London’s Heathrow airport is putting the champagne on ice in anticipation of final approval for the new runway it’s been seeking for decades after a poll showed the plan has the overwhelming backing of lawmakers.
The company survey suggests the 16 billion-pound ($22 billion) project is supported by 75 percent of parliamentarians, Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye said Tuesday. The House of Commons will be asked to approve the plan in the form of a national policy statement before its summer break.
“We’re within touching distance of Parliament voting on expanding Heathrow and now more than ever we’re committed to developing and delivering a hub airport that Britain can be proud of for generations to come,” the CEO said in a statement that referred to a “milestone moment for expansion.”
Europe’s busiest hub appears to be finally closing in on a third landing strip that would lift annual capacity to 135 million travelers, putting it on a par with rival European airports that have multiple runways. After years of false dawns the plan was backed by the government in 2016 and has gathered momentum following the Brexit vote as former critics have come round to the idea that Britain needs to quickly improve infrastructure links to stay competitive.
Heathrow’s passenger tally rose 3.1 percent to 17.7 million people in the first quarter despite the existing constraints as an early Easter helped aircraft fly fuller, carriers “densified” planes or upscaled to bigger ones, and the hub squeezed in 870 more flights.
The runway plan won the backing of the House of Commons transport committee in March, albeit with a recommendation for extra work to avoid lingering legal and financial challenges and alleviate noise and pollution.
Approval of the national policy statement by lawmakers will establish framework planning permission for the new runway, leapfrogging potential logjams. The poll surveyed 157 of 650 legislators, with data weighted to reflect political parties and geography, Heathrow told Bloomberg.
Heathrow is meanwhile reviewing results of a consultation with airlines and residents before finalizing its preferred design. The latest proposals would shave 2.5 billion pounds from the bill and avoid a significant hike in user charges by building a sloping runway to span the M25 motorway without tunneling, phasing the opening of terminals and even shortening the strip.
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