Scotland hub for Heathrow

Wednesday 29th June 2016

HEATHROW Airport has announced plans to build a supply chain hub in Scotland as part of its proposed £16 billion expansion plans. Hundreds of people will be directly employed at the site, which will also allow many more Scottish small and medium sized enterprise (SMEs) to be involved in the expansion.

After 50 years of indecision in spite of reports that the Brexit vote would delay an expected Government decision on whether Heathrow, as the preferred bidder, would be chosen over Gatwick, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin (right)  said yesterday that airport expansion remained “one of the most important decisions for the government to take.”

Both Theresa May and Boris Johnston are opposed to a third runway at Heathrow.  But airport bosses have said  that Brexit makes expansion even more crucial.  Heathrow Airport has slipped in the ‘busiest world airport  rankings’  as both Japan and Dubai hubs expand.  

Passengers boarding and disembarking at Heathrow increased a mere 0.3%  last year from 2014 — to reach just under 75 million people. It ranked sixth place rather than its previous third slot according to preliminary figures from the Airports Council International, an industry group.  Dubai International Airport  overtook Heathrow as busiest airport, based on international passenger traffic, in 2014.  The Emirates Group hub held top place last year too.

The proposed  supply chain hub, the first of a series planned, will be an assembly depot for materials to  help build Heathrow’s third runway, which  if plans get the go ahead, will be Europe’s largest private infrastructure project.  The plan was announced alongside six guarantees designed to build a stronger economy for Scotland, including delivering new connectivity between Scotland and the hub.

Heathrow  CEO, John Holland-Kaye, (left) estimates that the Heathrow expansion through a wholly private investment, would deliver £14 billion in growth for the Scottish economy. The six-point guarantee includes increasing competition on services to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness,  with measures to support a link to Dundee for the first time as part of the £10 million committed to support new domestic routes.

 Some 40 more long-haul destinations will launch from Heathrow which would help Scottish businesses connect with global client bases. The search is on for a suitable hub site. Earlier this month, Frontier Economics, an independent consultancy, reported that Scotland is losing out on an estimated £890m in trade each year as a result of capacity constraints at Heathrow.

The plans have faced fierce opposition from both politicians and the public, yet in July 2015, the Davies Commission report into airport capacity expansion found Heathrow Airport to present the strongest case, offering “the greatest strategic and economic benefits”. Last month, Heathrow made strides in clearing the way for the Government to support its proposal by meeting and, in most cases, exceeding the conditions set out in the Airports Commission’s recommendation for its expansion – including stringent noise and air pollution targets.

LizCameron, (right) chief executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce said she would welcome the investment and that in the wake of the Brexit vote, the priority is to ensure Scotland benefits from a well-connected transport infrastructure. “This is not the time to be continually delaying large scale investment opportunities and we urge the UK Government to make an early and final decision on expanding UK’s airport capacity,” she said.

Stuart Patrick, (left) chief executive, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce added: “The new Scottish supply chain hub will enable businesses to access the construction supply chain and allow Heathrow to tap into skills and resources across the UK in what will be one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken.”

And Inglis Lyon, managing director, Highlands and Islands Airports commented that the supply chain hub plans presented an “exciting opportunity” for a range of suppliers across the length and breadth of Scotland.


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