James Ashton: Departure of Heathrow boss will alert headhunters


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The Independent Online

The BCC’s final speaker contrived to make his appearance almost as newsworthy as that of Vince Cable, under siege in the aftermath of the National Audit Office’s report into the Royal Mail sell-off.

I remember visiting Colin Matthews at Heathrow a week or so before the airport’s chief executive was due to welcome thousands of athletes jetting in for the London Olympics. Had he mucked it up, it would have cast a pall over the whole event. Smiling weakly, Mr Matthews knew what was at stake. Fortunately he delivered. His announced departure after six years puts him firmly on the radar with headhunters looking for a boss that specialises in squeaky-bum challenges.

Before he heads off, Mr Matthews insists he has another of them. He regards the opening of Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 in June as every bit as complicated as the Olympics. There are 25 airlines to move in and 14,000 volunteers helping to test the facility – 4,000 more than took part in the Olympic opening ceremony, by the way.

Mr Matthews, who restored order after the troubled Terminal 5 opening, leaves behind the ongoing campaign for a third runway. Even if Sir Howard Davies’ commission plumps for that option next year, its construction is somewhere in the middle distance.

A more pressing challenge for the next Heathrow boss is a numerical one. After T2 is opened, Terminal 1 will be demolished. That means Heathrow’s four terminals will be numbered 2-5. Is it more confusing or less to have a recount?