British transport minister announces Heathrow expansion plans

British Transport Minister Chris Grayling confirms to lawmakers that the government will back plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport, ending 25 years of decision.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (OCTOBER 25, 2016) (PARLIAMENT TV) – Britain on Tuesday (October 25) gave Heathrow Airport the green light to build a new $22 billion runway, ending 25 years of indecision and vowing to boost global trade links following the vote to leave the European Union.

“This is a really big decision for this country. But it’s also the clearest sign post-referendum that this country is very clearly open for business,” British Transport Minister Chris Grayling said.

“We believe that a third runway at Heathrow is the best option for our future. It’s the best option for our whole country. It will create better connectivity to the different regions of the United Kingdom and to provide the best trade links to the world. So we think this is the right decision for Britain,” he added.

Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, had been battling with its smaller rival Gatwick for the right to expand, after successive governments failed to decide where to build the first new runway around London in 70 years.

The project is one of the biggest infrastructure programmes in Europe at 18 billion pounds. It is now likely to face legal challenges and a final vote by lawmakers in a year’s time, meaning the runway can only open by 2025 at the earliest.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision is one of her most significant since she took office in July and puts her in conflict with some senior ministers who oppose expansion over densely populated west London, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, whose electoral constituency sits near Heathrow.

Heathrow is set to lose its ranking as Europe’s biggest hub airport to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle by 2020. With only two runways Heathrow is limited to 480,000 flights a year compared with the potential for more than 600,000 flights offered by rival European airports with more runways.