The Mayor of London has described plans to expand Heathrow Airport as failing London and failing the nation on every single level.
He wrote to every Member of Parliament and peer to break the news, buried in the Airports Commission’s own report, that even if a third runway was built Heathrow would serve fewer long haul and fewer domestic destinations by 2030 than it does today.
In a damning 30 page dossier supplied to MPs and peers the Mayor’s team have pulled the Airports Commission recommendation that Heathrow be expanded to pieces. The dossier’s detailed analysis draws on the weaknesses set out in the Commission’s own evidence; the key findings include:
- The Airports Commission claims to recognise the importance of securing more long haul destinations to ensure future economic prosperity. However, an expanded Heathrow will offer six fewer daily long haul destinations in 2030 and just a single new daily long haul destination by 2050, when compared to today.
- The Airports Commission recognises that regional connections to the UK hub are essential, yet with Heathrow expansion their own figures show that only four UK cities will have a connection to the UK hub in 2030 – three fewer than today.
- The lack of additional long haul destinations and the slashing of domestic destinations does not appear to have been factored into the economic assessment carried out by the Airports Commission, and its own independent reviewers say they are likely to have overstated the wider economic benefits of expanding Heathrow.
- The noise data and assumptions published by the Airports Commission are incomplete and make proper scrutiny almost impossible. Noise modelling undertaken for Transport for London using more credible assumptions closer to today’s operation shows that an expansion of Heathrow will see 33 per cent more people exposed to aircraft noise. It will remain the worst airport in Europe for aircraft noise, with one million people affected.
- Despite the proposed partial night flight ban between 2330 and 0600, these proposals will actually lead to one-third increase in flights in the officially recognised night period, between 2300 and 0700. At the same time, the ban will undermine long haul connectivity and deter potential new low cost carrier entrants like easyJet. Only at a location away from densely populated areas could the hub support the needs of airlines, passengers and freight without impinging on the sleep of hundreds of thousands of people.
- The Airports Commission has failed to demonstrate that a three runway Heathrow will not have the worst levels of nitrogen dioxide in Greater London, even with mitigation, and will risk major European Union fines being imposed on the UK.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:
“The Airports Commission has spent several years in the production of a gigantic ball of wool that they are now attempting to pull over the eyes of the nation. The figures teased out of their report on the fall in domestic and even long haul connectivity show that as a nation, by expanding Heathrow, we would merely be investing in decline. Their report very clearly shows that a third runway will fail both London and the UK on every level. Our great nation is sleepwalking its way towards becoming a bit part player in the aviation world. Now is the time for boldness. Now is the time to build an airport that can fulfil the needs of every corner of the UK.”
In his letter to MPs the Mayor also warns that the Airports Commission’s condition that new infrastructure can only be used if air quality obligations are met is a risk that no private investor will be prepared to meet. With the major airlines already likely to be concerned about an estimated 45 per cent increase in charges it is probable that the owners of Heathrow will need to pass the multi-billion pound bill for a third runway squarely to the Government and onto taxpayers.
In the dossier provided to MPs the Mayor’s team conclude that a third runway at Heathrow would simply be too small to meet the long term need, yet impossible to deliver without a devastating impact on the local environment and public health.
Arguments for a four runway hub airport were discarded prematurely by the Airports Commission and the Government should review the full body of evidence presented in this process, and revisit potential locations for a four runway hub airport.
Who owns Heathrow?
Heathrow Airport is owned by:
- Alinda Capital Partners (United States)
- Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (via Britannia Airport Partners) (Canada)
- CIC International (via Stable Investment Corporation) (China)
- Ferrovial Group (Spain)
- GIC Special Investments (via Baker Street Investment) (Singapore)
- Qatar Holdings (Qatar)
- the Universities Superannuation Scheme (UK)
N.B. Image credit: