Balfour Beatty has called on the government to make “bold decisions” and accelerate the expansion of Heathrow Airport if the UK is to prosper following the vote to leave the European Union.
The UK’s largest contractor welcomed the government’s decision to give the green light for expansion at Heathrow but the delivery needed to be accelerated if the UK wanted to remain as a serious trading nation and global power outside the EU.
The calls came as part of Balfour Beatty’s Getting off the ground report looking into the UK’s aviation policy in a post-Brexit Britain.
The report said: “If work does not begin soon to increase capacity in the South-east, London and the UK will have been overtaken by other major European cities.
“We therefore back plans to expand UK runway capacity with a third runway at Heathrow, but believe that progress should be accelerated and that bold decisions should be made regarding our future connectivity in the long-term national interest.”
The government last year chose Heathrow ahead of Gatwick as the preferred location for airport expansion in the South-east.
The current timetable for Heathrow expansion expects a development consent order to be submitted in 2019, with construction scheduled to start in 2020 for a 2025 completion date.
The contractor said there were still questions around Heathrow’s expansion and said it was unclear whether a third runway would ever be built.
“Even now, it is unclear whether the third runway will ever be built, given the legal, practical and political obstacles: at the very least, the decision on airport expansion is likely to face considerable legal obstacles and the planning process is likely to continue into the 2020s,” the report said.
The contractor also stressed the need to not stop at expanding just Heathrow and said it was essential construction started on a second runway at Gatwick, as well as the need to identify where the UK could benefit from other new runways.
The report suggested the government should consider looking at airports in Manchester, Birmingham and Scotland saying that it is important all parts of the UK is connected to global markets following Brexit.
Balfour Beatty said there needed to be a more joined-up approach to aviation policy in the future after ”several decades of a piecemeal approach” to policy making.
To combat this, the contract said a new government-led national aviation strategy needed to be drawn up to ensure the country is able to build the infrastructure to ensure the UK has enough capacity for the next 15 years.
This aviation strategy should include an outline of where new runways needed to be built, how to make better use of existing runways and to improve surface rail and road access to the country’s main airports.
The report said: “The government should now develop a national aviation strategy, which considers the country’s future aviation needs holistically and addresses the contribution all the UK’s airports can make to improving the UK’s global connectivity, driving growth across the country.”