Grayling makes key admissions on serious problems with a 3rd Heathrow runway, at Transport Committee hearing
Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, made several assertions when he appeared before the inquiry on the Airports National Policy Statement, held by the Transport Select Committee on 7th February. When questioned about Heathrow’s regional connectivity, he confirmed that many of the domestic routes, promised by Heathrow, would not be commercially viable and would require taxpayer funded Public Service Obligation (PSO) subsidy orders, if they were to ever materialise. Grayling also confirmed that, although up to 121,000 residents around the airport would be expected to suffer the impact of the further air pollution concentrations, likely to flow from the extra flights required to meet the DfT’s own recently updated passenger demand forecasts, the government was yet to undertake any work to assess those impacts. Mr Grayling also confirmed that there would be a ‘real risk’ of non-compliance on air quality, were Heathrow to expand, and that the Government’s own analysis expects that risk to be heightened in the years 2026 – 2030. He also confirmed that the 3rd runway would mean a reduction in respite from noise, for adversely impacted residents. Details with extracts from transcripts at the link below. Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway coalition commented on the NPS that “To proceed on the basis of evidence that unravels, on scrutiny, would simply be unacceptable”.
Grayling makes key admissions at Transport Committee appearance
7th February 2018 (No 3rd Runway Coalition)
Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, made several assertions when he appeared before the inquiry on the Airports National Policy Statement, held by the Transport Select Committee (TSC), on Wednesday afternoon (7 February).
When questioned about Heathrow’s regional connectivity, he confirmed that many of the domestic routes, promised by Heathrow, would not be commercially viable and would require taxpayer funded Public Service Obligation (PSO) subsidy orders, if they were to ever materialise (1. See section copied below); adding that he was unable to comment on any specific routes, as it would be up to the market to determine which might become economic, and then for the Treasury to determine whether financial assistance should be offered.
The Secretary of State also confirmed that, although up to 121,000 residents around the airport would be expected to suffer the impact of the further air pollution concentrations, likely to flow from the extra flights required to meet the DfT’s own recently updated passenger demand forecasts (2. See section copied below), the government was yet to undertake any work to assess those impacts.
Mr Grayling also confirmed that there would be a ‘real risk’ of non-compliance on air quality, were Heathrow to expand, and that the Government’s own analysis expects that risk to be heightened in the years 2026 – 2030. (3. See section copied below)
While acknowledging that the proposed Western Rail Access, into Heathrow, remains unfunded, the Secretary of State sought to re-assure the TSC that it would eventually happen (4. See section copied below).
When it was suggested that respite for overflown residents would fall from half a day, to just one third of a day, were Heathrow to operate a Third Runway, the Secretary of State confirmed that a reduction in respite from noise, for adversely impacted residents, could be expected (5. See section copied below).
The Secretary of State appeared before the committee, two days after Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye (Monday, 5th Feb). On that occasion, the Heathrow boss appeared dismayed when TSC member, Huw Merriman MP, revealed that he had already observed the case for a Third Runway “unravelling” in previous sessions of the committee’s enquiry.
John Holland-Kaye was then confronted with information presented by Committee Chair Lilian Greenwood MP which showed – despite the Heathrow boss’s claim that the number of polluting vehicular journeys to the airport had been in decline – that the percentage mode-share of vehicles using Heathrow had virtually flat lined over the past 10 years, from 62% in 2007/8 to 61% now (6. See section copied below).
Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:
“Developing arguments to justify a third runway for Heathrow was always going to be about pushing squares through round holes. Heathrow, which lies bang slap in the middle of the most densely populated residential region in the country, is already highly disruptive, and the extra noise and pollution that will inevitably flow from its expansion will adversely impact hundreds of thousands of people. To proceed on the basis of evidence that unravels, on scrutiny, would simply be unacceptable“
The Transport Committee has been tasked with examining the draft Airports National Policy Statement and will produce a report to Government before the end of March. Parliament is expected to vote on a final Airports NPS by the summer.
