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Summaries of, and links to, the latest aviation news stories appear below. News is archived into topics

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Latest news stories:

Stansted Airport expansion plans will ‘ambush local communities and residents,’ according to Uttlesford Liberal Democrats

Uttlesford Liberal Democrats say that Stansted Airport is seeking to 'ambush local communities and residents' with its plans to become the UK’s 2nd biggest airport. They say the submitted planning application is “unravelling under the pressure of public scrutiny” and Stansted is not being ‘open’ with local residents. Thaxted Councillor Martin Foley said public opinion is not being taken into account, nor is there enough consideration in regards to the additional traffic following the expansion, branding plans too “simplistic”. The airport is "not being open and transparent in their application to expand its capacity to 43+ million passengers per annum." ...“Firstly, they have buried their demand for the removal of current restrictions on night flights at Stansted in an appendix to their main application." Public consultation events have not been properly promoted, and the airport's "assessment of the impact of the additional traffic generated by the expansion is simplistic and rudimentary.” Implausibly, the airport's CEO tries to make out there will be a lower noise impact, even with 8 million more annual passengers (35 million up to 43 million). 

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Even keen runway supporter, Slough Council, want assurances from Heathrow on damage to borough

Frustrations had been raised at Slough Borough Council (a keen supporter of the 3rd runway) after Heathrow seemingly ignored planning requirements it had set out, that would have ensured a ‘green envelope’ around Colnbrook, into which Heathrow would not intrude. Instead, the consultation set up by Heathrow showed plans for major new road developments within Colnbrook, and a taxiway that was just a few hundred meters from Pippins School. However, council leader, James Swindlehurst, said he had reached agreement with Heathrow that they will ‘review alternatives’ to the currently proposed roads for Colnbrook. They have also agreed to set up a workshop along with the council to explore other options. Heathrow has also announced that they are ‘committed’ to working with Pippins School to mitigate the impact of the expansion. [That probably means very little indeed, in reality].  The airport also pledged funding for a Historic Area Assessment for Colnbrook, which will work to identify buildings and landmarks with historical significance and determine what additional protections they need. [Any protection, other than the only effective one - not to build a massive airport in very close proximity to them]. 

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Stop Stansted Expansion raises night flights and ‘noise nightmare’ concerns over airport’s expansion plans

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) says the airport wants to change conditions which have prevented it from lobbying government for more night flights. The plans were “buried” within its planning application to expand its annual throughput of passengers from 35 million to up to 43m. It claimed it was “a clandestine attempt to betray the community”, as it raised concerns about sleep disturbance and adverse health impacts caused by night flights. “For years SSE has been calling for tougher controls to bear down on the impacts night flights have on sleep disturbance and the quality of life and wellbeing of people across the region,” said SSE noise adviser Martin Peachey. “Stansted is already allowed more than twice as many night flights as Heathrow, and night flights are set to be completely banned at Heathrow within the next 10 years as a condition of expansion.” The airport says it is not seeking any change to current night flight limits, [as the limit is already set above current usage.]  SSE are also concerned that the long haul and freight aircraft which airport owners Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is hoping to attract to Stansted are “typically larger and noisier than most aircraft types currently based there” and with less stringent night noise controls, these could become a serious noise problem for local residents.

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Spelthorne sets out list of demands for Heathrow to protect its residents – if there was a 3rd runway

Spelthorne Council has been a backer of Heathrow expansion for some time, as has its MP, Kwasi Kwateng. Now the council has set out a list of 10 demands from Heathrow, if there is a 3rd runway, n its response to its recent consultation.  These include a  requirement that residents in Stanwell Moor and Stanwell join the Wider Property Offer Zone (WPOZ) and that no immigration centre is built in the borough. They want to "secure the best possible outcomes for our residents and businesses, in particular those most affected in Stanwell Moor and Stanwell." Some of the demands are that residents will be able to either stay in the area or sell their homes to Heathrow for 125% their market value. Also that Heathrow will pay for the introduction of a Controlled Parking Zone across Stanwell and Stanwell Moor, so residents would not have to pay for a fee for their annual parking permit. The Council wants community legacy benefits so Heathrow will "fully mitigate and compensate for the disruption, loss of open space, additional traffic, air quality and noise impacts, and removal of community buildings." They want Heathrow to build an "enhanced multi-purpose community hall" and a new leisure centre for the community. And demands on surface access, noise, air quality, Staines Moor and much else besides.

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IMO: Shipping sector agrees to tackle its CO2 but faster action needed to meet Paris climate goals (aviation still avoiding real CO2 cuts)

International shipping and international aviation are the two sectors omitted from the Paris Agreement. But now the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has agreed on an initial strategy to decarbonise international shipping and reduce CO2 emissions from ships by at least 50% by 2050. The agreement keeps a window open for the sector to help meet the Paris climate goals. Though a welcome first step, the IMO must now build on the agreed minimum target of 50% reductions in subsequent reviews to comply with its fair share of emissions under the Paris Agreement. Aviation still only intends to offset the carbon emissions from its anticipated fast future growth, rather than actually reduce them. Kelsey Perlman, speaking for the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) said:  “Today’s outcome puts international shipping ahead of aviation ... [it] should light a fire under ICAO, which has been dragging its feet for over a decade on a vision for long-term decarbonization, arriving only at the mid-term emissions target of carbon neutral growth from 2020 levels. The agreement on shipping emissions today should make people question whether aviation’s emissions should be allowed to grow with no concrete plan to decarbonize.”

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AEF comment on the DfT’s Aviation Strategy – environmental impacts must be central to policy, not an add-on

The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) has commented on the Government's Aviation Strategy, produced on 7th. They say that while the UK aspires "to be a world leader in aviation when it comes to facilities and services, the same cannot be said for environmental protection, at least when it comes to climate change. A world-class package of environmental protection doesn’t currently seem to be on the agenda." They say "The Aviation Strategy objectives should include an environmental objective that is not wrapped up in a commitment to growth, and the implications of this objective should be considered from the start." AEF reiterate that aviation's "unlimited growth is incompatible with achieving environmental commitments" and the DfT is not even questioning whether aviation growth was a positive outcome to aim for. Instead of the 3 separate consultations on aspects of UK aviation policy over the next 18 months, (with environment at the end) there will be a single Green Paper this autumn. The AEF hopes this allows for environmental impacts to be considered throughout the period of policy development and not as an afterthought (as it originally appeared). The DfT policy is focused on airline passengers and improving the service to them, but it should instead be in the interest of the whole population, including those affected by airports and aircraft.

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Queen jokes that noisy plane ‘sounds like President Trump’ during chat in Windsor with Sir David Attenborough

The Queen and Sir David Attenborough, were recording for a programme in Windsor. Their genial chatter was marred by the overhead din of aircraft or helicopters. The Queen could not contain her irritation. “Why do they go round and round when you want to talk?” she pondered aloud. Poking fun at the noisy aircraft favoured by US leaders, she joked: “Sounds like President Trump or President Obama.” It is not the first time the monarch has expressed frustration about living under a flight path. Last year, she bemoaned the increasing “noise from the air” that disturbs the peace when she is enjoying the gardens at Frogmore House in Windsor. “These days there is more noise from the air than in 1867, but Frogmore remains a wonderfully relaxing environment.” Heathrow airport is barely a seven mile drive from Frogmore House and its flight path passes very close to the royal retreat. It was suggested in 2015 that the monarch could receive millions of pounds in compensation to soundproof Windsor Castle due to the noise of planes from an expanded Heathrow.

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GIP may be considering selling its 42% stake in Gatwick airport

Investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners is considering the sale of its 42% stake in  Gatwick Airport, according to people with knowledge of the matter. It is believed that GIP plans to initially seek buyers for its stake among existing shareholders before reaching out to other potential buyers, but this is still speculation. It is not clear if any banks have been hired for the transaction, and GIP may change its mind.  Representatives for GIP and Gatwick declined to comment. While GIP is the largest shareholder in the airport, its other owners include funds from Abu Dhabi, California and South Korea. GIP, which manages about $40 billion in assets, bought Gatwick with the consortium of investors in 2009 for about $2.5 billion. Gatwick handled 45.6 million passengers in 2017 and continues to lobby the UK government for permission to build a 2nd runway, to take trade away from Heathrow. GIP, founded in May 2006, manages assets ranging from ports and pipelines to multiple airports and a vast wind farm in the North Sea. Over 10 years, GIP has expanded its roster of backers to include some of the world’s biggest sovereign funds and various US pension funds.

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CAA data, only obtained through FoI request, shows about 2.2 million people would be affected by noise from a 3 runway Heathrow

Over 2 million people could be affected by noise from an expanded Heathrow according to secret documents obtained by campaigners. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had previously claimed in October 2016 that an expanded Heathrow (up to 50% more flights) would be quieter in 2030 than today. This claim (obviously ludicrous) was not repeated in the revised draft consultation on the Airports National Policy statement (NPS) published in October 2017. This predicted that 92,700 additional people in the area around Heathrow would be exposed to noise by 2030 as a consequence of the 3rd runway. Now, following an FOI request for the noise data contained in the CAA’s economic analysis, a new figure emerges of 972,957 households who would experience greater noise by 2060. This is the time frame for the full introduction of ‘quieter’ (= slightly less noisy) planes. Based on CAA assumptions on household size this figure is equivalent to 2.2 million people. The third runway, if approved, is expected to be fully open by 2028. At this point it is claimed that a maximum of 90% of the aircraft fleet would have been updated.  This excludes many of the noisier four-engine planes. It is likely therefore that at this point the numbers of people experiencing increased noise would be significantly higher.

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Reality Check: Why politicians should reject the 3rd Heathrow runway. By Sally Cairns and Carey Newson

For a masterful summary (2 pages with all references) of the reasons why the UK government should not be persuaded into allowing a 3rd Heathrow runway, see this briefing by Sally Cairns and Carey Newson, from Transport for Quality of Life. They sum up all the ways in which the business case for the runway is flawed and the environmental case rests on hugely optimistic assumptions. They list these as: "planes will get cleaner and quieter at a faster rate than has previously been expected; cars and vans will also get dramatically cleaner; freight movements will somehow be optimised; the latest National Air Quality Plan will deliver all anticipated air quality improvements; the fledgling international aviation carbon offsetting scheme will generate a high enough carbon price; the national Aviation Strategy (not yet written) will come up with cost-effective mechanisms for constraining aviation emissions further; the new Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise will prove effective; a review of airspace (that has not taken place for over 40 years, as it is so controversial) will take place soon; HS2, Crossrail and the Piccadilly line upgrades will attract air passengers and airport staff in sufficiently large numbers; funding will be found for Western and Southern rail access; etc. It seems very unlikely that all of these will fall into place." 

