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Adonis: 'I wouldn't put money on Heathrow expansion'

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Former transport secretary Andrew Adonis has said he ‘wouldn’t put money’ on the Airports Commission’s recommendation of a third runway at Heathrow happening any time soon

Speaking today at the Runways UK Conference in London, Lord Adonis said the ‘stakes were high’ in making a decision on a third runway at Heathrow but claimed that the early signs from the government ‘were not encouraging’.

He said: ‘There will be a new runway built in the South-east in the next 20 years and last week’s report makes it likely it will be at Heathrow, and possibly soon, but I’m not a betting man and wouldn’t put money on it.’

Adonis was reacting to the report released last week by the Airports Commission that put forward a north-west runway at Heathrow Airport as the best option for airport expansion in the South-east.

He added: ‘The report last week is absolutely not a green light and there will have to be intense political discussions and a number of mechanisms it will have to go through before a decision is made – I would say it is at an amber light right now.’

He indicated that a lot would depend on prime minister David Cameron’s evaluation of the political pressures at the time of the decision, such as the EU referendum, the new Labour Party leader and next year’s London mayoral election.

Adonis, who spent a year as transport secretary under Gordon Brown and favoured a third runway at Heathrow while in office, said the easiest thing for the government would be to do ‘nothing at all’ and find a mechanism that would delay the decision.

He offered three possible outcomes following last week’s report:  

  • Proceeding in accordance with the Airport Commission’s suggestions, a process he said could result in a lengthy consultation process.
  • Launching further investigations into concerns around noise and environmental impacts that could take the ‘next few years’ to resolve.
  • The government stating that it is dissatisfied with the Airport Commission’s report and sanction another review or further work looking into the options.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye also spoke in front of delegates urging the government to make a swift decision on the runway.

He said: ‘The government must act urgently on Heathrow before it is too late. Let’s be ambitious, let’s get on with it.’

The chief executive said the airport had already started engaging with the supply chain and that an early decision by the government would ensure the right skills could be put in place before work got under way.

Holland-Kaye was speaking on the day Heathrow launched its new procurement strategy to prepare for a decision on a third runway.

The new strategy is aimed at ensuring the airport can move swiftly towards the delivery phase of the third runway and that SMEs have the confidence to access Heathrow’s supply chain.

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