Why Heathrow’s expansion is essential to the UK’s growth – and stability

Heathrow Airport's chief of staff and general counsel argues that Heathrow is not only well-placed to drive domestic economic growth, but is in fact critical.

by Carol Hui
Last Updated: 06 Feb 2020
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Perhaps more than ever, this January felt like a fresh start for Britain.

As we begin this new decade, I believe a stable government and a resolution on Brexit have brought clarity for the nation’s businesses after years of uncertainty. And it is making an impact.

The first PMI data released this year shows our services sector has returned to growth for the first time since August.

A downturn in manufacturing has eased, with businesses’ expectations of future growth at their highest since mid-2015.

But we can’t take these positives for granted.

Businesses across Britain are the engine room of our economy but they are counting on us to deliver the infrastructure they need to succeed, which is why we are positive about a new decade of delivery at Heathrow.

Heathrow has received a massive injection of private investment over the past 10 years. As a result, award-winning terminals, league-table-topping punctuality and innovative processes have created an economic asset that is the envy of our competitors in Europe – and beyond.

But I cannot overstate the future importance of the airport.

As China, America and India solidify as the world’s superpowers, Heathrow expansion will ensure Britain remains at the centre of global trade with, I believe, Heathrow the undisputed gateway between these great economies and the rest of the world. For British business, the opportunities are vast. Cargo capacity will double and we can open dozens of new, long-haul routes.

We will unite the UK in growth, ensuring the short- and long-term benefits are felt in every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Our expansion not only improves connectivity to the regions but fosters growth in manufacturing through four regionally-dispersed logistics hubs, helping to spread economic opportunity across the UK and leaving a lasting skills legacy as Britain builds.

I am convinced it will show the world that Britain is ripe for investment and that we have the political stability and motivation to get things done. 

But the growth of the airport cannot come at any cost.

Past present – future perfect

We have already reduced our noise footprint, incentivising airlines to use their cleanest and quietest aircraft. We cut carbon emissions to a fifth of what they were in 1990, while our passenger numbers grew, and we invested over £100m in sustainable initiatives to make our airport infrastructure carbon neutral.

But our achievements of the last decade pale in comparison with what we will deliver in the next one as we strive to make our airport infrastructure net zero and support the government in achieving its 2050 targets.

Delivering a project of this magnitude, while running one of the world’s busiest airports, is no easy task. This is why we’re creating a talented and diverse team to take our business forward. Great work comes from teams pulling together, working cross-functionally, and with pride. 

We will deliver a first-class airport service to passengers, businesses and partners from every corner of the world and we will do so with a team as diverse as our customers.

Five factors are required to take a good plan from the drawing board to delivery: ambition, resolve, strategy, a sense of responsibility and a belief in what you do and why you do it.

Businesses cannot act like they exist in a silo or that they don’t have power to deliver positive change. Our scale allows for innovation to create efficiencies and minimise our impacts. And our influence means we can encourage best practice, from reducing noise to creating new approaches to skills training within the Heathrow Academy. 

I passionately believe that expansion is good for Heathrow – but that it’s even better for the country. By expanding the airport sustainably, we will better serve businesses across the UK. It is undoubtedly an important decade for the team but I know this is a decade full of opportunity for us all.

Image credit: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

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