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Government Aviation Strategy put back from “end of 2018” to “first half of 2019”

The Government's Aviation Strategy will now not be presented to Parliament until summer 2019 despite the initial consultation in July 2017 promising the full strategy to be presented to Parliament "before the end of 2018".  The reason for the delay is unclear but campaigners say the strategy could in fact be put in jeopardy because of its reliance on Heathrow expansion – a project which has major parliamentary and legal hurdles to overcome. Rob Barnstone, Coordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:  "This strategy is written on the basis that Heathrow expansion is a done deal. It is in fact very uncertain with parliamentary and legal hurdles which it will struggle to overcome. The Government seems hell-bent on expanding Heathrow, despite evidence that alternative options for growth in the sector would bring a greater benefit to regions across the UK and not just in the south east, as usual."  It has always been profoundly unsatisfactory, and illogical, for a key part of the UK aviation sector - Heathrow airport - being decided upon BEFORE the UK aviation policy for the whole sector.  Rationally, it would be the other way round - aviation policy first, and then decide on whether Heathrow should expand.

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DfT publishes Aviation Strategy, with focus on growth and helping passengers – little on environmental impacts

The government has published its Aviation Strategy, which the DfT says "will set out the longterm direction for aviation policy to 2050 and beyond." The first phase of its development was the publication of a call for evidence in July 2017. The Aviation Strategy says it will now "pursue 6 objectives, which are unchanged following the consultation." It is very much focused on the passenger, the passenger experience, helping the aviation industry, expanding aviation and "building a global and connected Britain."  The Strategy "sets out further detail on the challenges associated with these objectives and some of the action that the government is considering and which will form part of further consultation later in the year." The DfT says:  "The government will continue the dialogue that has already begun on these issues. The next step will be the publication of detailed policy proposals in a green paper in the autumn of 2018. This will be followed by the final Aviation Strategy document in early 2019." There is mention of the environmental problems (carbon, noise, air pollution) but they are given scant attention, and it is presumed they can all be reduced - even while the sector has huge growth. A new runway at Heathrow is assumed to happen.

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Residents alarmed at proposed changes to Glasgow Airport flightpaths using PBN

Planned new flightpaths into Glasgow airport will see planes flying over some of Scotland's wealthiest suburbs, so there can be slight fuel use reductions and the airport can handle increased passenger numbers. The changes to the routes will see flights take off or land over areas such as Bearsden, Bishopbriggs and East Renfrewshire to cut down on the time it takes planes to reach international flightpaths. The proposals are aimed at "modernising" Glasgow's airspace to handle increasing passenger numbers, larger aircraft and (allegedly) greenwash the plans and "to make flying less harmful to the environment."  Community groups in affected areas are worried about the impact on their communities and are urging the airport to rethink the plans, which are out to consultation till April 13th. The system will change from older ground navigation, to new satellite systems (PBN), and will enable flight paths to be concentrated, so particular areas get intensified plane noise, as plane after plane follows the same track. One village that fears it will be badly affected is Uplawmoor, which currently is tranquil, where residents are angry they were not consulted until "very late in the day". People want a more open and honest consultation, and for the CAA to ensure that happens. 

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Heathrow appoints Rachel Cerfontyne as Chair of its “Community Engagement Board”

The Heathrow Community Engagement Board (HCEB) has announced Rachel Cerfontyne as its new Chair. The HCEB, the successor body to the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee, initiated an open hiring process for a new Chair at the end of 2017. A selection panel made up of representatives from the new HCEB, Heathrow, the Department for Transport and a local residents group, the HASRA (Harmondsworth & Sipson Residents Assn), agreed that Rachel "would provide the necessary open and independent leadership to evolve the work of the new Board and represent the interests of all communities associated with Heathrow Airport." She will focus on "building trust between Heathrow and its communities, holding the airport to account when it comes to delivering on its commitments today and into the future."  There is a history of serious distrust of the airport by many, after decades of broken promises, misleading statements, half truths etc. Rachel was Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, where she has spent 9 years trying to improve public confidence in the police complaints system.  

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New study shows dramatic increase in Heathrow flight numbers (= noise) over parts of SE London

A new study Corridors of Concentration, published by HACAN and Plane Hell Action,  reveals a dramatic increase in the number of flights over many areas of South East London in recent years. It also found that flight paths have become more concentrated. The study was carried out to highlight the current impact of aircraft noise on south east London and to influence the policy debate by feeding into Heathrow’s recent consultation on future flight path design. Over a dozen areas from Clapham Common to Greenwich were surveyed, and the number of aircraft audible from each location recorded. The study found that the area is heavily overflown, with typically 38 planes an hour audible to many communities.  This could rise to over 40 during busy periods. Due to increasing concentration, some communities are especially badly hit. The study concluded many more planes are joining their final approach corridors further east than before and are more concentrated within those corridors.  People living south of the Thames are experiencing an increased density of turning aircraft over their homes. The study recommends that flight paths need to be varied more, and the practice of concentrating night flights over particular communities should be avoided. See the whole study for details.

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Andy Slaughter: The case against Heathrow expansion keeps getting stronger – but will the government listen?

The publication of the Transport Select Committee (TSC) report into the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) has been interpreted by the government and Heathrow as a green light for expansion to proceed. Whilst the TSC recognised the strategic case for a third runway, the real story is the significant shift in position from a select committee that has long been supportive of a expansion to one that is highly critical of the lack of detail in the plans. The robust list of recommendations in the TSC report highlights areas where significant work is still required before the government bring the final NPS to parliament for a vote. The TSC report also includes several additional conditions of approval to be included in the final version of the NPS on air quality, surface access, connectivity, costs and charges, noise, community impacts, resource and waste management. The NPS is the document against which the Heathrow planning application will be judged, and if it lacks sufficient detail on these key issues then it will not be strong enough to hold the airport to account. There is little evidence to suggest that parliament can have confidence in simply trusting Heathrow. I "urge my parliamentary colleagues to read the report. Those who do will understand why they should vote against the NPS when it is brought to parliament."

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CAGNE writes to Chief Medical officer on health dangers of approx 14,000 annual Gatwick night flights

CAGNE, (Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions), has written to the Chief Medical Officer Health of the Department of Health and Social Care, Professor Dame Sally Davies, asking for research to be undertaken to the true cost to health of night flights on communities surrounding Gatwick.  Gatwick currently has permission to fly 14,250 flights at night per year with no restrictions on the number of arrivals and departures they are permitted to fly over sleeping rural communities of Sussex, Surrey and Kent during the hours of 11.30pm and 6am. CAGNE said: “There has been international research into the health impacts of night flights and the conclusions have shown that aircraft night movements have serious ramifications on the wellbeing of communities.  And yet Gatwick is allowed to fly the most night flights of any airport in the UK today with no cost evaluation to the NHS budgets or wellbeing of people who suffer sleep deprivation due to aircraft movements at night.” Gatwick has the most night flights of any UK airport. It has only made token gestures to reduce the night noise over rural communities that surround it.  Residents have a normal expectation of having a full night’s sleep of 8 hours sleep as recommended by Sleep Foundation, but for too many this is not possible.

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Heathrow 3rd runway: CO2 emissions still the elephant in the room, which MPs should not ignore

The Transport Select Committee (TSC) recently released their report on the government's plans to build a 3rd runway at Heathrow. It shows how the plan is completely incompatible with the UK's climate obligations. Yet the carbon emissions from a 50% larger Heathrow were given the briefest of mentions in the summary, and crucial issues are tucked away in the final annex of the TSC report. The Campaign Against Climate Change has explained some of the dubious assumptions being made by the DfT, in order to imply carbon is not a key limiter of the scheme. One assumption is that CO2 emissions from air travel can be excluded from calculations of economic impact - but the CO2 from flights is over 96% of emissions resulting from aviation. Then there is the assumption that carbon trading is an effective way of compensating for the increase in aviation emissions. The DfT hopes - unjustifiably - that aviation CO2 can be ignored, since they will be completely removed through carbon trading. The Committee on Climate Change has consistently warned against relying on carbon trading. And there is the assumption that biofuels could be used to reduce aviation CO2. The only economically viable fuel would be palm oil, with devastating environmental impacts. MPs voting on the NPS need to be aware of these facts.

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How Heathrow is happy to pay way over the odds, to increase its RAB, allowing more revenue

The City Editor of the Financial Times, Jonathan Ford, has written about how the reasons for Heathrow's anticipated costs for its possible 3rd runway.  The cost of £17 billion, or now £15 billion are exceptional. But Jonathan explains how Heathrow's investors seem happy to spend so much. It is because of the curious incentives that operate in the topsy-turvy world of utility financing. As with most ventures that have monopolistic aspects, Heathrow is not subject to ordinary restraints on capital expenditure. The principal check is the willingness of the airport’s regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, to sign off on the mechanism by which these costs can be recovered from captive airline customers through passenger charges. Heathrow often pays far above the going rate for building, new technology etc, because this adds to the airport’s regulated asset base (RAB) on which it gets an allowed return, and thus permits it predictably to expand its own revenues. Since taking over BAA in 2006, Ferrovial has been extremely active, tripling Heathrow’s RAB to £15bn. It is a system that has allowed the airport’s owners to finance these expansions with vanishingly little equity capital. Heathrow is encouraged to fund everything with debt by a regulatory system that allows it to keep the gains from financial engineering. Heathrow's owners hope to shrug off the risks of completion, but transfer them on to customers.

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“Deliberately misleading” on Heathrow economics. It’s not NEF but the Dept for Transport…

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) has published a report on the economics of the Heathrow 3rd runway. They looked at the DfT's figures (all publicly available material) and have concluded that the runway is a very bad bet economically for the UK. Using the Government’s own formula for assessing transport schemes, Heathrow expansion along proposed lines would be rated as either ‘poor’ or ‘low’ value for money.  At best, in net present value (NPV) terms, building the North West Runway (NWR) at Heathrow would yield an economic benefit of £3.3 billion. At worst, in net terms there would not only be no economic benefit whatsoever, but a significant financial cost of up to £2.2 billion, to be borne either by the airport, its investors, airlines, passengers or perhaps even government (ie. then taxpayers). Andrew Pendleton, one of the authors of the report, commented: "it is not us that now forecast a worst-case scenario for Heathrow expansion of £2.2 billion of net costs, but the DfT. Similarly, it isn’t NEF that has thrown out a whole set of models produced for the 2015 Airports Commission, but the Government’s own analysts at the DfT." If Heathrow has to satisfy the caveats required in the Transport Committee report, the costs of the runway would be even higher (and net  benefit even lower). The DfT and the government continue to push for the runway - but NEF says they should think again. 

