Freight Forwarders

Forwarders welcome MPs’ backing for expansion of Heathrow but doubts remain

Freight forwarders have welcomed Monday’s backing by the UK Parliament of expansion at Heathrow Airport but said “doubts still remain” over the project.

MPs voted 415 to 119 in favour of the government’s National Policy Statement for development at Heathrow, giving their support to the contentious £14 billion plan at the UK hub, which will see a third runway built.

British International Freight Association (BIFA) director general, Robert Keen said: “Whilst BIFA welcomes the positive news from Parliament yesterday, today’s media coverage of the obstacles that the project still faces leave me with a certain sense of foreboding whether the spades will ever hit the ground.

“Detailed plans will still need to be drawn up, and will again have to go out for public consultation. There is talk of several local authorities around Heathrow mounting a legal challenge, as well as a judicial review. Separate reviews of flight paths and airspace are also required.

“Each new hurdle that appears will only increase delays further and the chance of another political volte-face is ever present.”

Keen said for BIFA member companies, which are desperate for the greater number of flights and accompanying airfreight capacity that would result from the new runway, he can “only hope” that yesterday’s vote does not just open another protracted chapter in the 30-year story of “procrastination” over Heathrow in particular and UK aviation capacity in general.

He added: “Yesterday’s decision has been years in the making and needs to be accompanied by the expedited planning procedure, which has been mentioned previously, with no reopening of high level arguments, and robust handling of any legal challenges.

“I hope all concerned move quickly to maintain the momentum now that this crucial hurdle has been cleared.”