British Steel's Heathrow hub ambition: 'What an opportunity to land'

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 4 May 2018

British Steel’s bid to become a logistics hub for Heathrow’s expansion has been described as a “very compelling offer” by the world-leading airport’s procurement director.

Synergies with global reputation and national pride were not lost on the key visitor as he inspected the long-listed site, so too the scale and accessibility of the sprawling works – so well connected to the national motorway network and Humber major ports complex. 

Andrew Haynes met with deputy chief executive Paul Martin, Baroness Redfern and LEP chief Kishor Tailor, all keen to outline the brownfield opportunity, itself equidistant between two regional airports. 

He said: “It is a very compelling offer. There are 65 different locations and all have their idiosyncrasies, good points and benefits from what we have seen. 

“The passion and enthusiasm we have seen from a large number of people is testament to the region, and a desire to do something different.”

Asked about the symbolism on a global stage, Mr Haynes said: “It is extremely important. Our tag line is ‘giving passengers the best airport service in the world’, we want to make sure we are supplied by the best suppliers in the world. British Steel is one of the bigger suppliers of steel, it has got a great history as well as a great future, and it could be a fantastic supply chain partner.”

With a vote on policy anticipated before Parliament’s summer recess, there was a feeling of political lobbying too, but with a legacy extending well beyond the build timeframe of 2021 to 2026 - a masterplan stretches to 2035 – there was also talk of leveraging such a hub for similar scale projects, including HS2 and nuclear.

“If we combine we can make sure there is a UK infrastructure capacity of companies that can be turned to,” Mr Haynes said. 

“We’re delighted to be here in Scunthorpe seeing first-hand the support for the expansion project. Heathrow expansion is a national infrastructure project that will benefit the whole country, including right across Yorkshire and the Humber, so it is hugely exciting to have a delegation in the region as part of the latest stage of our nationwide tour of long-listed logistics hubs locations.”  

The demand for Heathrow’s new runway and terminal works would require a staggering 370,000 tonnes of steel, with Mr Martin confident Scunthorpe could supply half of that. A total of 700 jobs are envisaged.

It would also be if interest to major civil engineering firms such as Clugston and Britcon, as well as port operator ABP, with British Steel having a terminal in Immingham, while Caparo was present at a stakeholder engagement session prior to the photo-call and tour, as well as the likes of rail operator DB Cargo.

Mr Martin said: “Heathrow has already pledged to use public procurement rules for steel, and we hope to be a key supplier of steel to the expansion project. We’d also like to play an even greater role in this major infrastructure project by hosting a hub and working with our partners to bring further economic regeneration to this region.

“Today we’ve had an incredible show of support from those in attendance and it is clear there’s a great appetite to bring one of the four hubs to this area.”

The concept is to pre-assemble and consolidate components out of London, delivering on an as-required basis.

“We believe British Steel in Scunthorpe represents the ideal location,” Mr Martin said. “There was a real buzz and excitement in there, with people from throughout our supply chain. Our big sells are the amount of land we have, the empty buildings, the transport infrastructure, including some of the biggest ports and great motorway network.” 

Regionally £12 billion of economic benefits could be felt should the opportunity be secured.

Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin said: "The benefits of a Heathrow Logistics Hub in Scunthorpe would be felt across the whole region and I wholeheartedly believe this area can not only deliver a first class location but the exemplary levels of skills and service Heathrow requires."

The Queen opened Heathrow’s Terminal Two back in 2014, and in Scunthorpe, the blast furnaces that start the process are named after England’s four female monarchs.

Baroness Redfern, former leader of North Lincolnshire Council, said: “The Yorkshire and Humber region is an incredible place in which to do business and this bid has the potential to create a lasting legacy.”

Paul Martin welcomes Andrew Haynes to British Steel's Scunthorpe headquarters. Picture: David Haber.

One man who has seen it play out is Mr Tailor, who compared the opportunity to that of renewables on the Humber. 

“This represents a unique opportunity for businesses throughout this region to benefit from one of the UK’s largest infrastructure projects,” he said. “It is a great opportunity and we need to land it. 

“We have seen with Siemens, the benefit that it has brought. That could be the same thing, happening here, with this development.”

Where the South Bank may have felt it missed out in manufacturing for that – so far at least with Able Marine Energy Park currently dormant with quayside undeveloped – for those involved in the local authority this bid has huge potential. 

Commercially-focused council officer Simon Green, deputy chief executive of North Lincolnshire Council, said: “North Lincolnshire has the quality of supply chain to meet Heathrow’s needs. More companies are seeing this region as a great area in which to invest. A logistics hub would create fantastic opportunities, particularly among the small and medium-sized enterprises.”

Logic of logistics 

Logistics will play a key part, as the name suggests, and with Modal Training at Immingham, University of Hull's Logistics Institute and more than a quarter of the UK's rail freight starting its journey in northern Lincolnshire, there are strong credentials. 

Professor Amar Ramudhin, of University of Hull's Logistics Institute, said: "The Humber region boasts excellent road, rail and port facilities which would provide the logistics hub with unrivalled connectivity."

It is already engaged in work to ease southern congestion by improving connectivity and awareness of the East to West corridor and the availability of Humber ports for freight movement.

Hans-Georg Werner, chief executive of DB Cargo UK, said: "As an existing key partner of British Steel and the UK's largest rail freight company, we can help deliver the high levels of expertise this project requires. We already have well-established sites and facilities in Scunthorpe which would greatly benefit the bid."

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