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Negative impacts of Heathrow expansion to economy and the regions highlighted in new report

A report on Heathrow’s third runway plans has revealed that the impact on the economy is likely to be negative with significant concerns about potential costs falling on taxpayers. Indeed, using the Government’s own methodology the scheme would be rated as either ‘poor’ or ‘low’ value. The report "Flying Low: The True Cost of Heathrow’s Third Runway", by the New Economics Foundation, was commissioned by the No Third Runway Coalition to examine the Government’s own data and analysis that has been used to justify their position of support for the north west runway at Heathrow. It found that airports outside London would experience a reduction in aviation traffic which would, in turn, at the very least lead to “grow more slowly” and could in fact lead to lead to a reduction in jobs at airports in regions across the UK, through displacing of jobs from other (regional) airports, as well as from other sectors. The report also identified that a ‘more targeted’ approach was needed to support a UK-wide air freight strategy. Chair of the Coalition, Paul McGuinness commented: “Further, it must be unacceptable for Heathrow to claim their proposals will be privately financed whilst seeking protections from the public purse for potential delays in construction and inaccuracies in passenger demand forecasts.”

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Transport Committee MPs demand strict limits on Heathrow noise and pollution due to a 3rd runway

Heathrow’s third runway should be blocked unless the government introduces tough new restrictions on costs, pollution, aircraft noise and night flights, according to MPs. The transport select committee said that safeguards designed to protect local residents and airport passengers had to be strengthened before the plans are approved. The cross-party group ultimately supported the proposed northwest runway, concluding in a report that it was the best option for airport expansion in the southeast. However, it said the NPS should only be passed by MPs if crucial new conditions were imposed on the airport to limit its environmental and economic impact. In a series of recommendations, the report said approval should only be granted if Heathrow can guarantee not to worsen air quality in west London or increase the number of polluting cars being driven to the airport. The MPs called for the proposed existing six-and-a-half-hour ban on night flights to be extended to seven hours. The report also said that the government’s previously lenient assessment of aircraft noise should be rerun to provide a “fair view of the range of possible noise impacts”. They demanded more clarity on the funding and timing of road and rail links, and much more. The government is expected to respond to the report before drafting its final NPS.

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Transport Committee demands serious changes to Government’s Heathrow case before any vote in Parliament

The Commons Transport Committee has produced the report on its inquiry into the Draft Airports NPS (ie. on the proposal for a 3rd Heathrow runway). The report states: "Once costs are considered, the net economic benefits for the NWR [North West Runway] scheme are relatively small at a maximum of £3.3 billion over 60 years and in fact, may be negative if future demand falls."  It highlights the absence of a large amount of necessary material from the Government’s draft NPS; it demands that evidence must be presented to show that the scheme is both affordable and deliverable - before any vote is put to MPs. The report contains a highly critical assessment of the cost to the taxpayers, passengers and airlines of expansion.  There was also expression of major concerns about the lack of clarity on surface access proposals and costs on the rerouting of the M25, the methodology of calculating air pollution impacts and a considerably more radical approach on noise impacts. Though a NPS was expected to be put to Parliament before the summer recess in July, there must be evidence clarifying the number of areas of concern before MPs should be asked to vote. It is unlikely the necessary information could be obtained in time for an early summer vote - or even one in 2018.

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Government confirms a Heathrow runway shorter than 3,500m invalidates the NPS (so why is HAL consulting on it?)

There was a Lords debate on the issue of Heathrow, and a possible 3rd runway, on Thursday 15th March. There were many important contributions from Baroness Kramer, Baroness Jones and many others.  One point that emerged was that, while the Airports NPS (on which MPs are expected to vote in the summer) looks only at a 3rd runway 3,500 metres long, Heathrow has its own (inappropriately premature) consultation at present, in which it considers a shorter runway. Lord Tunnicliffe asked:  "Heathrow is now consulting on a scheme with the third runway being 3,200 metres long. That is all over the web. If it presents a scheme for 3,200 metres, does paragraph 1.15 mean that the document is invalid? It seems to say that the only scheme that the Government will consider is one for 3,500 metres. .... Have the Government got themselves in a trap where their provisions and the newly preferred scheme by Heathrow are incompatible?" To which Lord Young of Cookham (Spokesperson for the Government, for the Cabinet Office) said:   "... The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked me whether anything less than that would invalidate the NPS, and the answer is, yes, it would."  There were also important contributions on other issues, including the very negative implications for regional airports, from a 3 runway Heathrow. .

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Britain intends to stay in Europe’s ETS (including aviation) until at least 2020

Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Clare Perry, has confirmed that Britain intends to remain in Europe’s emission trading system (ETS) until at least the end of its 3rd trading phase (running from 2013-2020).  The status of Britain’s participation in the scheme following the country’s exit from the European Union in March 2019 had been unclear until now. Formal agreement is still needed, but BEIS wanted to provide certainty for companies covered by the scheme until at least 2020. Currently aviation is included in the ETS, but after serious earlier opposition and difficulties, it covers only flights made within Europe, between European countries - none leaving, or entering, Europe. Clare Perry said Britain is committed to using a price on carbon as a means to reduce emissions but would use the country’s exit from the European Union to “take the opportunity to see if there are other opportunities” to achieve this.

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Heathrow critics say it should face sanctions on broken promises if it tries to raise landing charges with a 3rd runway

Critics of Heathrow are calling for formal sanctions to be imposed on the airport if it fails to meet promises linked to its third runway expansion scheme.  Airlines are very reluctant to pay higher landing charges at Heathrow, if there is a 3rd runway.  Heathrow’s boss John Holland Kaye has claimed the amount airlines pay for each of their passengers to land at the airport will remain “close to current levels” once the new runway is built. But evidence provided to the influential Transport Committee of MPs in Parliament claimed there are “weak incentives placed on Heathrow to tackle costs aggressively”. Heathrow's landing charge per passenger now is about £22, but less for domestic flights.  Heathrow also makes over £8 per passenger through retail and car parking. London's Deputy Mayor for Transport Valerie Shawcross has called for there to be a 'clear enforcement mechanism' against Heathrow if it breaks expansion pledges, including its hope of half its passengers to use public transport by 2030, (without any formal mechanism for enforcing this). ... “There is precedent [for a major infrastructure project] to be refused where particular thresholds or goals are not met and I believe this should be systematically applied to pledges made by both Heathrow and the Secretary of State [Chris Grayling],” ... “A clear enforcement mechanism should also be included for imposing a cap on flights when such pledges are breached.”

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Alistair Osborne (The Times) on the nonsense of MPs voting for a Heathrow runway, in the absence of most necessary details

Alistair Osborne, Chief Business Commentator in The Times, has written scathingly about Heathrow's runway plans, and the lunacy of MPs being asked to vote on them - in the absence of just about all the key information they would need. He says:  "MPs are always voting on things they don’t know much about. But you would think that, by now, a few facts would have been established ahead of this summer’s big vote — on the £14 billion third runway at Heathrow." And the main message from Heathrow's current consultation is "how much is still up in the air — a point you hope MPs on the Transport Committee will raise in their report [on the Airports NPS] due by Friday." ..."Yet it’s on the basis of these sketchy plans that MPs will vote for or against the project."  Heathrow are not even sure of the length and exact location of their 3rd runway. That is, says Alistair "One reason, maybe, for one glaring hole in the consultations: no news on flight paths. Indeed, Heathrow admits that it will not even be consulting on “flight path options” until “around 2021” — years after the MPs have voted. Other things that won’t be resolved before the MPs vote: "the project’s cost, final design, safety case, road and rail links, noise and air quality. Or to put it another way, just about everything we need to know. After half a century in the planning, you’d think Heathrow could do better than that."

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Slough council critical of damage to borough from Heathrow revised plans for runway

Slough Borough Council, which is supportive of a 3rd runway, even though the borough is very close to Heathrow, have now criticised plans in the airport's initial consultation.   They say a local school, homes and businesses will have to be demolished under revised plans for the expansion. Slough Borough Council said Pippins School in Colnbrook would be closer to the runway than previously thought. They also fear changes to the M25 would also affect a local trading estate, and lead to increased congestion and pollution. Slough fear that raising the runway above ground level as it crosses the M25 could have "serious impacts" on Pippins School and nearby homes because of "worsening noise and air pollution". The school and nearby houses would be likely to be part of a compulsory purchase order, so Slough needs Heathrow to pay to rebuild the school at another, more suitable, location. The leader of Slough council, James Swindlehurst, said they were objecting to the wider proposals in the hope of "shaping the ideas" Heathrow were producing. Diverting the M25 by 150 metres to the west, he claimed, could involve the loss of homes at Elbow Meadow and buildings on the Galleymead Trading Estate in Colnbrook. In the past, Slough signed a gagging order with Heathrow, preventing it complaining about the runway plans, in order for anticipated benefits from the airport once a runway was built.

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Mayor of London Transport Strategy opposes Heathrow runway, unless there are firm assurances on air pollution, noise and surface access

The Mayor of London has published the Transport Strategy for London, which sets out the Mayor’s policies and proposals to reshape transport in London over the next two decades. The Strategy is firmly opposed to a 3rd Heathrow runway.  Its section on Heathrow states:  "The demand generated by the current airport combined with local traffic already place considerable strain on the roads and railways serving the airport and contribute to levels of NO2 that are well in exceedance of legal limits. The Mayor considers that, as a result of the additional flights and associated traffic, any expansion at Heathrow would significantly impair London’s ability to meet international air quality obligations in the shortest possible timescale and would contribute to an overall worsening of air quality relative to the situation without expansion. Heathrow already exposes more people to significant aircraft noise than its five main European rivals combined, and the proposed increase in flights cannot avoid many people being newly exposed to significant noise. Moreover, it would be unacceptable if the air quality gains secured by the Mayor and the potential noise improvements as a result of new technologies were not allowed to accrue to local communities to improve public health, but were instead used to enable expansion of Heathrow airport."

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Stop Stansted Expansion asks Government to call in the airport’s expansion plans, or face a JR

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) have written a 36-page letter to the Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajiv Javid MP, asking formally for call-in of the application by Stansted for expansion.  They include District Council incompetence, bias and a series of statutory planning grounds, as reasons why the airport's expansion plans should be determined nationally - rather than locally by Uttlesford District Council (UDC).  SSE has also made clear that refusal by the Secretary of State to call-in the application will trigger an application for Judicial Review in the High Court.  SSE is concerned that UDC has taken a blinkered approach to the rules for considering the application in its desire to do the airport's bidding. UDC sees potential gain for itself, even though the planned expansion would be at the expense of not only the Uttlesford villages and market towns it is meant to serve, but communities further afield in Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. SSE's barrister, a planning expert  Paul Stinchcombe QC of 39 Essex Chambers has identified that UDC has erred in law in its interpretation of the rules by not recognising the application as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. If the Stansted  application was approved, it would mean a 66% increase in passengers and a 44% increase in flights compared to 2017.

