Dubai Airports chief says Heathrow’s runway is ‘50 years too late’

Paul Griffiths, who is overseeing the expansion of Al Maktoum International, says that while the project is the right decision, the UK government is likely to drag its heels on actually building the runway.

Paul Griffiths, the chief of Dubai Airports, said the UK does not have a good track record of delivering projects on time and within budget. Jon Gambrell / AP Photo

The UK government’s decision to expand London’s Heathrow airport is about “50 years too late”, according to the chief executive of Dubai Airports, which is building one of the world’s largest aviation hubs.

“Unfortunately the bureaucracy in the UK seems to be the world’s most refined and the world’s most comprehensive when it comes to strangling infrastructure projects,” Paul Griffiths told Bloomberg TV in an interview. “Whether they’ll ever build it or not we’ll just have to wait and see, but I don’t think it will be in the next 10 years.’’

The prime minister Theresa May’s government gave the green light to the £16 billion-pound (Dh71.6bn) construction of a third landing strip at Heathrow amid a crunch in UK flight capacity. The first full-length runway build in south-east England since World War II will allow the 70-year-old airport to handle 135 million passengers a year. The government is leaving open questions about how the runway would be funded and how long it would take to get built.

While approving the runway was “absolutely the right decision,” the UK’s track record on delivering projects on time and within budget isn’t “great”, Mr Griffiths said. However, the project is vital to London and Heathrow will be able to “use every ounce of capacity that the runway will create”, he said.

Mr Griffiths is leading the expansion of Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport, which is set to be the world’s largest, with an ultimate capacity target of 220 million passengers. The master plan for the airport’s second phase has been approved and the detailed-design work is under way, he said. Middle Eastern airports such as Dubai have been able to grow without being subject to similar opposition to capacity increases such as at Heathrow or limitations on night flights.

Capacity at Al Maktoum, which handles 7 million passengers a year, will jump to 26 million next year. Emirates is set to shift its operations to the new airport when expansion is completed, while the budget carrier flydubai is expected to move to the new hub by next year.

* Bloomberg

Follow The National's Business section on Twitter