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Business is Crying Out for a New Runway at Heathrow

Cobra Beer founder and chairman Lord Karan Bilimoria puts forward his case for the expansion of Heathrow Airport and reveals why time is of the essence.

Lord Karan Bilimoria

Lord Karan Bilimoria

Lord Karan Bilimoria, founder and chairman of Cobra Beer, tells us why the UK economy, and its businesses, consumers and economic partners, stand to benefit from the expansion of London’s Heathrow airport.

One of my main pieces of advice for new businesses starting up is to think global from day one. When I first founded Cobra Beer, my mission was to brew the finest-ever Indian beer and to make it a global beer brand.

That was over 28 years ago, and now Cobra beer is exported to more than 40 countries worldwide. Today, the opportunities for UK businesses to trade and operate overseas have never been greater.

Heathrow’s expansion simply falls in line with current expectations of the growth in demand on our air travel infrastructure, allowing our much-needed economy room to grow

There is a huge appetite for goods and services from all parts of the UK. Official government figures published in June show that global goods exports from England reached £244.6bn over the first quarter of 2018, with exports in Scotland and Wales also showing growth.

Alleviating pressure
In this rapidly transforming global economy, new transport links are vital, and business has been crying out for a new runway at Heathrow. The newly announced project is expected to take until 2026 to complete, but Parliament’s commitment to a new runway is a very important step in the right direction.

Heathrow’s expansion is the right thing for our businesses, our economy, our consumers and our economic partners.

Alleviating pressure on infrastructure, which is expected to bear an unprecedented rise in air traffic over that period, is vital. The International Civil Aviation Organization projects global passenger traffic to double between 2017 and 2036. And, according to Eurocontrol, the European air traffic management body, air traffic delays are growing and could increase tenfold in the next 20 years, rising to 500,000 delays per day.

Heathrow’s expansion simply falls in line with current expectations of the growth in demand on our air travel infrastructure, allowing our much-needed economy room to grow.

A boost to the economy
According to Heathrow Airport Holdings, the expansion of the airport will create an estimated 180,000 jobs and add up to £187bn to the economy by 2050 by further boosting our business and trade with overseas partners, our tourism sector – which is worth over £100b a year to the economy – and our competitiveness with other major European destinations for trade and investment.

If you rank all of the UK’s ports by the value of their exports, Heathrow comes second only to Southampton. In terms of upgrading our trade infrastructure, a third runway at Heathrow is just as important as upgrades to our seaports, such as the Peel Ports development in Liverpool.

Pressure on our infrastructure will continue to grow. I have in the past called on the government to expand both Heathrow and Gatwick, and – factoring in the unplanned delays caused by legal and planning challenges – further expansions to our air traffic network should be considered without delay.

Increased confidence from abroad
The UK delivers major infrastructure and engineering projects with great skill and vision. Next year, Crossrail will open, bringing 1.5m more people within a 45-minute journey of the West End, the City and Canary Wharf, further boosting employment.

We need to expand our transport and civil infrastructure more than ever. I only hope that workers from the European Union will be able to work on constructing the third runway – construction skills being just one of a list of challenges that Brexit is posing to businesses and the economy.

Environmental concerns must, of course, be highlighted. But with major economic partners such as India advancing so rapidly in fields of renewable energy technology, and with Indian and Chinese businesses investing in electric vehicles and advanced battery technologies in the Midlands and elsewhere, our international connections will prove vital to meeting our climate change targets, too.

The third runway at Heathrow will give our overseas partners confidence in the UK as the partner of choice for research and development, innovation, business growth and transformation.

It will give overseas partners confidence in the UK as a tier-one economy, precisely when they need it most.

Lord Bilimoria is founder and chairman of Cobra Beer, founding chairman of the UK-India Business Council and chair of the Manufacturing Commission. Photograph credit: Getty Images.

Disclaimer
The opinions and views expressed in the above article are for general information purposes, they should not be construed as recommendations or advice for any individual nor should any action be taken on account of the information presented.