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10 years of Terminal 5 lies ‘celebrated’ by Heathrow, whilst proposed sites for runway development shock residents

While Heathrow had a small, rather underwhelming, celebration of 10 years since Terminal 5 opened, residents whose lives would be devastated by a 3rd runway were unimpressed. For them, and thousands of others negatively affected by the airport, T5 just symbolises yet more of Heathrow's broken promises over the years.  People were assured at the T5 public inquiry that it would NOT lead to a 3rd runway (that pledge was rapidly reversed). Local campaign Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE) also points out the hollow promises of jobs from T5 - these never materialised. Local people are shocked at the number and location of sites that could be destroyed as part of Heathrow’s plans for third runway development. These include sites immediately below the M4 motorway could be used to house a new immigration centre and a 20,000-space ‘mega’ car park. The A4 could also be re-routed much closer to West Drayton, which would expose residents and children at Cherry Lane Primary School to even greater air pollution levels. A site close to Wise Lane, West Drayton, could be used for flood storage, whilst land next to Cherry Lane Cemetery could be used for ‘industrial and parking uses’.  Jackie Clark-Basten, Chair of SHE, said:  "Heathrow’s record of making and delivering promises is poor and cannot be trusted now or ever."

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“If the government wishes to get serious on clean air, by adopting stronger measures … a 3rd Heathrow runway simply can’t proceed”

The Cross-Parliamentary EFRA Committee report on Improving Air Quality, released on 15th March, calls on the Government to bring forward legislative proposals on clean air that unify and update existing laws in a new Clean Air Act. This includes whether to adopt WHO air quality guidelines for all pollutants. The report also states that the latest air quality plan will not “deliver improvements at a pace and scale proportionate to the size of the challenge." The High Court agrees. Significant improvements to the plan, and to the Government’s wider approach to air quality, are needed to protect the public from toxic air and that the Government’s forthcoming action plan “must ensure air quality policies are properly aligned with public health and climate change goals.” Reacting, Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition said:  “If the government wishes to get serious on clean air, by adopting stronger measures ... a 3rd runway at Heathrow simply can't proceed. As it is, Heathrow already regularly exceeds Nox and particulates targets. And even the government's best-case scenario for an expanded Heathrow expects there to be a "high risk" that air quality targets will be breached. If the government wishes to signal a purer intent on air quality, abandonment of this project would at least represent a meaningful start.”

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Heathrow owners urged to stop huge payouts to investors – and strengthen its own finances instead

The Sunday Times says in 2017 Heathrow’s debt totalled £13.7 billion, and it is under pressure to cut its huge dividends for its shareholders, if it was allowed to build a £14bn? (£17bn?) 3rd runway. Ministers and airlines are demanding that Heathrow keeps landing charges down, which would mean the regulator, the CAA, capping dividends. Instead the airport would have to use spare funds for the runway project, and to strengthen its finances. Heathrow paid over £3bn in dividends since its buyout in 2006. Combined with a huge building projects, including two terminals, this has increased its debt to £13.7bn. Last year Heathrow paid more than £560m in interest, plus £525m in dividends, and it approved another £114m payout to shareholders last month. The Sunday Times says that could leave its balance sheet vulnerable if the runway project hits difficulties or the aviation industry suffers a downturn. The runway would almost double the size of Heathrow’s £15.8bn asset base. The shareholders gain from take-off and landing charges, which add about £20 to each passenger’s ticket.  A cap by the CAA on Heathrow’s gearing (a measure of debt as a proportion of the value of assets) would ban dividends if borrowings went above a certain level. Heathrow’s gearing is now 87% (far higher than similar businesses) and it wants to increase this ratio up to 93%.

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Sunday Times commentary on Heathrow: the cash machine with an airport attached

The Sunday Times reports that under a complex (perverse) incentive system, Heathrow is encouraged to spend as much as it can on developing the site. Heathrow’s investors earn returns based on the size of its "regulatory asset base" (RAB), under a formula set by the CAA.  So the more the airport spends, the more its owners can earn. It gives an example of £74,000 to cut down 3 trees, which is at least 20 times the normal price. These costs of developing the airport are recouped through passenger charges, and also set off against UK tax. The Sunday Times questions the efficiency, governance and transparency of the management of Heathrow.  It says the airport is demanding an insurance policy against the risk that the project goes wrong, and wants the CAA to ensure it will be compensated by airlines and passengers if there are unanticipated difficulties (eg. construction delays, or lower than anticipated passenger numbers or revenue). Scrutiny of Heathrow’s spending has been inadequate, there is no audit of the RAB, to show how the figure of £15.8bn for the expansion project is calculated, and Heathrow has not provided a detailed cost breakdown for the runway plans. There are past examples of excessive costs eg. the T2 car park at £61,000 per place, or a smoking shelter at T2 that which was priced at £450,000, but finally cost £1m.

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New premium Heathrow rail link by Elizabeth line (Crossrail) will cost more than Tube but less than Heathrow Express

Transport chiefs have confirmed travellers on the new Crossrail line to Heathrow will pay a premium - but that the fare will be less than half the standard Heathrow Express rate.   A peak Crossrail fare from central London to the airport will be £12.10. That is £7 more than the Underground, but a big saving on the £27 standard fare on board Heathrow Express. Passengers travelling from London zone 2 on Crossrail will pay £9.60 single. Heathrow Express currently also offers online single fares of £22 off-peak and £25 peak.  Crossrail, which will be officially known as the Elizabeth Line, will take 10 minutes longer than the Heathrow Express’s 15-minute journey - but roughly half the travel time on the Tube from central London. Crossrail services will run to Paddington Station, which the Heathrow Express serves, and will replace the existing Heathrow Connect trains that currently offer a stopping service to the airport from Paddington, from May 2018. Crossrail will open fully in December, linking Reading in the west with Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in Kent. The No 3rd Runway Coalition commented that this is a money grabbing exercise by Heathrow, who own the tunnels which the Elizabeth line will use, to the benefit of its shareholders - and dis-benefit of local people

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True cost of Heathrow 3rd runway to the public purse must be revealed, say MPs

The true cost to the taxpayer of building a 3rd Heathrow runway at Heathrow has not been spelled out to the public, according to a cross-party group of MPs, who warn that domestic flight connections and other transport spending will be jeopardised. Justine Greening and Vince Cable are among those saying the plan would jeopardise spending elsewhere, who are calling on the government to clarify the costs to the public purse.  They also want clarity on what benefits the runway would actually bring. In a letter to the Guardian, MPs and councils around Heathrow warn that promised unprofitable domestic flight connections to an  expanded Heathrow would only work with state subsidies, that could not be guaranteed in perpetuity. Additionally, more than £10 billion in additional rail and road spending to support a bigger airport would have to be funded by taxpayers, not Heathrow. Having muted her opposition to Heathrow while in the cabinet, Greening, the MP for Putney and a former transport secretary, told the Guardian that Scottish support for the third runway was misplaced. “The SNP need to wake up to the threat that an expanded Heathrow poses to Scotland ... A more expensive Heathrow means fewer connections. People in Scotland won’t understand why the Scottish government think that’s a good idea to support.”

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Letter from MPs & council Leaders: 3rd Heathrow runway would be bad for the UK

A long list of MPs, Council leaders and senior political figures have an open letter, published in the Guardian, on how taxpayers right across the UK, including those living hundreds of miles away from the south-east, would pay for the expansion of Heathrow. They say  lots of promises have been made to lots of people in different parts of the country about the extra domestic routes they can expect if a third Heathrow runway is built. It’s all part of a divide-and-rule strategy which glosses over the health impacts of worsening noise and air pollution in south and west London  while cheerily talking up the prospects of improved internal connections from an expanded hub airport. They say the Transport Secretary has a duty to spell out the true costs for taxpayers – and to be realistic about the benefits. On more regional flights, the letter points out that it is airlines, not airports, which decide which routes to fly, and no minister can guarantee in perpetuity the taxpayer subsidies that would be needed to keep “unprofitable” routes open. If the airport is "full" within a few years, it is likely the unprofitable domestic routes would be the first to be cut, so airlines can focus on more profitable point-to-point operations. None of today’s “promises” or assurances can be relied on.

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Chris Grayling challenged by 4 Councils to spell out Heathrow 3rd runway noise impacts

Leaders of some of the Councils worse affected by Heathrow have now called on the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, to say how many years of extra noise he expects local communities to suffer, if a 3rd Heathrow runway is built. The Government has so far refused to release updated noise assessments for the 4 years following the new runway’s expected opening in 2026, to 2030. These were prepared for the revised draft National Planning Statement (NPS) but not included as part of the October 2017 consultation.  Chris Grayling told the Transport Select Committee in February that there would be a "short period of time" when the airport would have an expanded noise footprint. If less noisy planes come into service, to help Heathrow deal with its massive noise problem, that will not be until 2030.  The Government has previously stated that a 3 runway Heathrow would (implausibly) be "quieter than today." People who will be overflown have a right to know what these increased noise levels would be, how long they would last and how many people’s lives would be affected. The councils have highlighted the lack of detail on noise in a further submission to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into Heathrow expansion. The Committee's report to Parliament is expected shortly.

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T&E: EU-wide taxes on jet fuel + VAT on plane tickets could help plug EU budget gap & address aviation CO2 impact

Subjecting domestic, intra and extra-EU aviation tickets to even a low rate of VAT would generate huge revenues for governments. Bill Hemmings, from European transport NGO T&E, estimates that taxing aviation fuel for domestic and intra-EU flights at the EU minimum rate of 33 cents/litre set by the Energy Tax Directive could generate about €9.5 billion in additional revenues each year. Abolishing the exemptions and applying a 15% VAT to all passenger transport could generate a further €17 billion. Even the European Commission calls these exemptions subsidies. A common ticket tax on EU departures could generate around €11 billion – or more. The Commission has now proposed reforms to VAT rates across Europe which, if agreed, will become the basis for the long-awaited definitive VAT regime in 2022. But instead of abolishing VAT breaks for airline tickets, the EU plan will treat even frivolous trips like a flight for a weekend break the same, in terms of VAT, as “necessities” such as foodstuffs, or pharmaceutical products. Transport is Europe’s biggest CO2 emitter and journeys by plane form a significant part.  One reason in the past why there was no VAT on international air trips was the difficulty in collecting it. However, it is now clear VAT could be charged at the rate of the country the plane departed from, for the whole cost of the ticket.  

