In a report the GLA Environment Committee calls on the Government to adopt a new method of measuring aircraft noise. It found that the method recommended by the EU more accurately reflects noise disturbance. Under the method traditionally used by the UK Government, just over 250,000 people are said to be disturbed by noise from Heathrow. But the EU method puts the figure at 725,000. HACAN welcomes the report and urges the Government to take account of its findings. The current way of measuring noise says planes are not a problem in places like Putney or Fulham! This is clearly untrue. The EU method gives a more accurate picture of the true numbers affected by noise. In a wide-ranging report, the Committee also recommended that the noise measurements from Heathrow and London City Airport should be combined to reflect the way people who live under both flight paths hear the noise.
GLA (Greater London Assembly) website:
Tackling air and noise pollution around Heathrow
14 MARCH 2012
The Environment Committee’s new report sets out a series of actions that could help tackle air and noise pollution around Heathrow airport.
Air quality around Heathrow could be significantly improved by better public transport links to help reduce the number of people who travel to and from the airport by car.
Plane Speaking, by the Environment Committee, highlights the fact that passenger numbers at Heathrow could grow by a third to 95 million, and calls for steps to be taken to ensure the growth in passengers does not make air quality around the airport worse.
Heathrow is already the second worst area in the capital for poor air quality, which can cause serious ill-health and premature death.
Of particular concern is the significant contribution to poor air quality made by people using private cars and taxis to get to and from the airport – and at the moment almost two-thirds of the 69 million passengers using Heathrow every year travel by car.
Improving public transport links – alongside the introduction of more greener, quieter planes and ensuring the airport’s on-site vehicles meet the latest EU emissions standards – is essential to tackling the problem.
The report also looks at noise pollution around Heathrow, which now affects people living up to 20km away. The Committee believes there is scope to develop a tighter and more consistent approach to dealing with the impacts of aircraft noise, and recommends that more stringent standards are adopted and the trigger point at which people quality for noise insulation assistance is lowered.
The report sets out a number of actions, including:
- Introducing incentives to encourage people to use buses and coaches
- Expediting the upgrade of the Piccadilly line and extending its current operating hours by one hour at either end of the day
- Consideration of more robust measures to reduce the level of drop-off and pick-up traffic
- Ensuring Crossrail offers the service levels to take on the growing numbers of passengers coming into central London
- Making sure Heathrow is linked to the new planned high speed rail network which will help to minimise long car journeys to the airport
- Using incentives to encourage airline operators to remove the most polluting aircraft from their fleets more quickly and switch to more greener, quieter planes
- Ensuring Heathrow’s on-site vehicle fleet meets the latest EU emissions standards
There is a short video about the report’s key findings:
This report builds on the Committee’s previous report on environmental conditions around Heathrow. (see below).
Read the new report, Plane Speaking: Air and noise pollution around a growing Heathrow airport:
Plane Speaking report March 2012.pdf (53 pages)
In a report published today the Greater London Assembly Environment Committee calls on the Government to adopt a new method of measuring aircraft noise. It found that the method recommended by the European Union more accurately reflects noise disturbance. Under the method traditionally used by the UK Government, just over 250,000 people are said to be disturbed by noise from Heathrow. But the EU method puts the figure at 725,000.
HACAN welcomes the report and urges the Government to take account of its findings. The current way of measuring noise says planes are not a problem in places like Putney or Fulham! This is clearly untrue. The EU method gives a more accurate picture of the true numbers affected by noise.
In a wide-ranging report, the Committee also recommended that the noise measurements from Heathrow and London City Airport should be combined to reflect the way people who live under both flight paths hear the noise. The report also wants the Government, jointly with Heathrow Airport, to commission a full independent health assessment of the impact of the airport’s operations on local communities. And it recommends a wide range of improvements to public transport serving the airport.
The report, Plane Speaking, can be found on the Greater London Assembly website.
