« | Home | »

Who’d run Heathrow?

Tags: | |

Trouble does seem to haunt the footsteps of Colin Matthews, the chief executive of BAA, the company that runs the currently icebound Heathrow airport on behalf of its Spanish masters Ferrovial.

This is the same Colin Matthews who was running the private water monopoly Severn Trent in 2007 when 350,000 of its customers were cut off for days on end; they were subsequently charged for the days they had no water, even though, at the time they were unable to wash, the company authorised a payout of £143 million to its shareholders.

Matthews faces the same problem today. He’s running a vital British public service, which remains, despite BAA’s forced sale of some of its airports, a kind of monopoly – there are other London airports, but there’s only one Heathrow. At the same time he isn’t running it for its users, the passengers and airlines. He’s running it for its shareholders – Ferrovial is the majority owner, the government of Singapore and the Quebec pension fund are the others.

It doesn’t make things any better for passengers and airlines that Ferrovial doesn’t seem to want Heathrow any more. A few weeks ago the company, which is heavily in debt, said it was going to sell off 10 per cent of BAA.

It’s hard enough, as steward, to tell the peasants with a straight face that the master cares for them, even though he doesn’t actually live on the estate. It’s still harder when you know the master is starting to sell off the estate to pay his debts. It would almost be possible to feel sorry for Matthews, were it not for his six-figure salary and his knack for skipping from job to job: BAA is the sixth firm he has worked for in 14 years.

Comments on “Who’d run Heathrow?”

  1. Geoff Roberts says:

    He sounds like a case book study for one of those Business books ‘how to get rich through job hopping’. “C.M. began his career as a signalman at Watford Junction, now twenty years and seventeen jobs later (I’m making this up), fired seven times for incompetence, refusing to work overtime and general moral torpidity, he earns a six figure salary and lords over Heathrow, one of the biggest fuckups in the world’s air traffic universe …”
    There’s a lot to be said for state-ownership, isn’t there? Frankfurt is in the hands of the German State and the State of Hessen. They will try and sell it one day, but German Rail is still state-owned, so we can hope. Fraport, as it likes to call itself, is expanding like there’s no tomorrow (there isn’t). It’s easily reached from the city, has its own Intercity station and charges horrendous prices for its car parks. Snow has thrown them into a tizzy as well, but the official word is that it’s all the fault of those other airports where snow never falls and only very few flights have had to be cancelled because of iced runways, aircraft and so on. Maybe may be not, but it’s a lot better run than Heathrow. Wonder what the C.E.O. is paid?

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • andymartinink on Reacher v. Parker: Slayground definitely next on my agenda. But to be fair to Lee Child, as per the Forbes analysis, there is clearly a massive collective reader-writer ...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: And in Breakout, Parker, in prison, teams up with a black guy to escape; another white con dislikes it but accepts the necessity; Parker is absolutely...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: Parker may not have the integrity and honesty of Marlowe, but I'd argue that Richard Stark writes with far more of both than Raymond Chandler does: Ch...
    • Christopher Tayler on Reacher v. Parker: Good to see someone holding up standards. The explanation is that I had thoughts - or words - left over from writing about Lee Child. (For Chandler se...
    • Geoff Roberts on Reacher v. Parker: ..."praised in the London Review of Books" Just read the article on Lee Child in a certain literary review and was surprised to find this rave notice...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement