Government has no answers to basic questions on Heathrow expansion

Mayo highlights severe noise, air quality and road and rail impacts on London

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today (Friday, March 31) accused the government of failing to provide any answers on how Heathrow can be expanded without severe noise, air quality and road and rail impacts on London.

In written evidence to the Transport Select Committee, Mr Khan said the government’s draft National Policy Statement (NPS) appears “to hope for the best” with unacceptable consequences for the capital. He said he was deeply concerned at the lack of answers to fundamental questions.

He also voiced strong worries that ministers’ plans were based on the third runway not being fully utilised – playing down the real impact.

Mr Khan insisted it was his duty to Londoners to oppose a third runway and push for urgently needed additional aviation capacity that can meet the environmental and economic needs of London and the UK.

In the evidence the Mayor highlighted a series of concerns including:

  • Noise – A new runway will expose 200,000 more Londoners to noise. The NPS offers no assurances to those affected – instead it merely moves the noise around exposing hundreds of thousands of Londoners for the first time. Analysis by Transport for London (TfL) also shows that the scheduled night flights ‘ban’ could actually lead to an increase in night flights by at least 33 per cent.
  • Air quality – Heathrow is already one of the worst locations for air quality in the UK. It exceeds legal limits for air pollution by some margin, and it is yet to be demonstrated how a third runway can be delivered without worsening air quality.
  • Climate change – The NPS appears to ignore the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change which advises that all UK aviation targets should be met without resorting to using ‘carbon credits’ that seek to take advantage of improvements in other sectors. This could have an impact on other industries and restrict growth at other UK airports.
  • Road and rail access – There is no credible plan for how the government will ensure that there isn’t an increase in road journeys to and from the airport. Ministers hope that public transport trips to and from Heathrow would increase by around 250 per cent, yet there is currently no commitment to any additional rail infrastructure. Instead they rely on existing schemes, such as the Piccadilly line upgrade and the Elizabeth line, to handle any increase – both of which were designed to accommodate London’s continuing population growth rather than help deal with the impact of a third runway. The NPS  largely neglects the road trips associated with freight and induced economic activity around an expanded airport.
  • Economic impact – Domestic connecting flights are a key part of the pitch, yet the Government has no ability to decide routes. Heathrow will be at 80-90 per cent capacity shortly after opening and would most likely offer just four domestic routes, disappointing those pinning their hopes for better UK connectivity.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan:

“The government has completely failed to demonstrate how Heathrow can be expanded without a severe noise, air quality and transport impact on London. The government’s position appears to be to simply hope for the best, with unproven plans that look to take advantage of unrelated improvements being made to air quality and public transport. It’s simply not good enough for one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, and it leaves me even more concerned about the prospect of Heathrow expansion on London and the UK.”

TfL is currently carrying out further assessments to the impact on London of this proposed expansion. A more detailed submission to the Government consultation on the NPS will follow in May.

Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council:

“The Government’s plans for Heathrow will never pass a simple legal test on air quality. The airport already churns out unlawful levels of air pollution, offers woefully inadequate public transport connectivity and has Europe’s worst noise footprint – and that’s with just two runways. Expansion will make all these issues worse. It’s wrong on every level, legally undeliverable and will end in failure after years of wasted effort. Nothing is going to change between now and 2018 to make this scheme any less polluting so ministers should face up to this truth now and abandon their plans for a third runway.”

Lord True, Leader of Richmond Council:

“We wholeheartedly agree with the submission from the Mayor of London. He speaks for London on this and we thank him. An expanded Heathrow will be expensive, polluting, will take longer to build, require more public money, destroy more homes, and be against all the principles of competition in which we should believe. So many giant wrongs don’t make a right. The Government need to stop masquerading spin as consultation and come clean on the real impact of expansion on Londoners.”

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