Complications with the M25, delays caused by legal challenges and an “undeliverable” construction logistics strategy could all stop Heathrow’s third runway opening by 2026, according to Costain’s review.
In a government-commissioned early assurance review, Costain revealed that although it recommended a “reasonable degree of confidence” the runway and extra airport capacity will be operational by 2026, HAL faces six major risks to its deadline.
These include delays in the procurement process leading to a late construction start, problems obtaining environmental consents, delays from legal challenges, its current construction logistics stragty becoming “undeliverable” when other factors are taken into account, and problems with realigning the M25.
On Tuesday transport secretary Chris Grayling told MPs the Department for Transport (DfT) would be working closely with Heathrow to help it meet its 2026 delivery target.
Cabinet has now approved plans for the third runway, which will be voted on my MPs by 26 June.
Publishing the review, the DfT said: “If the scheme proceeds, the HEP would be one of the largest infrastructure projects ever to be delivered in the UK.
“It is a complex project which will be undertaken within a constrained, safety-critical, operational airport site and its delivery will have a direct impact on a wide range of stakeholders (including communities, transport users, and airport customers and employees) during the construction phase.”
Costain suggested HAL could speed up agreements with Highways England over the M25 to help mitigate timetable risks. HAL’s current proposals show the M25 could be diverted through a tunnel with the runway raising slightly in the middle as it crosses over the motorway.
HAL stressed that before its final masterplan is completed all information it provided is appropriate to the current stage of design.
A spokesperson for Costain said: “As the UK’s leading smart infrastructure solutions company, we are pleased to be advising Government on the UK’s critical infrastructure needs. The report was produced for our client so it is for them to discuss its content.”
Review’s six risks to 2026 delivery deadline:
1. That mobilisation of construction resources and preparatory works are not completed on time due to failures or delays in the procurement process.
2. That consents and permits are not obtained within the planned timescale because of legal challenges to the proposals or delays in the statutory, consultation or engagement processes.
3. That HAL’s proposed scope and programme for the M25 motoray and junction works is not agreed with the relevant statutory bodies and other stakeholders within HAL’s planned timescale, or that the motorway works are more extensive and time-consuming than planned.
4. That environmental issues associated with water management, management of landfill waste and piling designs are not agreed with the Environment Agency (EA) for inclusion in the DCO or that the EA challenges these proposals during the examination phase of the DCO process.
5. That the construction-related logistics strategy is undeliverable within the planned timescale when all site constraints, operational requirements and detailed methodology are fully understood by HAL.
6. That HAL’s current capacity forecasts indicate that airport demand may marginally exceed the available capacity at certain stages of construction, but this is dependent upon HAL’s choice of Masterplan option, the current accuracy of forecasts, and the ability of the airport to manage its operational demand.