The chief executive of Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) has dismissed a new, “cheaper” rival expansion proposal as “thin on substance” and looking “a bit like the emperor’s new clothes”.
It comes after hotel tycoon Surinder Arora released more details of his expansion plan, engineered by Bechtel, after first announcing the proposal last summer.
The Arora Group claims their expansion plan, which includes the north-west runway proposed by HAL, would cost £14.4bn – less than half the £31bn cost estimated by the Airports Commission to carry out the current plans.
Up from an estimated £10bn cited last year, the revised £14bn Arora Group proposal includes a plan to expand Terminal 5 (T5) into a single “Western Hub campus”, with a central concourse serving both T5 and connected T6 buildings. An elevated bridge would lead passengers through the campus and provide space for aircraft to taxi underneath.
HAL chief executive John Holland-Kaye likened Arora Group’s proposals to “the emperor’s new clothes”, claiming the plans show little substance.
“We welcome the fact that the Arora Group support a northwest runway at Heathrow, but we’re bemused that they have chosen now to release new plans which look a bit like the emperor’s new clothes – the more you look, the less there is to see,” said Holland-Kaye.
“If these were serious plans, they should have been submitted for public scrutiny to the independent Airports Commission years ago, along with 50 other competitive proposals. The fact that Mr Arora didn’t do so then, makes you question his motives now.”
Holland-Kaye said Surinder Arora had “refused to engage” with HAL on potentially working together for expansion.
Holland-Kaye added: “We have now set up a competitive process for potential partners to make a material contribution to expanding Heathrow in a way that is sustainable, affordable and financeable. If Mr Arora really wants to help make Heathrow the best connected hub airport in the world and keep Britain at the heart of the global economy, this is his chance to do so.”
Arora Group proposals
Arora Group said it had unveiled the proposals as part of its bid to deliver Heathrow’s expansion, adding HAL “doesn’t have a clear proposal” and would spend £31bn to deliver full expansion for 130M passengers – something HAL has dismissed as inaccurate. It comes after HAL invited pitches on fresh ideas for expansion last week.
Arora Group chief executive Surinder Arora told the BBC Today programme he was “very confident” he could deliver expansion quicker than HAL and within the £14.4bn budget.
He added: “We’ve been working with world class experts and advisors – Bechtel, Corgan, leading advisors around the world – and working with the airlines and having a lot of input from the airlines about where the runway and taxiways should go.”
HAL originally said expansion would cost up to £17bn, but revealed revised £14bn plans in January. Under the new proposals, T2 and T3 would be expanded instead of building a new T6. It also revealed the runway would cross the M25, meaning the motorway would have to be routed through a tunnel.