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Hounslow reiterates its belief that Heathrow needs to be better (noise, air pollution, traffic) – not bigger

Hounslow Council submitted its response to the two current Heathrow consultations (they are just by the airport, not official). Hounslow insists that it wants a better, not a bigger, Heathrow - and it is concerned about the noise, air quality and transport access issues.  Hounslow say that while they want the airport to be successful, as it is important to the borough, they are opposed to a bigger Heathrow, either by additional flights, addition of a third runway or a relaxation on runway operations and night flights. The Council would like to see a complete ban on night flights across an 8-hour period between 11pm and 7am. Heathrow is only willing to accept a 6.5 hour ban on scheduled night flights (so unscheduled flights could continue).  Hounslow have called into question the credibility of the surface access strategy put forward by Heathrow and in particular to its ‘no more traffic pledge’, given that no additional public transport is proposed to achieve this. They say this raises important questions about whether air quality can be improved to meet legal limits if expansion happens. The council say they are also extremely disappointed that its proposal for a link to the South Western Railway network from Feltham station, including the addition of a new station at Bedfont is not alluded to in any way in the proposals.

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Company has plan for high speed rail, linking HS1 with HS2, via Gatwick and Heathrow

An engineering consultancy, called Expedition, has proposed a new high-speed railway passing both Gatwick and Heathrow, starting at the HS2 line near Denham north of Heathrow, and ending at Ashford in Kent.  Expedition says it is called HS4Air and the plan has been developed to enhance other major infrastructure projects for the south east. It would cost £10 billion and would connect the existing HS1 rail line with the planned HS2 along a route that passes via London's biggest airports. Alistair Lenczner, director at Expedition leading the development of the HS4Air proposal, said discussions are currently ongoing with a number of interested parties, spanning both national and regional bodies. The line would be 140km long, and about 20% of it would run in tunnels - to avoid too big an environmental impact. Around 40% of the route re-uses the existing Network Rail railway between Tonbridge and Ashford.  Expedition hopes that HS4Air would allow rail and aviation infrastructure projects in south east England that are currently unconnected to become joined-up, and mean rail passengers would be able to travel to both airports on "fast regular services" from cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Cardiff without needing to switch trains.

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Stop Stansted Expansion critical of airport expansion application, bypassing local authority scrutiny

Stansted Airport has applied to increase the current cap on annual passenger numbers from 35 million to 43 million passengers, in what campaigners say is a ‘sweetheart’ deal with local planning authorities to avoid government scrutiny. The application to Uttlesford District Council (UDC) seeks permission to increase the use of its single runway over the next 10 years. However, the Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) group said the application was misleading in claiming that further expansion of the airport would have no significant environmental impacts. SSE said it was “profoundly concerned at the lengths Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is prepared to go to to avoid scrutiny by secretary of State by amending passenger numbers” as they are trying to keep the expansion to 8 million, rather than 10 million, passengers - avoiding the application being dealt with as a major infrastructure project. SSE said it understands that in return for local planning approval from the district council, MAG might make financial contributions to help fund local road schemes and other local projects in the delivery of the local plan. SSE said: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that a 44% increase in the number of flights and a 66%  increase in the number of passengers means a lot more noise, a lot more pollution and a lot more traffic on our already congested local roads.”

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No 3rd Runway Coalition evidence to Transport Committee on hugely underestimated noise impacts in NPS

The No 3rd Runway Coalition gave oral and written evidence to the Commons Transport Committee. The written submission, with all the details, is published on the Committee’s website. The Coalition has explained to the MPs that, contrary to the Government’s claim in the National Policy Statement (NPS), but taking the Government’s own figures, if the NPS was approved and there was a 3rd Heathrow runway, some 2.2 million people - and possibly up to 3 million people - would experience more plane noise.  Over half a million people would receive double the number of overflights. The NPS says no more than an extra 92,700  people will be significantly affected by noise (i.e. falling within the 54 dBLAeq contour) in 2030 if the Heathrow NWR scheme is developed. However, the NPS does not represent the CAA’s economic analysis, which uses the DfT’s webTAG appraisal model (which was made available on 31.1.2018 following a FoI request). This shows that more than 420,000 people, who are already impacted over the 54 dB LAeq ‘significance threshold’, will receive 3 dB of extra noise – equivalent to doubling of the number of flights experienced daily. In addition, there is no detail on flight paths or the strategies under which they will be decided, so there is no clarity or certainty on how much people will be affected.  Parliament should not vote for a development where such key details are unknown.  The Coalition says: "Against this background the NPS should be withdrawn pending comprehensive independent review  or alternatively rejected entirely."

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Grayling emissions omission admission: Heathrow air quality costs 2-4 times higher than previously thought

The Commons Transport Committee is currently assessing the Heathrow proposals for a 3rd runway. One of the issues in which they have taken a particular interest is whether the right numbers have been used for the cost to human health of air pollution, and if the costs of pollution beyond a 2km band around the airport have been properly considered. Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, has now written to the Committee to clarify the government position, and has confirmed that the DfT omitted (in error) to consider the emissions beyond 2km. By contrast the DfT's own impact appraisal had noted impacts well beyond this 2km boundary, in terms of additional vehicle traffic.  The total figure for the extra cost to health, from Grayling's admission, is now thought to be 2 to 4 times higher than the one published in the official appraisal document.  That means the "net present value" of the scheme, previously assessed as minus £-2.2 to plus £3.3 billion over 60 years (so already potentially negative) could drop to as low as minus £-2.6 to plus £2.9 billion under the new estimate.  The cost of the damage to human health from additional air pollution, associated with a new runway, is one of the two ways the DfT assesses the cost-benefit analysis of the proposal. 

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Study from Los Angeles shows huge extent of spread of particle air pollution downwind of airport

A study in California looking at air pollution from Los Angeles International Airport has shown far more widespread impacts that had previously been expected. The scientists measured the spatial pattern of particle number (PN) concentrations downwind from the airport with an instrumented vehicle that enabled a larger area to be covered than allowed by traditional stationary measurements. The study found at least a 2-fold increase in PN concentrations over un-impacted baseline PN concentrations during most hours of the day in an area of about 60 km2 that extended to 16 km (10 miles) downwind and a 4- to 5-fold increase to 8–10 km (5–6 miles) downwind. Locations of maximum PN concentrations were aligned to eastern, downwind jet trajectories during prevailing westerly winds. They found the levels of PM miles from the airport were higher than those from motorways. They say "The freeway length that would cause an impact equivalent to that measured in this study (i.e., PN concentration increases weighted by the area impacted) was estimated to be 280–790 km) "The total freeway length in Los Angeles is 1500 km. These results suggest that airport emissions are a major source of PN in Los Angeles that are of the same general magnitude as the entire urban freeway network. They also indicate that the air quality impact areas of major airports may have been seriously underestimated."

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FT reports talks between UK and US on Open Skies after Brexit face difficulties

British and American negotiators secretly met in January for the first formal talks on a new air services deal, for after Brexit. When the UK leaves the EU it will no longer be part of the EU-US open skies treaty. The FT reports that the talks were cut short after US negotiators offered a far worse "Open Skies" deal, which is only a standard bilateral agreement. These typically require airlines to be majority owned and controlled by parties from their country of origin, and would hit the transatlantic operating rights of BA and Virgin badly. The limits would be difficult for these airlines, as they have large foreign shareholdings - not merely British. The FT reports that a British official said it showed “the squeeze” London will face as it tries to reconstruct its international agreements after Brexit, even with close allies such as Washington. The busy UK-US routes are profitable, and numerous, and negotiators hope a solution will be found, but it could take time and may not be done fast enough for airlines planning flights a year ahead. The Americans are increasingly against trade liberalisation, so it is not a great time to be negotiating. The FT estimates the UK must renegotiate and replace about 65 international transport agreements after Brexit. Each taking time.

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Heathrow Villages residents shocked by details of number of local sites to be destroyed for 3rd runway plans

Two public meetings (one in Harmondsworth, the other in Yiewsley) held in the Heathrow villages raised concerns about the number and location of sites that could be destroyed for the 3rd runway development. Until now, many residents in surrounding areas have not realised just how damaging another runway would be to their lives. Despite awful weather, snow and intense cold, the meetings were packed and constituency MP, John McDonnell, and Hillingdon leader, Ray Puddifoot, managed to attend. Last month Ray announced that Hillingdon Council has budgeted £200,000 for the fund to launch a legal challenge against the runway. Justine Bayley of SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion) gave a presentation with local maps from Heathrow's consultation documents. These show the huge number of development sites that Heathrow have their eye on. She explained the individual parcels of land under threat, and their possible intended purpose. Many at the meetings had not know about these threats. There is real concern that most residents who will not be forced to leave their homes (as they are not due for demolition) have no idea that they will have to suffer severe negative impacts from a third runway, due to their proximity to it - and associated building. John McDonnell MP said it was vital to ensure that the information is spread as widely as possible.

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John McDonnell: Heathrow expansion will never happen – it cannot meet 4 vital tests

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell believes a 3rd runway at Heathrow will never get built because of the serious environmental issues the expansion would cause. McDonnell, MP for Hayes & Harlington, and a close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been a longstanding campaigner against the runway, due to the devastating impact it would have on his constituency. He does not believe Heathrow can get round the problem of air pollution from the runway and associated road traffic.  At a local meeting about Heathrow's expansion plans, John said: “As soon as any decision is made, Hillingdon and the other boroughs will be straight back in court again". ...“I just don’t think Heathrow is the runner that it might have been with the governments in the past." There is due to be a vote in Parliament in the summer on the runway; as things stand, the government would win backing for the runway. However, though many Labour MPs are keen supporters, there is a real possibility that Labour may be able to block it - especially if it won a general election. Labour set out 4 tests the runway would have to meet, and currently it cannot pass them. The tests require (1). noise issues to be addressed, (2). air quality to be protected, (3). the UK’s climate change obligations met and (4). growth across the country supported.  

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UK Chief Medical Officer says people’s health is being damaged by exposure to too much air, noise and light pollution

The Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has said people in the UK are being exposed to a daily cocktail of pollution - from noise pollution, air pollution and light pollution) that may be having a significant impact on their health, and on the NHS.Dame Sally said major industries should take more responsibility for the pollution they cause, and that there was enough evidence to suggest action had to be taken. Her report "Health Impacts of All Pollution - what do we know?" says: "Major infrastructure projects are making construction noise a semi-permanent feature of the urban sound environment" ... "Noise acts as a psychosocial stressor, and the psychological reaction to it is influenced strongly by a number of personal, situational and environmental factors." The section by Professor Stephen Stansfield says:  "In 2012, 83% of a survey sample in the UK reported they heard road traffic noise, 72% aircraft noise and 48% noise from building, construction and road works at home in the last 12 months.  48% reported that their home life was “spoiled to some extent” by environmental noise." ..."Short term effects of noise on sleep include impaired mood, increased daytime sleepiness, and impaired cognitive performance."

