British Airways backs Indian-origin entrepreneur’s cheaper Heathrow expansion plan
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British Airways backs Indian-origin entrepreneur’s cheaper Heathrow expansion plan

Located in west London, Heathrow is one of the largest employers in the area - many Indian-origin people are employed at various levels in the airport.

business Updated: Jul 10, 2017 14:49 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Heathrow expansion plan,British Airways,Surinder Arora
A British Airways aircraft taxis at Heathrow Airport near London.(REUTERS FILE)

An Indian-origin businessman has bid to build a new terminal and the controversial third runway at Heathrow airport that promises to reduce the cost of current estimates by up to £6.7 billion.

Arora Group, a private hotel and property company of Surinder Arora, which has decades of experience operating inside and around the airport, commissioned a review of Heathrow Airport Limited’s plans, and said there were cheaper and better solutions to expand Heathrow.

British Airways, the largest client of Heathrow, supported the proposals of Arora, who arrived in Britain as a teenager from India and went on to build a hotel and property construction empire.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ owner IAG, said: “The government should look closely at Arora’s proposal as it would significantly reduce costs.”

The Theresa May government gave the green signal to the third runway at Heathrow (instead of Gatwick) in October 2016, after successive governments had postponed a decision for a decade, triggering the resignation of a Conservative MP opposed to the runway on environmental grounds.

Arora’s is one of the proposals being considered by the Department of Transport. It was submitted during the recent consultation after a review by a team of infrastructure and aviation experts.

The expansion of Heathrow is considered vital to the continuing growth of Britain’s economy and to meet ever-growing demands from international air traffic. The third runway is expected to add billions to the economy, besides creating thousands of jobs. Construction is likely to begin in 2020.

The Arora Group said the breakdown of the £6.7 billion savings include a £1.7 billion saving to the terminal design and taxi-way system; not going ahead with the expansion of terminal 2 (saving of £1.1 billion); not building the £1.0 billion passenger transit system for airside passengers, branding it unnecessary while airlines believe it is not needed for their passengers.

“By adopting Arora’s key improvements plus other changes such as improving parking proposals and reducing the site area by 20%, which significantly reduces demolition and groundworks required, the cost of the scheme would be reduced in total by £5.2bn without significant amendments to the Government’s North West Runway plans”, the group said.

Its proposal added that a further £1.5 billion savings can be found in addition to the £5.2 billion savings by avoiding the M25 construction project which the group views as more than just a financial issue as it creates almost a decade of major inconvenience to commuters on the UK’s busiest motorway, totalling £6.7 billion savings.

Located in west London, Heathrow is one of the largest employers in the area - many Indian-origin people are employed at various levels in the airport. The Indian community in the area has welcomed the third runway, whose construction will impact the major two adjoining highways, M25 and M4.

Arora said: “We want passengers to be at the heart of our plans and the current monopoly at Heathrow, which over-charges airlines and in turn raises fares for passengers, is not the right model for the future. Heathrow needs competition and innovation which puts passengers and airlines at the heart of the expansion project”.

“One of the options we have proposed to Government includes a possible shift of the runway so that it does not impact on the M25 and M4, as we know the M25 junction being affected threatens the deliverability of the whole project”.

“We appreciate this is a politically sensitive issue but it is merely an option with additional savings of £1.5bn, whereas the rest of our proposals save up to £5.2bn without the need to amend the runway location.”

A Heathrow airport spokeswoman said: “Heathrow’s expansion proposals are supported by the government and have widespread cross-party political, business and union support. Some of the options we are looking at sound similar to those suggested in this submission, and we will welcome views on these in the public consultation later this year.”

First Published: Jul 10, 2017 14:49 IST