The UK’s largest pension fund, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), has thrown its weight behind the campaign to build a new runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.
In a letter to UK prime minister Theresa May, who has been in office since 15 July following the resignation of David Cameron, the £41.5bn (€56.7bn) scheme sought to impress on the government its commitment to invest in Heathrow, in which it has owned a 10% stake since 2013.
Bill Galvin, chief executive of USS, told May: “For us, investment is not a one-off transaction. Under the stewardship of the ownership consortium, Heathrow has been transformed, with private investment of more than £11bn over the last decade.
“It is now a world-class airport that Britain can be proud of and is regularly rated by passengers as the best airport in Western Europe.”
Galvin added that, alongside partners from Canada, China, Qatar, Singapore, Spain and the US, it stood ready to commit a further £16bn in capital to Heathrow.
Plans to build a new runway in the south of England are politically contentious and led to pledges from parliamentarians in 2010 to oppose expansion.
As a result, the decision was subject to the three-year Airports Commission.
Its chairman, Howard Davies, published his final report last summer, but the government has yet to act on his recommendations.
“Heathrow expansion is a ready-to-go project, which will create jobs as soon as it gets approval from government,” Galvin continued.
“It has the backing of local people and UK regions, from MPs and council leaders across the different parties, from business and unions, from airlines and investors.”
Galvin concluded: “It is over a year now since the government’s own Airports Commission recommended Heathrow expansion, and investors around the world have been waiting to see that the UK government is serious about its national infrastructure plans.
“Approving Heathrow expansion will send the strongest possible signal that Britain is a confident, outward-looking nation that is open for business.”
John Holland-Keye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, welcomed Galvin’s intervention.
“At a time of uncertainty, a £16bn, privately funded infrastructure investment will create jobs and growth across the UK,” he said.
“We have a real opportunity to build a better future for communities across our country and help fulfil the prime minister’s vision for the UK.”
USS is a significant investor in UK infrastructure, and owns stakes in the UK air traffic control service.
It also owns stakes in several overseas assets, notably train franchises in Australia.