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Heathrow expansion a vote for construction

28 Jun 2018
Phil Wilbraham

Phil Wilbraham, Expansion Programme Director at Heathrow Airport, explains why Britain's new runway is a once in a generation opportunity for the UK construction industry.

This is an exciting time for the construction industry. Fifty years ago, the then government set up the Roskill Commission to investigate the need for airport expansion in the south-east. This week, after much debate, several detailed studies on the topic and engagement with many stakeholders from many sectors, an overwhelming majority of MPs have backed a crucial and long-awaited infrastructure project for Britain’s future - a new runway at Heathrow.

This decision has unlocked £14bn worth of private investment in the UK. As one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe, the potential for the UK construction sector is immense. Expansion is a once in a generation opportunity to transform the UK construction industry, build for the future and deliver a lasting skills legacy for future generations.

Building Britain’s new runway will rely on talent from across the country - providing an immediate and major boost to the sector, and wider supply chain. Even before shovels hit the ground, we are working to make sure that firms across Britain benefit from Heathrow’s expansion. Activities to encourage this include the nationwide Business Summits that give SMEs across the country the opportunity to become a part of Heathrow’s supply chain.

At Heathrow, British construction excellence is at the heart of our vision for expansion, so we’re looking to harness the talents, skills and innovation of the sector in all parts of the UK, not just the South East. That’s why Heathrow expansion will be the first major infrastructure project in the UK to pioneer the large-scale use of logistics hubs - aiming to build as much of the project off-site as possible - to the benefit of businesses up and down the nation.

The hubs will work by pre-assembling components off-site, before transporting them in consolidated loads to Heathrow. This method will help to boost the project’s efficiency whilst mitigating the impact on the airport’s local communities. By consolidating the loads before delivering them to Heathrow, we will reduce emissions and cut the number of vehicles on the airport’s surrounding roads. The sites will also spread the benefits of expansion to every corner of the UK kick starting the job creation and economic benefits that Britain’s needs, whilst leaving a legacy of skills that can be exported to the rest of the world.

Over 120 sites from across Britain applied for the chance to host a hub and upskill their communities for decades to come. Last year we longlisted 65 applications as potential sites, and we are nearing the end of our nationwide tour of the longlisted sites.

Major projects like Heathrow expansion also present an opportunity to make sure the benefits of the project are felt throughout future generations. In 2016, we set up our Skills Taskforce under the leadership of Lord Blunkett, looking to capitalise on the skills opportunities required by the expansion project and leaving a legacy for the UK. The Taskforce is now working in partnership with other major infrastructure projects such as the Thames Tideway and HS2 on a strategy to plug the UK’s skills gap, and provide the next generation of workers with the skills they need to succeed.

National infrastructure projects are unique in the opportunities they create and Heathrow expansion will be no exception. It will deliver up to 180,000 new jobs, doubling the number of Heathrow apprenticeships to 10,000 and delivering up to £187 billion in economic benefits.

With Brexit just around the corner, Britain’s new runway is a loud and confident signal to the world that the UK is open for business. Parliament’s recent vote on the Airports National Policy statement was also a vote in support of the UK construction sector and capability to deliver such an important project for the nation. It is a vote to deliver jobs, growth and skills, to all corners of the UK.

The world is waiting for Britain’s new runway and the work has started to ensure we deliver it in the best way for our nation, and neighbours.

Join Phil Wilbraham, Bridget Roswell and David Hancock at UK Construction Week on Tuesday 09 October for Infrastructure in Post-BREXIT Britain.

Phil Wilbraham BLOG WEBPhil joined Heathrow in 2003 and became Expansion Programme Director in 2017 accountable for delivering Heathrow’s third runway as well as all the Capital works at Heathrow. Previously, Phil was accountable for the delivery of the airport’s new Terminal 2. This £2.5bn programme has provided passengers with a new, ‘state of the art’, terminal.

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