Transport Secretary challenges industry to balance expansion costs

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has challenged the aviation industry to develop solutions for expansion that provide value for money and benefit passengers.

In a speech to industry, the Transport Secretary set the standards for how Heathrow should collaborate with airlines on the costs and design of a third runway.

He reinforced his commitment to ensuring that the interests of current and future passengers are at the heart of any expansion at Heathrow.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “It’s important that airport expansion works for consumers and I want the interests of current and future airport users to shape the plans.

“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.”

Grayling called on the aviation industry to make sure that plans for expansion are cost-efficient, sustainable and bring real benefits for passengers, saying that Heathrow’s customers should not pay for a ‘gold plated’ solution, and that the expansion of the airport should provide value for money to every party.

The government has launched a new commission for the independent aviation regulator, the CAA, to oversee engagement between Heathrow and airlines on a new runway. The Government says these discussions will start in summer and, if Heathrow’s expansion plans proceed, will continue until the submission of a formal planning application by the airport.

The CAA will champion the interests of consumers during industry discussions and provide regular updates to government on Heathrow’s engagement with airlines and how passengers are set to benefit.

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said: “Airlines support expansion at Heathrow as it’s best placed to deliver the biggest gains to passengers and the wider economy. We’re pleased that the Secretary of State is responding to airline concerns about the need to make expansion affordable for consumers.

“He is right to say that it is customers who must stand to gain from what is a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform our aviation connectivity. Expansion is paid for not by Heathrow but by airline customers in the form of charges and Heathrow must not increase these to pay for a disproportionately expensive scheme.

“Airlines are committed to working constructively with Heathrow and the CAA during this process.”

The new standards will also mean that the formal invitation to help shape plans will be open to all airlines, not just those who already have slots at the airport. This, hopes the government, will widen the discussion and ensure that all passenger views are represented.

The new process will also involve industry experts comparing Heathrow expansion plans with other international airports and major infrastructure projects.

The Transport Secretary also urged airlines to back expansion at Heathrow because of the economic and regional benefits it will bring to help the UK prosper.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling 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. Let’s get out there and make the case and deliver for the benefit of the whole country”.

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