Note: Currently, when measuring aircraft noise, the Government averages out the noise over a 16 hour day. The EU method averages it out over a 12 hour day, a separate 4 evening period and an 8 hour night period. It adds 5 decibels to the evening period, and 10 decibels to the night, to allow for lower background noise levels at these times.
The report’s recommendations are that:
Heathrow Airport Limited, in consultation with airline
operators, should seek to implement an earlier time frame
within which aircraft below CAEP/4 standard are removed from
We recommend that Heathrow Airport Limited adopts a more
ambitious target of 60 per cent of its passengers to travel to
and from the airport using public transport and that this target
is incorporated in the revised Surface Access Strategy.
Heathrow Airport Limited should set out options for reducing
the level of drop-off and pick-up traffic in the revised Surface
The Committee recommends that Network Rail undertake a full
economic appraisal of its proposal to address peak capacity
shortfall in the Thames Valley region by increasing the planned
Crossrail peak stopping service from four to ten trains per
hour, at the earliest opportunity.
In the interests of developing a more sustainable approach to
rail transport around Heathrow airport and affected areas
within the South East, we recommend that the Department for
Transport develop a Heathrow forum comprising of the full
range of transport partners, specifically tasked with
developing integrated rail transport solutions. We would wish
to see the forum in place by September 2012.
We recommend that Transport for London and Heathrow
Airport Limited work together to establish a communications
plan to increase awareness of available bus and coach services
and to develop a range of behavioural measures and incentives
to encourage more airport workers and passengers to use
existing services, with a view to incorporating them in the
revised Surface Access Strategy.
We recommend that Transport for London involve Heathrow
Airport Limited, in the procurement process for buses used in
routes serving the airport, by seeking their views on the
appropriateness of the size and design of the vehicles.
We recommend that Government adopt the 55dB Lden
threshold that airport operators are required to apply when
developing noise action plans to manage the impacts of
aircraft noise, and as set out in the Environmental Noise
(England) Regulations 2006, to develop noise contours used to
inform national policy and future airport development planning
In the interests of maintaining a consistent approach to noise
insulation mitigation schemes across London’s airports, we
recommend that Heathrow Airport Limited set a 59dB Lden
threshold at which local residents and communities can qualify
for noise insulation in its revised scheme.
We recommend that Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee,
and London City Airport Consultative Committee trial periodic
joint meetings, annually or bi-annually, to consider matters of
We recommend that the Government jointly with Heathrow
Airport Limited should commission a full independent health
assessment of the impact of the airport’s operations on local
The Government consultation on the current arrangement for
night flights at the Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports,
should include a comprehensive review of the latest evidence
on the adverse health impacts of night aircraft noise, including
any evidence on productivity losses associated with disturbed
sleep. The review should be set alongside an objective analysis
of the economic value of such flights.
Flights of Fancy: Can an expanded Heathrow meet its environmental targets?
This Environment Committee report warns that key safeguards set by the Government to limit the environmental impact of a potential third runway at Heathrow may not be fit for purpose.
Expanding the UK’s busiest airport would mean an initial increase in capacity of 125,000 annual flights and 15 million extra passengers in 2020 when the runway first opens, and this is forecast to increase even further.
The Government has set out conditions on noise, air quality and climate change to manage the negative environmental impact of the potential development. But a new report by the London Assembly’s Environment Committee reveals unmistakeable limitations in some of these conditions and how they would be met.
The report makes a number of recommendations relating to noise, air quality, emissions and governance to strengthen the environmental conditions.
Flights of Fancy PDF
As part of its future work programme, the Committee will review the latest data on air quality and noise at Heathrow airport and its surrounding areas
This GreenAir article says Bloomberg analysts think that while aviation will not use oils from palm, rape or soya on any scale, the industry may be able to source biofuels from non-food crops that are commercially viable, within years. They reckon that while conventional jet kerosene costs about $0.86 per litre now, jet fuel could be produced at $0.86/litre by 2018 if production of jatropha and camelina was scaled up, with pyrolysis of woody feedstock producing jet fuel at $0.90/litre at around the same time. Liquid fuels made using the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert woody biomass is unlikely to produce jet fuel cheaper than $2.60/litre in 2018. Large-scale, biofuel-producing algae farms will not appear this decade. However, available volume is going to be limited and airlines will be in competition for it. Costs of biofuel are currently very much higher than paying for ETS carbon permits.