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Research shows in real operation A380 as much as 24% less fuel efficient per passenger than 2-engine planes

The ICCT (International Council on Clean Transportation) has assessed the fuel efficiency of different sizes and types of aircraft on flights between Asia, or Australia to the USA, across the Pacific. They have confirmed that the large, 4-engine, planes like the Boeing 747 and the A380 are not at all fuel efficient per passenger. That was well known for the 747, but the A380 has been hyped as being "green" and fuel efficient, as it can carry so many passengers. The problem is that most A380s are set out to have a lot of spare space, and plenty of luxury facilities. That means instead of perhaps over 700 passengers (up to 850 in theory) packed in, more have only about 350 passengers.  The ICCT research showed - in 2016 - that the 2 engine planes were as much as 24% more fuel efficient per passenger than the 4 engine planes. A380, which was touted as an engineering marvel when first flown, was hailed as an aircraft perfectly designed for carrying passengers between large, congested hub airports like Heathrow.  But it is increasingly clear that the A380 is a dud from both a business and environmental perspective. It is unlikely to pass the ICAO aircraft CO2 standard, unless its fuel efficiency is improved. Heathrow wants to make out it is a vital hub airport for planes like this. But now it emerges just how much CO2 they produce in reality.

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Heathrow retail is 23% of total revenue, up 7.7% in 2017 (cf. 2016) – car parking is 18% of retail income

Heathrow has reported a retail revenue increase of 7.7% to £659 million in the year ended 31 November 2017 compared to a year earlier. (Aeronautical revenue rose by just 1%. Total revenue in the period rose 2.7% to £2.9 billion. Retail is almost 23% of that. It was 22% in 2016). Retail revenue per passenger grew 4.5% to £8.45 in 2017 compared to £8.09 in 2016. Heathrow says growth in retail income was due to increased passenger traffic in the period to 78 million (+3.1%) combined with more spending airside (up 2% compared to 2016.) Retail concessions grew 10.5%, with growth in business by duty and tax free and airside speciality shops. This reflects the depreciation of Sterling since June 2016, making products cheaper for foreigners. The redevelopment of Terminal Four’s luxury retail offering completed in late 2016, also contributed to this growth. There is also a new Gucci store.Retail concessions made up 46% of retail income, at £304 million in 2017. The amount of income from car parking, which is included in retail, was £120 million in 2017 (up 5.3% and making up 18% of total retail income), £114 million in 2016 and £107 million in 2015. Heathrow says: "Car parking rose 5.3% driven by increased passenger numbers and a more 12 dynamic pricing strategy.  Higher car rental revenue from a change in arriving passenger mix and increased volumes in VIP services drove other services income up 9.4%." 

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Ryanair to axe Glasgow Airport base, cutting number of routes from 23 to 3

Ryanair is to close its base at Glasgow Airport, warning that 300 jobs could go as a result. The airline, which also operates out of Prestwick, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, will cut the number of routes out of Glasgow from 23 to 3. Ryanair's Chief commercial officer David O'Brien tried to blamed the change on the cost of APD and said Glasgow "simply could not bear the burden". APD is very unlikely to actually be the reason for the move; it is actually just £13 for any adult (kids go free) on any return European flight, and most of Glasgow flights are European, or domestic (domestic return flights pay £13 APD for each half).  Glasgow Airport said it was "bitterly disappointed" by Ryanair's decision. Ryanair made the announcement as it unveiled its schedule for winter 2018, confirming that only its services to Dublin, Wroclaw and Krakow would continue from Glasgow. Instead 11 new routes would be added to its Edinburgh schedule. Ryanair is ruthless in its treatment of airports, cutting them if they are not sufficiently profitable. For many - Prestwick included - it's the only passenger airline, and it's not afraid to use that leverage. Glasgow airport routes had lower prices and tighter margins - just not profitable enough - easier to make money at Edinburgh.

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Stansted applies to UDC to raise the current passenger number cap from 35 mppa to 43 mppa

Stansted airport has submitted a planning application to Uttlesford District Council to raise the current cap on the number of passengers it is permitted to handle from 35 million passengers per annum (mppa) to 43mppa, while committing to remain within current approved limits on aircraft noise and flight numbers. This is to make best use of the airport’s existing single runway over the next decade (with the usual claims of economic benefits, jobs etc etc).  Stansted say their expansion, from 35 mppa, would ease pressure on the London airport system when Heathrow and Gatwick are capacity constrained. However, local group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), says the airport handled about 25 mppa in 2017, and has permission to grow to 35 mppa, granted after a 5-month public inquiry in 2007. Despite this, in summer 2017 the airport's owners, MAG, said they "urgently" needed permission to expand to a massive 44.5 million passenger airport over the next 12 years. They claim there will be no more noise, but in practice the gap between planes on average would reduce from about 135 seconds now, to about 85 seconds. SSE says the changes in the current application are "almost entirely presentational."

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Heathrow push for expansion to beat European rivals, and Stansted wants 8 million more pax annually

Heathrow is trying to push the government into getting the vote on a 3rd runway, as soon as possible. There has to be a vote by MPs in favour of the runway, and this is expected some time in the summer. But increasingly the flaws, deficiencies, uncertainties and environmental damage of the plans are becoming more clear. Now Stansted is also asking for permission to handle 8 million more passengers a year, as it seeks to expand at a time when Heathrow and Gatwick are capacity-constrained. Stansted says it could reach its current cap of 35 million passengers annually by the early 2020s, and while it historically focused on short-haul flights to European holiday destinations, it wants to compete with Heathrow for US and Middle Eastern routes. Heathrow aims to make MPs nervous that, without a 3 runway Heathrow, the UK will fall behind its European rivals, (Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam) especially after Brexit - and they like to blur the distinction between what is good for the UK, and what is good for Heathrow. That distinction is important, especially when the finances of the runway project are in doubt, and the taxpayer could be left with a massive bill.  Heathrow has not come out very well at Transport Committee hearings recently.

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UK Government loses 3rd air pollution case brought by ClientEarth, as judge rules air pollution plans ‘unlawful’

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have won a 3rd case against the UK government over the country’s illegal and harmful levels of air pollution. In a ruling handed down at the High Court in London, Judge Mr Justice Garnham declared the government’s failure to require action from 45 local authorities with illegal levels of air pollution in their area is unlawful.  He ordered ministers to require local authorities to investigate and identify measures to tackle illegal levels of pollution in 33 towns and cities as soon as possible – as 12 of the 45 are projected to have legal levels by the end of 2018. He said: "The Environment Secretary must ensure that, in each of the 45 areas, steps are taken to achieve compliance as soon as possible, by the quickest route possible and by a means that makes that outcome likely."  This will be of great embarrassment to ministers, as it is the third time that they have lost an air pollution court battle. ClientEarth commented:  “The problem was supposed to be cleaned up over 8 years ago, and yet successive governments have failed to do enough ... government must now do all it can to make that happen quickly.”  The area around Heathrow has high NO2 pollution levels, often over the legal limit,  and it is unlikely that there could be a 3rd runway without a serious risk of air quality deteriorating.

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Airlines tell Transport Committee of their alarm over ‘blank cheque’ for Heathrow 3rd runway

At the final oral evidence session by the Commons Transport Committee, looking at the Airports NPS (ie. plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway) airline representatives and the CAA were questioned.  Key people from British Airways, Virgin and easyJet urged MPs to secure details from Heathrow on costs before voting to approve a runway.  Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG, told MPs that the true cost of Heathrow expansion is likely to be “grossly” higher than the £14.3bn the airport has cited, and there is no clarity or transparency on the plans. Airlines do not want higher landing charges, and it is unclear how Heathrow could pay for its expansion without higher charges. The airlines want guarantees on costs. MPs commented that it was hard for MPs to vote for (or against) the runway, when vital details on costs and financing are not available - and even the main airlines don't know if they back the scheme. Willie Walsh said parliament should not trust Heathrow; he had “zero confidence” that a third runway would be delivered on time and within budget - there were not even any clear plans for what is to be built yet, nor for the M25.  Walsh added: “When we’ve asked for disclosure ... what they are saying is ‘trust us. Give us your approval and support’. I don’t trust them and you shouldn’t, either." And higher charges risked making an expanded Heathrow too expensive and a “white elephant”.

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Heathrow study on “respite” shows there is no clear definition, and no clarity on what it means, or whether it helps

Heathrow, and the supporters of its plans for a 3rd runway (increasing the number of planes using the airport by up to 50%) have been enthusiastic about the concept of "respite" from plane noise. This is the idea that people will be less unhappy about the amount of plane noise, if they get some predictable times when they are spared the noise.  During those times, the noise is over other people (and vice versa). Heathrow has a Respite Working Group (RWG), set up in October 2014,  and it commissioned research to show if respite would be effective. The long awaited report has been published (though it was finished in May 2017 ...) and it merely confirms the vagueness of the concept, and therefore how little confidence anyone has in it reducing the upset, distress and annoyance caused by unwanted plane noise.  The study might have been expected to a). define what respite actually is (in terms of amount of noise, duration, time of day).  b). what amount of respite is actually valued by overflown communities. Instead we have no certainty of when someone is getting "respite." Does it mean no plane noise at all?  Or a bit less plane noise than usual, if the plane is a mile or two away rather than overhead? Does it mean half an hour without planes, or 8 hours without planes? And so on.  The RWG just wants more research ....

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Hillingdon Council Leader, Ray Puddifoot, and John McDonnell MP to attend meetings for local people about Heathrow runway plans

The current consultation on Heathrow expansion has prompted local campaign group Stop Heathrow Expansion to organise two public meetings so that those people closest to the proposed runway can discuss Heathrow’s latest runway proposals and the true nature of the impact to local people.  The first meeting will be on Weds 28th February,  (St Mary's Church Hall, Harmondsworth) where Hillingdon Council Leader Ray Puddifoot MBE will be the guest speaker.  The second meeting will be on Friday 2nd March at Yiewsley & West Drayton Community Centre, whereJohn McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, will be the guest speaker. The meetings have been arranged by the Harmondsworth and Sipson Resident's Association (HASRA) with SHE and is aimed at residents from the villages – including Longford, which would be totally destroyed if the 3rd runway development went ahead. West Drayton would feel some of the harshest impacts of a third runway, with much busier local roads, higher air pollution and serious disruption during construction. The meetings will be a chance to discuss these impacts.

