Third runway costs will exceed original estimates, Heathrow executive admits

08 November 2018
Emma Gilthorpe, executive expansion director at Heathrow Airport. Source: Phil Goodson/Simply Photography

The third runway at Heathrow Airport is likely to cost more than the estimated GBP14 billion (USD18.4 billion), Heathrow executive expansion director Emma Gilthorpe revealed in late October at the Airport Operators Association (AOA) annual conference.

She said the total cost, including the infrastructure required around Heathrow, is now forecast at GBP30 billion, but all of this will be covered by private sector investors and the GBP15 billion Heathrow Airport Holdings asset base – GBP1 billion alone was raised in private funding in 2018.

However, ratings agency Fitch believes that additional costs would have to be borne largely through more borrowing.

Members of Parliament (MPs) on 25 June approved construction of a third runway at Heathrow by 415 votes to 119, and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told AOA conference delegates that the government has “ended decades of dithering over Heathrow expansion”, but the process of building the third runway will be lengthy.

Heathrow has applied for a Development Consent Order (DCO). The DCO process demands engagement with residents and stakeholders and involves lengthy periods of public consultation and continuous engagement with neighbouring communities, local authorities, airlines, statutory bodies, and the Heathrow Community Engagement Board.

The public consultation will begin hearings in March 2019. This enables communities and stakeholders to influence and shape the proposals. Gilthorpe said she does “worry about local communities” opposed to the third runway, adding that it is important to “treat them fairly” and recognise that “some of their concerns are legitimate”.

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