The No 3rd Runway Coalition appeared as a witness to the Transport Committee on 15 January 2018
Transcript of Transport Committee Oral Evidence Session, 5 Feb 2018. http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/transport-committee/airports-national-policy-statement/oral/77959.pdf
Transcript of Transport Committee Oral Evidence Session, 15 Jan 2018 http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/transport-committee/airports-national-policy-statement/written/77628.html
Rob Barnstone: 07806947050, Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hansard Transcript of the Grayling session is at
and it can be seen on Parliament TV at
Some sections from the Grayling session transcript:
1. On regional airport connections and PSO:
Q478 Steve Double:
A significant amount of support for Heathrow has come
from the expectation that it will create great opportunities for domestic
connectivity. How many new domestic routes will an expanded Heathrow
It is difficult to give you an exact answer on routes,
because that is to a significant degree dictated by the market. Clearly,
there are some routes that are supported by the public purse because
they are of strategic importance. Let me focus here on slot allocation
rather than route numbers.
Our view is that we would expect to reserve up to about 15% of slots on
the new runway for domestic connections. They are a really essential part
of the case for this. I have been very clear that there has to be capacity
that is available only for domestic connections, and that that capacity has
to be spread across the day; it cannot be loads of slots at 11 o’clock at
night. We will make provision, through the process of the NPS and the
DCO process that follows it, to ensure that there is specific reserved
capacity for regional connections within the United Kingdom.
Beyond that, it is for the market to decide which routes to pursue,
subject to the fact that we will continue, as we do today, to support some
routes that are of strategic importance to the country. I suspect,
however, that a good connection from Newquay to Heathrow will not
need much support from the public purse.
Q479 Steve Double:
Let’s hope not. You have alluded to the fact that some of
these new routes are not likely to be commercially viable, so you see
very much a role for the Government with PSO supporting those routes.
I think there will be. Heathrow itself has identified a
number of airports to which it expects to have connections. I expect that
most, if not all, of those will be commercially viable. The fact is that the
demand for air travel has grown significantly. There is a need for better
connections around the UK. People are flying to Amsterdam rather than
being able to transfer within the United Kingdom.
I am not pessimistic about this at all. I think we will see a rapid move
into domestic connections and more competition as well. At the moment,
the slots are concentrated very much in a small number of carriers. There
are substantial UK carriers—for example, easyJet—that currently do not
go into Heathrow but would be very likely to do so, and, when doing so,
would open new regional connections themselves.
I see a competition benefit and, as a result, a fall in fares into Heathrow
from regional airports, and I see a wide spread of routes emerging as a
result of this. Obviously, we would consider support for a destination that
was strategically important, but I do not think this will be an issue. The
demand to get into Heathrow is enormous.
2. On local air pollution – number affected:
The analysis showed that 121,000 people were affected by worse air quality, and that number has not changed since the new demand forecasts were put into the appraisal. That does not sound as if the new demand forecasts have been incorporated; otherwise, you would have expected that number to change, wouldn’t you?
I would have to check what that number is and where it is set out. What we put out in the consultation was the level of NOx emissions compared with the 40 microgram limit value on the various link nodes that would be affected by expansion at Heathrow. We put out updated data for all of those link nodes. I would have to check the number of people affected statistically and where that sits in the analysis.
I think that is in the 2 km perimeter around the airport. It is based on 47,000 households; 121,000 people are affected by worse air quality.
Within that perimeter, the approach taken, based on independent expert advice, is that that is the actual footprint of additional emissions from the airport itself. There is a significant issue around air quality, because a number of the analyses that have been brought forward in the discussion generally wrap in issues that go way beyond the airport.
I do not really want to get into that.
But in this particular case that is an assessment of a geographic area around the airport that has not changed.
I am sure we will come back to questions about air quality, but you asked why we thought the updated forecasts had not been built in. It is because the number of people affected has not been updated. One would have expected that, if there were higher demand forecasts, it would impact on that number.
That is the number of people who live in that geographic area, rather than the number of people travelling through, if I understand correctly what you are referring to, but it sounds as though we should check that we are talking about the same thing.
But you would expect more pollution and, therefore, that it would affect more people.
