Transport for London (TFL) says that Heathrow and the Airports Commission have significantly underestimated the challenge of improving transport access to the airport.
TFL has told MPs that Heathrow and the Airports Commission have significantly underestimated the costs of a third runway
With just weeks to go before the Airports Commission delivers its final recommendations on airport capacity, Transport for London (TFL) has raised serious concerns about congestion and surface transport costs associated with possible expansion of Heathrow airport.
Costs could be £20 billion, four times more than claimed
TFL has stated that Heathrow and the Airports Commission have significantly underestimated the challenge of improving transport access to the airport. The Airports Commission has estimated a cost of £5 billion for improvements to surface access, a figure TFL believes is closer to £20 billion if an optimal level of service is to be provided.
This raises questions about who would pay for the additional funding. The Commission says a third runway and related assets will cost £18.5 billion, excluding surface access, and that given other cash flow demands, Heathrow would need to raise an additional £34 billion of debt and equity. Adding an estimated £15 billion to the bill to cover surface access improvements will make an already difficult task of funding expansion privately next to impossible.
Using such a high level of public funds to subsidise a privately owned company will be problematic given all the other demands on Government and more so given that additional activity resulting from a third runway would be at the expense of competing airports.
Increased pressure on London’s roads and public transport infrastructure
In addition, both the Commission and Heathrow have also failed to take into account significant increased pressure on London’s roads and public transport infrastructure resulting from an expected population growth of 37% by 2050.
The Commission does acknowledge that if Heathrow were to expand, airport passengers “will experience very crowded conditions during peak times”. However TFL state that the Commission has underestimated the demand for surface access in 2030 by 25% if Heathrow expands. TFL also believes the Commission may have underestimated highway demand by up to 50%, and has expressed concerns that it has only looked at surface access up until 2030.
TFL state that maximum capacity on the motorways will be reached by 2030 and that the Highways Agency has no further enhancement schemes in the pipeline. This means that any expansion will have a huge impact on traffic on all major and minor roads leading to the airport. There will also be significant over-capacity for Crossrail if Heathrow expands. While there may be additional routes that could run to Heathrow, these would come at a cost. At the moment, such costs are not reflected in the Commission’s work. Heathrow are assuming 8 trains per hour per direction with Crossrail but at the moment, the funded Crossrail scheme will facilitate half of that. Assigning extra services to Heathrow will mean that services to other destinations such as the West Coast will be compromised.
TFL has aired its concerns in a letter to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Heathrow and the Wider Economy.
Speaking about his concerns Zac Goldsmith MP, who Chairs the APPG:
“TFL is better placed than any other organisation to understand the effects Heathrow expansion will have on London’s transport network, and it is extraordinary therefore that the Commission never bothered to ask for its assessment. This raises serious questions about the thoroughness and reliability of the Commission’s work. If TFL is right, the taxpayer may end up having to cough up an additional £15billion to help Heathrow secure its monopoly, in addition to all the associated problems of gridlock, noise and air pollution.”
The Mayor’s chief adviser on aviation, Daniel Moylan, said:
“The Airports Commission’s assessment of the surface access impacts for an expanded Heathrow does not extend beyond 2030 and assumes a third runway to be barely a quarter full, which is not credible for an airport currently operating at over 98% capacity. With that in mind it is hardly surprising that the Commission has woefully underestimated the associated surface access cost by more than £10 billion.”