Hotel tycoon puts forward 'cheaper plan' for third Heathrow runway

London airport expansion war explainedIBTimes UK

The founder of a major hotel operator has submitted plans for a third runway at London Heathrow Airport, claiming his proposal would be considerably cheaper than the one put forward by the airport.

In a plan sent to the government as part of a public consultation, Surinder Arora, the founder and chairman of Arora Group and a major landowner in the proximity of Britain's biggest airport, claimed there were "cheaper and better ways" to expand the facility.

Arora stated his plan would be some £6.7bn ($8.6bn) cheaper than the £17.6bn proposal currently considered the preferred option, adding his scheme would limit disruption to local communities.

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"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," he said.

"Heathrow needs competition and innovation which puts passengers and airlines at the heart of the expansion project.

"We are now calling on the government to consider more carefully how competition can improve Heathrow's offer to passengers, and how airlines at the heart of these plans will benefit passengers. We look forward to working with the new government to discuss these issues and how our proposals can help improve the airport's expansion."

In October last year, the Airports Commission approved London Heathrow's plans to build a third runway.

However, five years since the commission was established by former Prime Minister David Cameron, the controversial expansion plan has not yet been voted through parliament and the runway will not be ready until 2025.

Plans for a third runway at Heathrow were scrapped by the coalition government in 2009, while the commission warned only one runway could be built before 2030 if Britain was to comply with its climate change obligations.

Arora, whose company owns hotels at a number of locations, including some close to the country's biggest airports, added the current proposal could be made significantly cheaper by moving the new planned runway.

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"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," he said.

"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."

The proposal also indicated further savings would come from scrapping expansion plans at the airport's Terminal 2, as well as by implementing changes to the terminal design and to the taxi way system.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways owner IAG, welcomed the new proposal: "The government should look closely at Arora's proposal as it would significantly reduce costs."

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A spokesman for the airport said: "Heathrow's expansion proposals are supported by the government and have widespread cross-party political, business and union support.

"We continue to develop our plans to improve passenger experience, reduce the negative impact on local communities, and lower the cost so we deliver expansion at close to current charges."

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