The expert advice is that the impact would go up to 2 km from the airport. That has not changed.
Q496 Steve Double:
The same number of people would be affected.
Q497 Steve Double:
But it may have a greater impact on those people.
The further air quality analysis then goes on to show whether it does or does not through the dispersal techniques that the Secretary of State is referring to, but the physical number of people is a static number, if that is the number you are referring to.
I was not aware that it was a population of people, as opposed to a population of people affected.
3. On local air pollution – risk of it stopping the runway:
Q538 Daniel Zeichner:
I understand that, but also that most recent evidence,
particularly in those years between 2026 and 2030, suggests that there is
a high risk of breaching air quality compliance at that point, and yet the
NPS states that it is capable of taking place within legal limits. Given all
the issues that have been raised in the last couple of years, how can you
be so confident that there are not going to be strong legal challenges on
air quality compliance?
That does not reflect mitigation measures. The
do-nothing scenario is that it comes pretty close. With mitigation
measures—and we are going to see mitigation measures across our
society because this is a problem that we are all going to have to deal
with generally before we get to that point—I expressed the view that
Heathrow itself will have to take individual steps, of which the most
obvious is to create a low emission zone for those coming into and out of
the airport. If you drive a high emission vehicle into the airport, you pay
to do so, and in doing so you have the effect that other low emission
zones such as the Mayor’s T-charge are designed to achieve. Mitigation
measures are not taken into account in that analysis. As we have said,
clearly, if it is going to breach the limits, it can’t happen. If it is going to
breach the limits, there will have to be mitigation measures.
I am sorry to jump in. Wasn’t the modelling reassessed after the
air quality plan was done so that it did take account of mitigations? It is
just a matter of factual accuracy that I am trying to check.
It takes account of the Mayor’s plan, on which he has
been consulting, but it does not take account of anything additional that
the Mayor might do if it seems that we are in the top part of that range
that you talk about, and it does not take account of anything the airport
might do. So, the Secretary of State has said that the airport is
consulting on a low emission zone. That would have a significant impact
on the types of cars that are being triggered by airport expansion.
So there is a level of mitigation that has already been taken into
account in the modelling.
We have taken it into account on the national air quality
strategy in the second bout of modelling. What we have not taken into
account is specific Heathrow-related mitigations.
Q541 Daniel Zeichner:
In effect, the Mayor can be trying to improve air
quality in general. He may be pushing water upstream, if we are not
careful, because you will be making it more difficult for him.
If you look at the analysis we have done, the increment
related to Heathrow is very small.
Q542 Daniel Zeichner:
What is your assessment of the risk that the
development consent order will be refused on the grounds of air quality
We do not think that that will happen. We think that, for
a variety of different reasons, the airport will be able to meet those
targets, but, if it is required to do so, it will need to put in mitigation
measures such as a low emission zone. My own view is that that is
something that they should seek to do.
Q543 Daniel Zeichner:
But it is a real risk, is it not?
Not if they put in place appropriate mitigation measures.
If they do not and if they ignore the issue, yes, of course it is a risk. But
they are not going to because they want the runway to happen.
Q544 Daniel Zeichner:
The NPS has a condition saying that approval will only
be granted if the scheme avoids significant adverse impacts on health
and quality of life from noise. Should there not be an equivalent condition
applied to air quality?
There is. It has to meet what are nationally and
internationally-set air quality limits. The airport will have to conform to
the air quality laws.
Q545 Daniel Zeichner:
Basically, what you are saying is that if these things
are not achieved then it cannot go ahead.
4. Heathrow payment for rail scheme upgrades:
Q555 Luke Pollard:
In the evidence we heard from Transport for London, it
suggested that the surface access upgrades necessary for an expanded
Heathrow would be in the region of £15 billion. The Airports Commission
says it is about £5 billion. There does seem to be a big discrepancy
between these two figures. I am trying to get at what the difference is.
Far be it for me to be mischievous, but I suspect
Transport for London would be very keen to secure massive contributions
to transport schemes across west London. There is no reason for what I
have described to cost anything like £15 billion. HS2 has already arrived
and Crossrail is nearly finished. The costs of western and southern rail
access would be a little in excess of £1 billion, but not massively so. I do
not see where the number of £15 billion comes from, to be honest.
