A third runway at Heathrow Airport has been approved by the Cabinet, ready for a vote in parliament in the coming weeks.
Speaking to members of parliament in the House of Commons, transport secretary Chris Grayling stressed the importance of expanding Heathrow, highlighting its significance to the national economy. Addressing MPs, Grayling said that the aviation sector contributes £22 billion to the UK’s GDP supporting 500,000 jobs and transporting 2.6 million tonnes of freight, saying “the time for action is now” as Heathrow is already full and other London airports are nearing capacity.
He said Heathrow is falling behind its competitors, which is impacting the UK’s economy and global trading opportunities but a third runway would provide better connections to global markets and more flights to long haul destinations.
Grayling says: “Heathrow is a nationally significant freight hub carrying more freight by value than all other UK airports combined. A third runway would allow it to nearly double its current freight capacity.”
He stressed that the benefits would stretch beyond London with up to 15 per cent of slots at the new runway reserved for UK connections “spreading the benefits of expansion to our great nations and regions”.
The news has been welcomed by industry figures across the country, hoping that after years of inaction, something will finally happen.
The GMB union has called for action, with national officer Mick Rix saying: “The time for politicians dithering and delaying on Heathrow is over. This long-awaited vote is crunch time for our members across the country who stand to benefit from Heathrow expansion.”
He adds: “We’ve been waiting long enough for this Government to pull itself together and to put this plan to MPs and secure the future of the airport and the jobs it can and will support.”
Unite trade union general secretary, Len McCluskey has urged MPs to vote for expansion, saying: “Heathrow expansion, one of the biggest construction projects in Europe, answers the demands of many Unite members across the UK – for more skilled, well-paid and sustainable jobs. Expansion will deliver these jobs and growth to every nation and region of the UK, whilst Heathrow deliver on the work they have been doing to address environmental concerns; all at a critical time for UK workers.”
The British International Freight Association has welcomed the news with director general Robert Keen expressing his hope that this is the “beginning of the end of years of procrastination”.
He has expressed his concern about parliament voting on the issue, saying: “Whilst the UK Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling has previously hinted at an expedited planning procedure, with no reopening of high level arguments, the inevitable legal challenges and the convoluted planning processes that are also likely, lead me to wonder whether any expansion will be completed by the time that UK aviation capacity is predicted to run out in 2025.”
Keen adds: “I hope I am proved wrong, but I won’t be booking a ticket for the opening ceremony just yet.”