Heathrow’s noise claims do not stack up, according to new reports
Heathrow’s claims that a third runway will improve the overall noise climate for residents do not stack up, according to analysis done by HACAN. Their new briefing, “Do Heathrow’s noise claims stack up?” has compared Heathrow’s arguments with the findings of 2 recently-published reports (by the CAA and by the Mayor of London) and concludes that “Heathrow’s claims are unravelling in the face of the independent evidence.” The most damning indictment of Heathrow is in the Atkins report showing their claim that a 3rd runway will mean “at least 30% noise reduction” by 2030 is based on the assumption that the new runway will be only operating at one-third capacity. Both reports challenge Heathrow’s prediction that 90% of the planes using the airport in 2026, when any new runway is expected to open, will be the quieter ‘new generation’ aircraft. They are dubious of steeper landings, and believe people under the current flight paths will get shorter respite periods in order to give people under the new flight paths some respite too. HACAN chair John Stewart said the 2 new independent reports illustrate the near-impossibility of sorting out noise at Heathrow.
Heathrow’s noise claims do not stack up according to new reports
Heathrow’s claims that a third runway will improve the overall noise climate for residents do not stack up, according to campaign group HACAN. HACAN Briefing – Do Heathrow’s noise claims stack up? 29.6.2014
It has compared Heathrow’s arguments with the findings of two recently-published reports and concludes that “Heathrow’s claims are unravelling in the face of the independent evidence.”
HACAN tested Heathrow’s evidence against the arguments put forward by the Civil Aviation Authority ( Managing Aviation Noise ) in its new report on noise and the findings of a report from the consultancy firm Atkins carried out for the Mayor of London (1. See below).
The most damning indictment of Heathrow came from the Atkins report which showed the airport’s claim that a third runway will mean “at least 30% noise reduction” by 2030 is based on the assumption that the new runway will be only operating at one-third capacity. At full capacity, Akins shows, over one million people will be impacted, up from 725,000 today.
Both reports challenge Heathrow’s prediction that 90% of the planes using the airport in 2026, when any new runway is expected to open, will be the quieter ‘new generation’ aircraft. And they are dismissive that the proposed steeper landing approaches Heathrow wants to introduce will have any significant impact on noise levels.
Atkins verdict on Heathrow’s plans to increase respite for residents is damming. It argues that most communities will get less respite than they do today if a third runway is built. At present people in West London enjoy a half day’s break from the noise when planes switch runways at 3pm. This would be cut to a third if a new runway is built in order to give people under the new flight paths some respite.
HACAN chair John Stewart said, “We used the new reports to reality check Heathrow’s claims. The Airport came out badly. Most of its claims do not have a ring of truth about them. We could only award them 2 out of 5 on our reality score card.”
Stewart added: “Heathrow understands the need to deliver on noise. It is the biggest political barrier to a third runway. And its new proposals are an improvement on what went before but these two new independent reports illustrate the near-impossibility of sorting out noise at Heathrow.”
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(1). The Mayor of London published the Inner Thames Estuary Feasibility Study
. Its noise assessment was based on work commissioned by Atkins on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) from The Environmental Research and Consultancy Department (ERCD) of the CAA to calculate noise exposure contours for a series of scenarios that were developed by Atkins, and that relate to Heathrow Airport. http://www.tfl.gov.uk/cdn/static/cms/documents/t-aviation-noise-modelling-heathrow-options.pdf
The two reports:
The CAA published Managing Aviation Noise –
The Mayor of London published the Inner Thames Estuary Feasibility Study
Its noise assessment was based on work commissioned by Atkins on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) from The Environmental Research and Consultancy Department (ERCD) of the CAA to calculate noise exposure contours for a series of scenarios that were developed by Atkins, and that relate to Heathrow Airport. http://www.tfl.gov.uk/cdn/static/cms/documents/t-aviation-noise-modelling-heathrow-options.pdf
Hearthrow’s claims are at http://www.heathrowairport.com/static/Heathrow/Downloads/PDF/a-new-approach_LHR.pdf
Some extracts from the briefing below:
Heathrow: 90% of aircraft at Heathrow will be ‘next generation’ technology like the Airbus A380, Boeing 787 and Airbus A320neo by the time the new runway opens.
CAA: The CAA acknowledges aircraft will become quieter but is less confident than Heathrow about how quickly the quieter planes will be introduced. Its report says: “Introducing new aircraft types is a slow and typically cyclical process that can be fraught with delays and issues, as recent experience with the introduction of both Airbus and Boeing’s new models, the A380 and 787, has shown. Even when new aircraft types are available, refleeting [converting the whole fleet to quieter planes] is a lengthy and expensive process for airlines, with significant resource impacts.” It goes on to point out that hundreds of the aircraft types would need to be removed by 2026 if Heathrow Airport were to meet its target: “in early 2014, British Airways’ long-haul fleet consisted of 55 Boeing 747-400s, 21 Boeing 767-300s and 55 Boeing 777s.” It could be 25 years before some of these planes were replaced.