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If we’re going to offset airplanes’ CO2 emissions, we should at least do it right

The global aviation industry hopes to be able to be able to continue growing, fast, and emitting ever more carbon - while claiming this is all "offset" by carbon credits from elsewhere. In an excellent article, Andrew Murphy from T&E explains some of the problems, and why what is currently on offer is not even near to being effective.  The UN scheme for aviation CO2 is called CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) is already very weak, as it only aims to offset CO2 above 2020 levels . That is far short of what the Paris agreement requires. And because participation in CORSIA is voluntary, the scheme will fall short of this 2020 target. Offsets are so cheap and the target is so weak that the resulting cost will also do nothing to incentivise greater efficiencies from within the aviation sector.  But offsetting itself has huge problems: 1. There is no proper way ICAO can enforce CORSIA and ensure airlines and states abide by the rules.  2. There is little guarantee with many sorts of offsets, the cheapest in particular, that they deliver any real CO2 reductions. And 3. There are serious questions about the use of alternative fuels, as if airlines are allowed to count the use them against any offsetting obligation. So the sustainability rules for alternative fuels need to be as tight as they are for offsets.  ICAO is consulting on its standards till the 5th March.

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Loganair scraps Aberdeen services at Durham Tees Valley Airport – it only started in October

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has ordered Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) officials to ‘put up or shut up’ following the loss of Scottish services, and reiterated an election pledge to overthrow operator Peel and buy the site.  It has been revealed that Loganair is shelving Aberdeen services next month. The flights, aimed predominantly at offshore oil workers, were only introduced to DTVA in October 2017, but Loganair says it is “unable to make the commercial case to lease the required aircraft” to continue the route.  DVTA has already lost its flights to Norwich.  The airport wants the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) to provide £500,000 of taxpayers' money to "support route & passenger growth" and attract businesses. The TVCA had previously agreed to provide Peel with financial help after it pledged the airport would remain open until at least 2021 while a 5-year masterplan was developed. But the Mayor will not agree to this spending, that he believes does not give taxpayers’ value for money.  He expects Peel to make a success of the airport, or sell it to someone who will. 

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People in Stanwell very concerned about impact on their area of car parks, offices etc from Heathrow expansion

People in Stanwell and Stanwell Moor, just to the south west of the airport, are very concerned about the expansion plans for a 3rd runway.  The plans have been described as a "travesty" for the area. Former Green Party parliamentary candidate in Spelthorne, Paul Jacobs, said the proposal for multi-storey car parking, offices, hotels or the relocated Immigration Removal Centre could break the "noise barrier" between Stanwell and the airport.  Speaking at the Heathrow consultation event in Stanwell on February 13th he said: "There's a large swathe of land to the north which is amenity land; people walk their dogs there. It would be a travesty if it were taken over by hotels, warehousing and servicing units. This land creates a barrier between us and the airport and it protects us from aircraft noise, particularly from aircraft noise on the ground."  People held a small protest outside the consultation event.  Opponents of the current Heathrow consultation have been highly critical of it, saying it is premature, and aims to give the impression that the runway is already agreed. It is far from that.

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Transport for London may join legal challenge against Heathrow runway, due to lack of clarity on surface transport

Transport for London (TfL) are the expert body on transport issues for London. They have long been very concerned about the surface access problems a 3rd Heathrow runway would cause. They now say the government could face a legal challenge, if there is no better clarity on the matter.  TfL would join the legal challenge of the 4 councils. TfL director of city planning, Alex Williams, said he had not seen evidence from the DfT or Heathrow to support the airport’s claim that the public transport mode share of its passengers of 50% by 2030 would be achieved, or how airport traffic could be kept at current levels. By contrast, the analysis by TfL on the matter is completely transparent. Alex said: “If no-one’s prepared to share information or substantiate their case about how you can deliver those mode share targets…then you’re just heading straight for a court hearing, because we’re at loggerheads and no-one’s prepared to share that information or have that technical discussion about the merits of the case.” About 40% of Heathrow passenger trips are now on public transport, and TfL estimates this number would need to rise to 69% by 2030, for Heathrow to meet its pledge of no extra traffic on roads near the airport. TfL says the Southern and Western Rail Access schemes rail schemes are “essential” if there is a 3rd runway.

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Extra costs to local authorities, and huge doubt about chance of relocating Lakeside incinerator, if 3rd runway went ahead

If the 3rd Heathrow runway was to go ahead, the Lakeside incinerator would have to be demolished. The Lakeside Energy from Waste (EfW), a joint venture between Grundon Waste Management and Viridor, processes non-recyclable waste from more than 12 local authorities including Kingston, Croydon, Merton, Sutton and Richmond. It produces 37MW of low carbon energy, which is enough to provide power for around 56,000 homes, a town roughly the size of Slough. Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith said the cost of moving the incinerator "would be many hundreds of millions of pounds. No one will want it in their backyard so the planning process will be complex and lengthy, and in the absence of a replacement, local authorities will be forking out around £50m a year in extra landfill taxes. This is yet another huge and unplanned cost associated with Heathrow expansion, a project that is already deeply uneconomic and anticompetitive.”  On February 5, before the Commons Transport Committee, Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye said it needed to be dealt with “sooner rather than later”but gave no further information. It has no plans, and no alternative site has been found. The No 3rd Runway Coalition said the estimated cost of relocation is £500million or more than £700million should the plant be forced to close.

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Tees Valley Mayor promises to veto plans to give £500,000 to Durham Tees Valley Airport owners

The Conservative Mayor the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), Ben Houchen, says he fully intends to fulfil his manifesto pledge of bringing Durham Tees Valley Airport back into public ownership.  He will veto any plan to grant £500,000 of taxpayers money to the owners of Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) “ for nothing in return”.  But Mr Houchen finds himself at odds with the TVCA’s 5 local authority leaders - all Labour - who have proposed amending the mayor’s budget plans in favour of granting DTVA owners, Peel, £500,000 to secure flights to the airport. The Labour council leaders said they blocked the mayor’s budget “when it became clear that the money requested had been earmarked for solicitors and consultants instead of support for the new routes”. The Mayor said: “I was elected with a clear mandate to buy our airport, and that’s what I plan to do. Labour council leaders sold off our airport for half a million quid, and since my election they’ve bent over backwards to pressurise me into giving taxpayer cash to Peel for nothing in return. It isn’t going to happen. I will veto any proposal that does not offer value for money." There are currently no flights from DVTA to London, but 3 per day to Amsterdam with KLM to link up with Schiphol's routes. 

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Briefing from the No 3rd Runway Coalition on the Heathrow consultations

eathrow has a current consultation, on its runway plans, which closes on 28th March. People are advised, if they send in a response, to make sure their submission is not taken as tacit agreement with the 3rd runway. The No 3rd Runway Coalition has put together a 2 page briefing, advising people about the many areas in which the consultation is inadequate, and suggesting a list of issues that remain unaddressed by Heathrow. Just some of the issues where the consultation fails are: - No clarity on plans for road and rail access and no commitment to pay for them. - No assessment of cost of moving the M25 nor a traffic impact assessment whilst construction takes place. - No assessment of the impact of construction of local air quality. - No assessment of impact on assets of national importance (parks and open spaces) from potentially being overflown for 12-hour periods with no respite from noise.  On questions people should ask, just some are:  - Why does the current Heathrow consultation on expansion include proposals for a shorter runway that have not been considered by the Airports Commission nor included in the Airports NPS?  - What assessment has been made of the financial cost of the proposals to move the M25 or put it into a tunnel? - What assessment has been made of the impact on local roads of a potential 50% increase in the level of freight handled by Heathrow?  And there are many more. See the full briefing here

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Campaigner who was approached by police to spy on anti-airport campaign wants proper inquiry into police infiltration

Environmental campaigner Tilly Gifford wants a public inquiry to investigate claims that she was "targeted" by undercover police officers who wanted her to spy on fellow activists.  In 2009, Tilly was working with Plane Stupid, which was protesting about the environmental damage done by airport expansion.  She told BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland that she was arrested during a protest at Aberdeen Airport and police wanted her to feed them intelligence on the group. They wanted information about the groups she worked with, the individuals, and what they were planning - in exchange for cash. She has tapes of the conversations. Now 9 years later she is at the forefront of attempts to win a judicial review to force either the UK government to extend its inquiry - or have the Scottish government set up its own.  She says all her actions were totally peaceful and non-violent, even if some laws were violated, and: "The question here is not about undercover policing, it is about undercover political policing."  "We know now that up to thousands of campaigns across the whole of the UK, in Scotland as well, have been targeted by undercover political policing and it is time for a full public inquiry."  It is likely that campaigns against Heathrow's expansion have been targeted too.

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German air passenger tax (now €7 – 40) under threat as negotiations continue to form new German government

Negotiators for a new grand coalition between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and Social Democrats may drop a proposal to progressively abolish Germany’s air transport tax (the Luftverkehrssteuer).  The tax is levied on air ticket prices and costs between €7 and 40 euros depending on the distance flown, and generates about €1 billion per year. The airlines, of course, want the tax abolished, and claim it harms "competitiveness." Aviation in Germany already pays no VAT (except on domestic flights) and no fuel duty.  The CDU (Merkel) and SPD negotiating teams were discussing abolishing the ticket tax, but so far the tax seems to have survived the talks. It would be crazy to allow aviation to pay even tax than it does now, bearing in mind its massive CO2 emissions. Aviation is on its way to eating up all of what remains of our chances to limit global warming to below 2°C as agreed in Paris. Aviation emissions are growing fast (up 8% in the EU in 2016), billions of people are waiting to catch their first flight (just 3% of India’s population have ever boarded a plane). Efficiency improvements in the sector are slow and shrinking. What’s more, by ignoring non-CO2 effects we’re underestimating aviation’s contribution to global warming by a factor of at least two. 

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Non-CO2 climate impacts of aviation mean it is 2 – 3 times more damaging than the industry claims

While IATA considers global aviation accounts for about 2% of man-made CO2 emissions, this is a serious underestimate of the sector's impact on climate change. According to Professor Dr Volker Grewe, a researcher on atmospheric physics at Delft in Holland, air transport’s contribution to climate change is roughly 5%. This is because in addition to emitting CO2, aircraft flying at altitude impact the atmosphere in various ways which have a large, albeit transient, additional warming effect. The main contributors of aviation-induced radiative forcing are: CO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and contrail/cirrus cloud formation. As are the contrails and resultant cloud formation which trap radiation escaping from the Earth, and the effect is very significant.  However, the effect is smaller in some parts of the globe than others, so small reductions in the non-CO2 impact could be achieved from a bit of re-routing. Optimising the speed and cruise altitude also help a bit. However, the EU emissions trading system for aviation ignores non-CO2 impacts. Brussels NGO T&E says the non-CO2 impacts should be included. "When aviation was included in the ETS in 2008 the directive in fact called on the European Commission to assess the non-CO2 impacts and propose action. Nothing transpired but this call was renewed in the revisions to the directive agreed last year requesting the Commission to assess and propose by 2020. The time to act is well overdue."