Some non-food vegetable oil-based aviation biofuels could be cost-competitive by the end of the decade, finds Bloomberg study
Wed 15 Feb 2012
If production efficiency continues to improve, the cost of some biofuels – such as those based on hydro-treated non-food vegetable oils from jatropha and camelina, or from pyrolysis of cellulosic feedstocks – could become competitive with the cost of fossil-based jet fuel by 2018.
This is the main finding of research carried out by Bloomberg New Energy Finance for its clients.
On the other hand, fuels produced from woody feedstock through gasification and the Fischer Tropsch (F-T) process are unlikely to be economical until well into the next decade. The researchers suggest that subsidies or mandates [government targets for biofuel use] will be required if governments wish to see a sizeable take-up of aviation biofuels before 2020 and airlines will have to compete with road transport for the limited availability of certified, low-cost supplies.
Established biofuels based on edible vegetable oils such as soybean, rapeseed and palm may never become fully cost competitive, suggests the research, although sustainability issues make it highly improbable airlines will use fuels from these sources in any case.
Although unlikely to be certified much before 2014, it adds, wood-conversion through the pyrolysis process may be more promising for producing cost-competitive jet biofuel before the end of this decade.
“The problem is that for the foreseeable future, even when the economics make sense, there will simply be limited availability of certified and relatively low-cost biofuel,” says Harry Boyle, Lead Bioenergy Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“If governments want airlines to burn a significant proportion of non-fossil fuel before 2020, they will have either to subsidise advanced-but-not-yet-economic biofuels or, more likely, introduce mandates requiring carriers to use a certain percentage of sustainable biofuels in their mix, and put up with complaints that this is driving up ticket prices.”
Adds Boyle: “The US government has mandated that 18 billion gallons (68bn litres) of road transport fuel will have to come from next-generation, or cellulosic, biofuel by 2022. Western governments could do the same for next-generation aviation biofuels, starting any time from 2018, as a way of stimulating a potentially significant industry and reducing air transport emissions.”
For those airlines complaining about the cost of buying allowances to comply with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the report shows this will be relatively minor compared to the additional price airlines would have to pay to burn biofuels rather than conventional jet fuel in the next few years.
Compared to current jet fuel prices of around $0.85 per litre, aviation fuel from edible feedstock could potentially be supplied at $1.20/litre if producers moved to large-scale production, estimate the researchers.
A better result should be possible using jatropha, they say. If production were to scale up, jet fuel could be produced at $0.86/litre by 2018, with pyrolysis of woody feedstock producing jet fuel at $0.90/litre at around the same time.
Even with rapid efficiency improvements in the next few years, using F-T to process woody biomass is unlikely to produce jet fuel cheaper than $2.60/litre in 2018. The researchers predict large-scale, biofuel-producing algae farms will not appear this decade and so algae-based jet fuel is the pathway furthest from cost parity with conventional jet kerosene.
Despite the cost differential, the researchers have encouraging words for early adopters of aviation biofuels.
“The move by the European Union to bring all airlines into the EU ETS carbon trading scheme has focused the minds of airlines around the world on reducing their carbon emissions,” says Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “While European carbon credits at the moment are so cheap they have negligible effects on ticket prices, biofuels will be competitive within a decade. However, available volume is going to be limited and airlines will be in competition for it, so those airlines which move now are likely to have an advantage later.”
Claire Curry of Bloomberg New Energy Finance will be presenting the findings at an aviation conference next month during the World Biofuels Markets in Rotterdam.