Atkins (for the Mayor of London): Atkins is even more doubtful than the CAA that the fleet mix will be as Heathrow Airport predicts by 2026 when a 3rd runway opens. It cites as evidence the fact that: “IAG (BA and Iberia) are still placing orders for conventional A320’s [one of the aircraft types that would need to be phased out].” It is also sceptical the new aircraft would be significantly quieter than the existing ones: “An older Boeing 747-400 has an Lmax (peak noise event impact) when arriving at 1,000 ft of 86dB. An Airbus A380 has an Lmax arriving at 1,000 ft of 85dB. This represents a relatively insignificant difference, despite the A380’s much heralded status as a quieter aircraft.” [The A320neo is a bit less noisy].
- There is real doubt Heathrow can defend its prediction that 90% of the planes using the airport in 2026 will be the quieter ‘new generation’ aircraft.
- There is also doubt that these quieter aircraft, when introduced, will cut noise for residents as much as Heathrow claims. The Atkins report says the difference will be ‘relatively insignificant’.
Quieter Operating Procedures:
Heathrow: A mixture of steeper landing approaches, displaced landing thresholds (where aircraft touch down 700 metres further along the runway) and new flights paths brought in to avoid the most populated areas will cut noise levels. link
CAA: The CAA stresses that only a marginally steeper approach – 3.25 degrees rather than the current 3 degrees – is possible, and that even 3.25 might cause problems in low-visibility. At Frankfurt 3.2 degrees is used but it reverts to 3 degrees at times of poor visibility. Although a steeper descent approach would mean planes remain higher for longer, it concludes “the additional benefits of 3.2 degree approaches are relatively small.” The CAA acknowledges that there would be noise benefits to displaced landing thresholds.
Atkins: The Atkins Report doesn’t analyse the feasibility of a steeper approach, nor does it comment on the impact of displaced landing thresholds; it simply assumed both will be in place when it made its calculations of the total number of people likely to be impacted by a 3rd runway would be over 1 million.
Neither the CAA nor Atkins assesses Heathrow’s claims the “new flight paths will avoid the most populated areas.” Partly this is because Heathrow has not yet published these new flight paths but probably also due to the recognition that altering flight paths will have a minimal overall impact since all of London is so heavily populated. Moreover, as Atkins points out London’s overall population is likely to have increased significantly by 2026.
- Steeper approach paths might reduce noise but the impact would be “relatively small”.
- There would be benefits from displaced landing thresholds (aircraft touching down further along the runway).
- Given the density of the London population – and the fact that the number of people living in London is expected to increase – it will be difficult to find “less populated” areas over which flight paths could be routed.
The location of the new runway
Heathrow: “Our proposal sites a third runway one nautical mile (1.1 miles) further to the west than the previous proposal for a short third runway. Every mile further west an aircraft lands means it is flying approximately 300 ft higher over London on its landing approach.
- It is clear that this proposal would reduce the noise over West London a little. It would not, in itself, benefit areas to the west of Heathrow. This, though, would be mitigated by the fact aircraft would be landing further along the runway.
Periods of relief from the noise
Heathrow: “We have maintained the principle of runway alternation. This provides periods of respite from noise for all communities around Heathrow.” link It will also guarantee “periods without over-flights for every community.” link Heathrow argues that a 3rd runway would provide additional respite at night for residents under the current flight paths as they would only get night flights one week in every three.
Atkins: Atkins questions how long these respite periods will be: “One of the few aspects of the current noise regime at Heathrow that affords local residents any relief from aircraft noise are the periods of respite that are secured by operating the airport in ‘segregated alternate mode’. With one runway used for departures and the other for arrivals before being switched round at 3pm, this gives local residents half a day without aircraft overhead. However, Heathrow Airport have made clear that their three runway proposals would require at least one runway to operate in mixed mode at all times. For the majority of affected residents, that will mean just 4½ hours of respite a day within operating hours – half the respite offered to local communities today.” Additionally, with the new flight path being close to the existing northern flight path it is probable that many people will be impacted by noise from both runways, thus making the period of real respite even shorter.
CAA: The report doesn’t look at respite specifically but does point out that “anti-noise groups report complaints about aircraft noise (especially early morning or late evening noise) as much as 20 miles from the airport”. It is not at all clear just how far Heathrow intends to, or is able to, extend its respite periods.
- There is no doubt Heathrow recognizes the value of respite and is trying to ensure all communities have some respite but it is clear that people in West London, who currently enjoy a half day’s break from the noise, will see that cut to a third and it is unclear whether communities further from the airport will enjoy respite periods. In fact, with the increased number of planes to be accommodated, it is possible that most communities will enjoy less respite than they currently do. Heathrow has a lot more to do to convince on respite.
Heathrow: “£550 million will be allocated to noise insulation or compensation.” link Of that, £250 million will go towards noise insulation schemes for people under the flight paths. For people whose homes will be demolished it is committed to offering 25% above the unblighted market value of the property plus legal fees and stamp duty paid on a new home.
CAA: The report found that in France, there is a statutory scheme to insulate all housing within the 55 dB Lden contour…….. funded through a noise tax on each departure, introduced on the 1st January 2005.
- The Heathrow scheme is not ungenerous but the problem Heathrow will always face is the sheer numbers of people under its flight paths. It would cost Heathrow billions to match the Paris scheme of compensating everybody within the 55Lden contour. It would never be possible. The vast majority of those under the flight paths will remain uncompensated.