British Airways (BA) chief executive Willie Walsh has told MPs they should not trust Heathrow Airport’s owner to deliver expansion on time and within its £14bn budget.
Walsh told the Commons transport committee he had no confidence Heathrow Airport Ltd could deliver expansion within its estimated cost of £14bn – a figure the airport operator has revised down from an original estimate of almost £17bn.
“I would say my confidence in ‘on time and on budget’, as you put it, is zero,” Walsh told transport committee chair Lilian Greenwood.
He added: “What they’re [Heathrow] saying to you is: ‘trust us, just give us the approval to build this and we will deliver on time and on budget’. I don’t trust them, and you shouldn’t trust them either.”
Virgin Altlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger called on Heathrow Airport to guarantee that passenger costs will not rise. He said such a guarantee would help secure backing from airlines for its plans.
Kreeger added: “We find ourselves in a position where our endorsement is sought for a plan where the consequence of an overspend on that plan will be borne by the airlines and their customers.”
Earlier this month Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye told the transport committee that it would be “a mistake at this stage” to make guarantees on costs, adding it would be “a remarkable achievement” to keep prices close to their current levels.
Yesterday Heathrow chairman Lord Deighton stressed that Heathrow would deliver expansion while keeping airline charges “as close to current levels as possible”.
“Only expansion at Britain’s hub airport can contribute to securing our place in the world, through new connections for businesses and communities up and down the country,” he wrote.
MPs are set to vote on Heathrow expansion during the first half of this year. Last week, Transport for London (TfL) warned it could join a legal challenge with several London boroughs if it is not satisfied with proposed surface access provision for expansion.