Heathrow and Gatwick, the UK’s two largest airports, have recently discovered the presence of a type of concrete that has led to school closures in the country. The revelation has put pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as public trust in the Conservative government continues to wane.
The airports have identified the use of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (Raac), a porous material that was commonly used between the 1950s and mid-1990s. As it ages, Raac is prone to corrosion, which has raised concerns about its structural integrity.
Heathrow and Gatwick airports collectively handle almost 100 million passengers annually, making the discovery of Raac a significant issue. This comes in the wake of a separate report by the Financial Times, which revealed that the UK government ignored independent advice in 2020 regarding the identification of buildings containing potentially dangerous lightweight concrete. This type of concrete has been found in over 100 schools.
The presence of Raac at the airports adds to the growing list of aging public buildings and infrastructure that urgently require maintenance due to years of inadequate funding. This poses yet another challenge for Prime Minister Sunak, as recent polls show his Conservative Party trailing behind Labour by approximately 20 points. With a general election expected in 2024, this issue further complicates the government’s position.
Government departments are currently working to assess the prevalence of lightweight concrete in buildings across the UK. Sunak, who previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has faced accusations of approving cuts to capital spending on school buildings despite warnings about the risks posed to students and teachers.
Heathrow has been aware of the presence of Raac in Terminal 3 since last year and has already implemented measures to mitigate any potential risks, according to sources. However, it is believed that the concrete found at the airports will not cause the same level of disruption as seen in schools.
The discovery of Raac at Heathrow and Gatwick airports highlights the urgent need for increased investment in infrastructure maintenance across the UK. Public safety should remain a priority, and addressing the issue promptly is crucial to restoring public confidence in the government’s ability to protect its citizens.
More detail via The Straits Times here… ( Image via The Straits Times )