Q556 Luke Pollard:
So the number that you are looking at is less than £5
Q557 Luke Pollard:
Do you have a figure for how much that would be?
In a world of rail projects, putting an exact figure on
them is probably fairly rash, but it is certainly not £15 billion. I am sure
that Transport for London would love to have £15 billion spent on
transport in London, but the reality is that I do not see why the mix of
projects I have talked about needs to come anywhere remotely close to
Q558 Luke Pollard:
How much do you think Heathrow will eventually
contribute to surface access costs?
As much as we can get out of them. As they have said
to you, they have set aside provisions within this. They will need to pay
for the roads. The railways have committed to contributing to the rail
links. We are going to do the best possible deal for the taxpayer. Some of
this they are doing; some of it we will contribute to, because not all the
benefits derive from it. Some of these projects are Heathrow-related
alone. We will do the best possible deal for the taxpayer.
5. Respite to be reduced with 3rd runway:
Q569 Iain Stewart:
An issue of huge concern to the communities around Heathrow is the respite periods. The NPS states that the northwest runway will offer more predictable periods of respite, although the period will fall from half a day to a third of a day. What does that mean in practice? It is very vague, and the people we have heard from want more clarity as to what the impact will be on their communities.
The key point here is that, at the moment, Heathrow operates in a way that means that half the flightpaths—two out of the four—do not have a plane flying over them at any one time. With three runways, one will operate in mixed mode normally, and that means that, of the six, two out of the six at any one time will not have planes flying overhead. That is clearly a change. It means less respite for some areas than they have at the moment. We will want to try to mitigate that through smart use of the approach technology.
This is one of the benefits I expect to come out of the airspace modernisation. We will try to provide as fairly as possible a mix of approaches to the airport that gives people some degree of certainty and as much respite as possible. It is worth remembering that this is a key thing to differentiate it with Gatwick.
The analysis—not necessarily the airport’s plans—is predicated on two, fully-mixed mode runways operating all the time and over a very long period of time. The other thing to say is that, unlike at present, we want to move to a clear six-and-a-half-hour ban on night flights, rigorously enforced. I think that is a necessary quid pro quo given the other respite issues.
6. From the Holland-Kaye session, on the flat number of passengers arriving at Heathrow by car:
I just want to come back to something you said about the proportion of people travelling to Heathrow by car. I think you said it had increased, but on the figures I have in front of me in 2007-08 it was around 60% or 62%, and in 2016 it is still 61%. Has it not just been very flat throughout that time and there has not been that improvement in the mode share?
People travelling to the airport by public transport?
No; by car.
I guess it would be the inverse. The significant changes that we have seen in public transport use for passengers have been where we have had new capacity coming in on rail schemes. When Heathrow Express opened, that saw a significant change in mode share. It makes up about 10% of all usage and is increasing at the moment.
If people are using rail rather than AN Other form of public transport, that is not really a help if we still have 60% or 61% travelling to Heathrow by car if we are concerned about congestion at the airport.
Just to be clear, if we look over that period, we have seen an improvement in public transport mode share from rail and the whole range of public transport mode share. People have been getting out of their cars.
It is virtually flat in the last 10 years from the information we have.
The period I am talking about is over 25 years. That takes into account the introduction of Heathrow Express, which was 15 or 16 years ago. That might be before the period that you are looking at. I can write to the Committee separately to lay out how that has worked. If you imagine yourself in east London at the moment, it is not particularly easy to get to Heathrow if you want to come here. With Crossrail, Canary Wharf will be a little over 30 minutes, and Stratford not much more than that. That really opens up Heathrow to the whole of east London. That is a benefit not just for passengers but also for people who work at the airport. That is a really significant part of the journeys coming into Heathrow.
The earlier hearing on 5th February, questioning John Holland Kaye:
The Hansard transcript of the Holland-Kaye session is at
and it can be seen on Parliament TV at