Heathrow: Regional Connections

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth

What level of direct and indirect public funding will be required to support new regional connections with Heathrow airport.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Secretary of State for Transport

The airports national policy statement expects post-expansion Heathrow to deliver 14 domestic routes and to work with airlines to protect existing and develop new domestic connections. We expect these routes to be commercially viable with support from Heathrow.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but during the airports national policy statement, the Government said that the aviation Green Paper would address the level of public subsidy required to support certain regional connections into Heathrow, but the Green Paper, now published, says that when there is such a requirement for a public services obligation route,

“funding contributions should increasingly be provided locally.”

Will he therefore confirm that many local councils that were hoping to reap economic benefits from additional regional routes may in fact end up having to subsidise loss-making routes?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Secretary of State for Transport

As the House will know, it is often custom and practice to share the cost of a public service obligation with a local authority. It is right and prudent for the Government to seek to share the load when we can.

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening Conservative, Putney

Next week, I will hold a public meeting in my constituency on Heathrow expansion. Many of my constituents are concerned that Heathrow is just like Seaborne. It is another case where the Department for Transport has fallen hook, line and sinker for impossible claims made by a company that has very little chance of ever delivering on them—“Not a single extra car going to the airport,” and, “Air pollution not a problem,” even though we know that it is a huge problem in that part of London. It is exactly the same. The difference, though, is that when the Heathrow proposals go utterly pear-shaped, taxpayers will pick up the bill, and this is not just a £14 million project, but an £18 billion project.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Secretary of State for Transport

My right hon. Friend is very committed to her view on this matter, but this House voted by a majority of nearly 300 to pursue this project and give Heathrow the green light. It now has to go through detailed consent processes, but I believe that it is a project that is strategically important to the United Kingdom.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Labour/Co-operative, Feltham and Heston

A new Southern rail link connecting the south and south-west with Heathrow via Feltham was favourably assessed by Network Rail two years ago as having the highest benefit-cost ratio of all the Southern rail options proposed. We are waiting on the edge of our seats for progress towards the next stage. When will the Secretary of State be able to announce funding and proposed plans to take the project to the next stage, so that we can start to move forward?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Secretary of State for Transport

I regard Southern rail access as extremely important. We are now looking in detail at what we believe the specification of the scheme should be. It will clearly require some degree of public support, and that is the next stage, which I expect to pursue in the coming months, albeit relatively soon.

Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay

I thank the Secretary of State for his support for the new Heathrow connection to Cornwall Airport Newquay, which is due to come into place on 1 April. However, with the proposed acquisition of Flybe by Virgin Atlantic, can he reassure the House that Government support for the new route will continue even if the operator changes?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Secretary of State for Transport

Absolutely. My hon. Friend knows my commitment to making sure that we continue those links to Newquay. They are an extremely important part of Cornwall’s economy, and I will be working to ensure that nothing happens to interrupt those services.

Several hon. Members:

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