Second Heathrow wins support of UK business

Plans for four-hub airport could 'help cement growth' in the Thames Valley
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The Independent Online

British business is starting to get behind nebulous plans for a £60bn four-hub airport near Heathrow, which were revealed by The Independent on Sunday last week.

A world-leading infrastructure firm, which has worked on aviation projects in Latin and North America, is assessing sites for the scheme to the west and north-west of the airport.

Potentially backed by Chinese sovereign wealth fund money, a secretive consortium of UK businesses plans to throw their scheme into the mix as a potential long-term successor to Heathrow as part of the independent aviation inquiry ordered by the Coalition. That move, plus the removal of Justine Greening as Transport Secretary, has been interpreted as a signal that the Government wants to turn its back on pledges not to build a third runway at Heathrow.

Business is keen for Heathrow to maintain its status as Europe's most important hub airport, as many large companies have grown up around west London as a result of its success. A second big airport, which at the very least would complement Heathrow, would cement the Thames Valley and surrounding areas as an area of strong economic growth.

Adam Marshall of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "It's unlikely one large airport is enough for a city the size of London, particularly as global aviation is increasing, while aeroplane emissions and noise pollution are decreasing. From a business perspective, those located in the Midlands and Oxfordshire would be very interested in this proposal."

Potential sites, which must be flat with few nearby residential areas, are thought to have been identified along the potential High Speed Two rail line, which would link London and Birmingham, and the Great Western main line. These would mean the airport could be located a fair distance from the capital yet only take 30 minutes to reach it.

However, politicians representing areas that would be affected by the plans have been hugely critical. Wokingham Tory MP John Redwood has described the proposal as "wildly impractical", even though full details have not yet been disclosed.

In other aviation news, it has been reported that British Airways owner International Airlines Group is raising a $500m (£312m) loan to re-finance aircraft and general corporate purposes. Air Finance Journal said Citi is syndicating the loan, spreading the debt among several institutions.

The move comes less than two months after IAG failed in an attempt to raise £250m by issuing bonds against its highly lucrative Heathrow slots, but it admitted "a lack of demand" at the price it was quoting.