Heathrow to press ahead with third runway contracts despite Government’s ‘gutless’ indecision

The chief executive of Heathrow still plans to appoint engineering and design firms next month to help build another runway and has dismissed a threat from the British Airways boss that the flag carrier might abandon the airport, reports The Telegraph.

A day after the Government announced it was delaying its decision on where to build a new runway until next summer, Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye told The Telegraph the airport will “select who we’re going to be working with” on plans for its controversial £17.6bn third runway.

The airport revealed in October that it planned to award contracts, worth as much as £5m, to designers, architects and other suppliers in January, to help it with the work required to secure planning consent for expansion. Big engineering firms are in the running to be appointed by Heathrow.

The Heathrow boss also shrugged off a threat from Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA owner International Airlines Group (IAG), that the company could shift its operations to Dublin and Madrid if a third runway goes ahead. Mr Walsh is a vocal critic of the cost of Heathrow’s plan to expand, which the BA chief believes will lead to a doubling of charges, to £80 for a return trip, for passengers using the airport.

“I’d be amazed if BA were to leave Heathrow. It’s not going to happen, but I completely take the point that we need to deliver this efficiently, and we will do,” Mr Holland-Kaye said. “Of course they don’t want to pay more than they have to. We agree with that.”

Mr Walsh said IAG, which owns Ireland’s Aer Lingus and Spain’s Iberia, could “develop our business” at Madrid or Dublin. However, the Heathrow boss said: “I think the point he was trying to make was that they have other options. As a group they’re a big international business now; they’ve got bases in other airports so they’ve got more choices than would have had 10 years ago.”

Mr Holland-Kaye said he was not disappointed David Cameron had broken his promise to decide by the end of the year whether to expand Heathrow.

“This is kind of what we expected,” he said. “The Prime Minster has moved on from where he was in the 2010 manifesto, which was to have no new runways in the South East. Now he says there will be a new runway. That’s a step forward.”

The Government announced on Thursday that it wanted to examine the air pollution impact of another runway, and left the door open to allow Gatwick to build a second landing strip. However, Mr Holland-Kaye maintained that he was “confident” his airport would eventually get the green light.