on budget,” he said.

Mr Walsh claimed Heathrow’s position is that it will “deliver something for you for about £14 billion”, but will not give details about what it will build until after the project has been given the go-ahead by Parliament.

He went on: “What they are saying is, ‘Trust us. Just give us the approval to build this and we will deliver on time and on budget’.

“I don’t trust them and you shouldn’t trust them either.”

He called on the airport to give a “guarantee” that passenger charges will not increase, rather than “loose wording”.

He added: “John Holland-Kaye (Heathrow chief executive) refused to give that guarantee. He said he could not give it.

“If I was in his position I wouldn’t do it, because I don’t think he knows how much this is going to cost.”

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger told the committee that the case for expanding Heathrow “is a very compelling one” due to the increase in routes that would be served.

But he also expressed concern over the budget for what is “at this point, a very unpredictable outcome”.

He called for the airport to make a “passenger cost guarantee” to ensure travellers will not face higher charges if costs overrun.

Mr Kreeger said: “(Heathrow) has the most information about how likely the costs are to be deliverable and they should bear the risk of their estimate being grossly off target.”

The DfT says it is on track to publish final proposals for expansion in the first half of the year for a vote in Parliament.

If the scheme is approved, Heathrow will submit a planning application after consulting local communities on detailed proposals.

The airport hopes to begin construction in early 2021, with the runway completed by the end of 2025.

A Heathrow spokesman insisted the airport has delivered several projects on time and on budget – such as Terminal 2 – and Mr Walsh’s comment suggesting it has no experience of doing so is “categorically untrue”.

He said its expansion cost projections are “equally robust”, adding: “Last year we confirmed potential cost savings of up to £2.5 billion which illustrates our ongoing focus and progress in this area.

“It is a shame this hasn’t been recognised by Mr Walsh in this instance.”

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