Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, last week visited Heathrow Airport to find out more about the airport’s plans for expansion and how this would impact Reading and the Thames Valley.
Alok met with Clare Harbord, Corporate Affairs Director for Heathrow Airport Ltd and received a tour of the brand new Terminal 2, during which he was able to see the airside operations of the airport, hear about the investment that has been made in rebuilding the airport to make it more efficient and better for passengers and learn how local Reading-based companies had been involved in the Terminal’s redevelopment.
In recent years, £1billion a year of private money has been invested in improving Heathrow. Two companies from Reading have been awarded sizeable contracts for work relating to the redevelopment of Terminal 2, totalling around £6.7 million. BSS Group, based in Whitley, received contracts relating to drainage, valves and pressurisation units, whilst Astec Projects Limited, based on Kings Road has received contracts for external cladding, glazed screens, suspended ceilings and insulation. Around 220 employees at Heathrow airport live in the Reading area.
During the visit, Alok also heard about Heathrow’s proposals for expansion and discussed the impact this would have for Reading businesses. The plans could mean an additional 260,000 flights per year and would increase the number of routes available to India and China.
Heathrow currently operates at 98% capacity, which means there is no room to serve the growing international demand for flight connections. Heathrow is permitted 480,000 flights a year. All four of Heathrow’s competitor European hub airports – Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid and Amsterdam – have enough runway capacity to serve around 700,000 flights per year each. There are growth market destinations with daily flights from other European hubs that are not served daily from the UK: including destinations such as Manila, Lima, and Chongqing.
Alok Sharma said: “As a champion of local businesses looking to export, I think Heathrow’s proposals to expand do offer some exciting opportunities for future growth. It is concerning that in recent years we have started to fall behind some of our European rivals in terms of direct connections to high growth economies such as India and China, so I do think Heathrow’s expansion is something local businesses would get behind, which is why the Local Enterprise Partnership has been a key supporter of Heathrow.”
Alok continued: “Heathrow is a vital economic asset, which helps support many jobs across the Thames Valley. Ten percent of the UK’s economic output is generated in the western wedge area around Heathrow and so it is in everyone’s interest to see the airport continue to thrive. Reading would particularly benefit from Heathrow’s plans, especially following the recent announcements about Western Rail Access to Heathrow and Crossrail, which will both speed up travel between Reading and Heathrow.”
Clare Harbord, Director of Corporate Affairs at Heathrow said: “A single hub airport is the only way to connect the UK to the fastest growing economies because it’s the only model that can sustain frequent long-haul flights. For Reading and indeed the whole UK to compete in the global race for jobs and growth we need to build on strength by expanding our existing hub at Heathrow.”
Photo: Alok Sharma with Clare Harbord, Corporate Affairs Director for Heathrow Airport Ltd