Closure of Heathrow likely to risk 230,000 jobs

A government decision to close Heathrow and to build a new hub airport would put nearly 230,000 jobs at risk in the Thames Valley, The Financial Times has reported, citing a separate study.

Economic consultancy, Regeneris, has studied the regional effect of three main airport options under consideration: an extended Heathrow; a ‘do-nothing’ scenario; and a new hub to the east or northeast of London, with the closure of Heathrow.

If Heathrow were closed, ‘in the long run, of the order of 170,000 to 230,000 jobs could be at risk in the area due to their links to and use of Heathrow for travel.’ This represents 7 to 9.5 percent of jobs in the region; and one in every 20 jobs in the area is attributable to the activities at the west London airport, the study said.

Commissioned by West London Business in partnership with four local enterprises, namely Buckinghamshire Thames Valley, Enterprise M3, Oxfordshire and Thames Valley Berkshire, the study focused on one of the UK’s most dominant economic areas, the ‘western wedge’ along the M4 motorway from the west London suburbs to Oxford, Newbury, Guildford and Basingstoke. With a range of IT, telecommunications, media and scientific research companies, the region accounts for GBP137bn in gross value added, or 10 percent of the UK’s total.

One of the attractions of the western wedge for companies was its proximity to the UK’s hub airport. Stephen Nicol, Regeneris managing director, said. ‘Heathrow airport is an enormously important driver of the area’s economy,’ he added.

The study analysed the likely situation in 2030, when the airport development should be completed, and also in 2040, when the effects of the development would be ‘fully worked through.’

Meanwhile, if the government goes ahead with Heathrow expansion plans, extra activity will create 20,000 new jobs by 2040 and raise gross value added by about £3 billion, the study said. Extra benefits of £230 million to GBP300 million would ensue from improved connectivity in the area.

However London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, has opposed Heathrow expansion, citing catastrophic effects on the environment of west London. He has proposed an estuary hub or expansion of Stansted in Essex, claiming that once closed, Heathrow could be converted into a thriving London borough with homes for 250,000 people.

Sir Howard Davies, who chairs a commission on airport capacity, is considering the proposals and is expected to publish an interim report in December.