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Economic advisors, Prof Peter Mackie & Brian Pearce respond to Heathrow questions by Transport Select Cttee

As part of their inquiry into the plans for a Heathrow 3rd runway, in the Airports NPS, the Transport Select Committee wrote on 16th January - with a list of questions - to two economic experts, Professor Peter Mackie, (Institute for Transport Studies, Leeds University) and Brian Pearce (Chief Economist, IATA UK) who advised the Airports Commission (and who were critical of the way the Commission worked out alleged future economic benefits of a Heathrow runway). Mackie & Price have replied in some detail, and some of their comments can be seen below. Asked about the economic impact of the airport not being full in 2 -3 years, but (as John Holland-Kaye has said) over 10 - 15 years, they say: "...that ought to be reflected in the capacity model and profile of shadow costs over time."  Asked about carbon costs, they say: "... we cannot comment either on the probability of a fully effective international carbon trading scheme being in place in the timeframe, nor on the striking price of carbon and its trend over time."  And on Heathrow landing charges they say the DfT's main case assumes "the benefit of the reduced shadow cost will be fully passed through to travellers while increases in landing charges to fund the infrastructure will be absorbed by airlines. This particular combination seems a bit unlikely."

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EasyJet making plans to ensure it is still seen as a UK airline, after Brexit

EasyJet is ensuring it is safe after Brexit, by working to meet EU ownership rules. There is uncertainty about that happens to UK and European-owned airlines after Brexit. These include agreeing a new legal basis for British airlines to operate flights between EU countries, and also ownership rules requiring airlines operating in the EU to be majority controlled by EU countries.  Shareholders at easyJet’s AGM approved changes to its Articles of Association that will ensure it is EU-owned and controlled after Brexit.  The move is an “important element in ensuring that easyJet plc has the ability to maintain EU ownership and control at all times should we need to do so”.  EasyJet expects the CAA to grant it a UK air operator’s certificate in the coming weeks, to cover its UK-based aircraft. Government had confirmed that the airline — easyJet UK — will be treated as a British carrier when Britain had left the EU, and its parent company is EU-owned. EasyJet is one of the first to make moves to protect its flying rights after Brexit. Ryanair has applied for a British air operator’s certificate, so it can continue flying in the UK after Brexit.

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Eurostar launching direct London to Amsterdam service (2 per day) from April – to rival cheap flights

Eurostar is launching direct services between London St Pancras and Amsterdam, starting on 4th April 2018. There will be 2 trains per day (08.31 and 17.31), taking 3 hours and 41 minutes, direct. But for an initial temporary period, the Eurostar service will only run direct one-way, from London to Amsterday, and passengers travelling the other way - Holland to London  -will have to change at Brussels to clear passport controls. It is hoped the passport checks will be done in the Netherlands, saving the Brussels change, from the end of 2019. Five years ago, the German operator Deutsche Bahn announced and then cancelled a link between the UK and Amsterdam and The Hague, but there were set-backs. It is likely that demand will come largely from the UK at first, as we are used to Eurostar. However, the 2 trains per day is a lot less than 70 direct flights daily from London to Amsterdam. Fares will be comparable, starting at £35 for a one-way ticket. Trains will have power sockets and free wifi, making the trip attractive to business and leisure passengers. Over 4 million passengers travel between London and Amsterdam by air each year and therefore the market is the same size as it was when the London-Paris services launched in 1994.

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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".

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Manchester airport infuriated by Holland-Kaye claim that Manchester area “needs” Heathrow for business

Giving evidence to MPs at the Transport Select Committee, on the proposed  3rd runway, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye claimed those living in areas like Greater Manchester ‘needed Heathrow’ to sustain business links with the world. But Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport, has accused him of making ‘misleading claims’ about its importance to Manchester passengers - and the UK economy. Holland-Kaye also claimed that the services Manchester had won - like Cathay Pacific’s direct route to Hong Kong - were thanks to Heathrow trail-blazing the route first. He tried to make out that Heathrow has a ‘unique’ position in providing long haul routes to countries like China, despite Manchester’s existing Beijing route along with Guangzhou and Shanghai services in the pipeline. Heathrow clams these are vital for business, despite admitting most passengers are not on business - they just facilitate more flights to destinations where business might be done. Heathrow always says, as its mantra, that "only" Heathrow can provide "connectivity" to world destinations. Andrew Cowan said Heathrow continues to make misleading claims about its benefit to the UK economy, and Heathrow "is far from being unique in connecting UK businesses to global markets." Manchester is important for the Northern Powerhouse, jobs in the north and rebalancing UK economic growth.

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John Holland-Kaye appears before Commons Transport Committee for grilling on 3rd runway problems

Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, appeared before the Commons Transport Select Committee to give evidence for their inquiry into the proposed 3rd runway (the Airports NPS inquiry). He tried to defend claims that the runway, and 50% more flights, would result in a cut in road traffic connected with the airport. He tried to insist the airport's pledges on air quality levels would be met if a 3rd runway went ahead.  The comments came after Tory MP and committee member Huw Merriman said that a number of airport commitments had “somewhat unravelled”.  Heathrow are trying to persuade MPs etc that they have a "triple lock" on the problem of air pollution, and it had a “strong plan” to deal with traffic levels. He blames road vehicles, nothing to do with Heathrow, for local air pollution - and gave confusing evidence about whether Heathrow could, or could not, count the number of vehicle journeys associated with the airport.  (If they cannot count them, then cannot confirm they have not increased ...).  Asked if he could make a “firm commitment” that landing charges would not increase, Mr Holland-Kaye told MPs: “At this stage I couldn’t...." And he blathered when asked by Lilian Greenwood about the financial benefits of Heathrow, if it only reached a 50% increase in flights over 10 - 15 years, not just a few.

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Belfast City Airport late-night flight ‘failures’ criticised by Ombudsman – changes needed

The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman has found 3,073 late-night flights (between 21.31 and 23.59 GMT) occurred at Belfast City Airport between 2008 and early 2016, and there was maladministration by a Stormont department over these late-night flights.  The Ombudsman said there had been "a series of failures" by the former Department of the Environment (DoE) which for several years did not gather data on late-night flight movements "on a regular and systematic basis". The investigation was carried out after a complaint was made by Belfast City Airport Watch, which represents residents. The Ombudsman said the DoE should have had an "agreed understanding" of what the night time restrictions meant in practice, so people living close to the airport knew "what was intended by this obligation". It has recommended an operational definition should now be reached between the Department for Infrastructure, which has replaced the DoE, and the airport. A spokesperson for Belfast City Airport Watch said "We have spent years trying to convince the authorities they needed to take action on this issue. What is important now is that the department acts on the report's recommendations as quickly as possible."

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British Airways owner IAG wants break up of Heathrow monopoly, with separate companies managing terminals

British Airways’ owner IAG (Willie Walsh) has called on government to break up Heathrow’s “monopoly” of infrastructure, suggesting to the CAA that other companies could run the different terminals to create competition and cheaper flights for consumers.  IAG, which is Heathrow's largest customer, said the airport’s planned expansion could allow independent firms to create and run new terminals more effectively than Heathrow’s current owners, with lower costs to airlines - and better cost control. IAG is desperate for charges by Heathrow not to rise, to pay for its runway etc.  Walsh said: “Heathrow’s had it too good for too long and the government must confirm the CAA’s powers to introduce this type of competition. ... This would cut costs, diversify funding and ensure developments are completed on time, leading to a win-win for customers.”  BA runs a terminal at JFK airport in New York and there are European examples at Frankfurt and Munich airports. Heathrow has a real problem, becoming ever more clear, with funding for its expansion plans. Chris Grayling has said Heathrow landing charges (already some of the world's highest) “should be kept as close as possible to current levels.”  A vote is due to be held this summer in the Commons on the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS). 

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European Environment Agency: Reducing CO2 emissions from aviation ‘requires systemic change’ to cut demand

The EEA (European Environment Agency) says reducing CO2 emissions from Europe’s aviation and shipping industries requires systemic change, rather than simply improving efficiency. In a new report they say a massive shift in innovation, consumer behaviour and the take up of more ambitious green technologies to power aircraft and cargo ships are crucial. Both aviation and shipping have grown fast in recent years, and by 2050, the two are anticipated to contribute almost 40% of global CO2 emissions unless further mitigation is taken. Incremental small improvements in fuel efficiency will not be enough. For air travel, changes in lifestyle and culture are needed eg. more shift to rail and less demand for material imported material goods. Governments have a key role to play. The role of continuing subsidies to the aviation industry is important in maintaining high demand for air travel. There needs to be a change to the "attitude-action gap" whereby expressed "environmental  awareness by individuals does not translate into reductions in flight demand." ... " there will be a need for wider conversations around the types of lifestyle that will help enable sustainable mobility". They are not convinced aviation biofuels will be anything more than minimal.

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Wandsworth leader Ravi Govindia describes Heathrow runway proposals as ‘fatally flawed’

The leader of Wandsworth Council, Ravi Govindia, has criticised Heathrow's current consultation and hit out at its 'fatally flawed' scheme. Heathrow has a current consultation that is largely a PR exercise. No flight plans have been included in the first stage of the two-part consultation, which relates to physical changes on the ground. It is widely agreed (except by Heathrow and the DfT) that no sensible, informed decision cannot be made on a 3rd runway until the details of future flight paths are made clear - there is currently no information. The second consultation will deal with airspace. Four councils, Richmond, Wandsworth, Hillingdon, and Windsor and Maidenhead, have been campaigning against the expansion since it was proposed. Ravi Govindia said: “I find the fact that Heathrow seem to think this is a done deal absolutely appalling. We know that this scheme is fatally flawed and if it went ahead would have a serious impact on our local environment and the health of our residents. I urge everyone who opposes this expansion to make their voices heard and get involved in this consultation process."  But it is important that those opposing the runway state that clearly. Otherwise their responses can be used by Heathrow as evidence that people support some variants of the scheme, over others - implying acceptance and agreement.

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Advice on how to respond to Heathrow consultation – be absolutely sure to state you oppose any 3rd runway plan

Heathrow has a consultation out at present, which closes on 29th March. It is not a proper consultation about the runway, as the government has not yet even given the airport permission to build a 3rd runway. The consultation is intended to give the impression that the runway is definitely happening, and that people can have a bit of a say in how the development is done. Writing in the local paper, the Slough & South Bucks Express, long standing councillor Malcolm Beer gives advice on how to deal with the consultation. He says, it is absolutely essential that respondents state in the first box of the Consultation Response Form whether they support or oppose the expansion with their main reasons.  The preferences which you might give should be expressly stated as being relevant only in the unfortunate event of the 3rd runway proposal being approved, to avoid being added to the number of supporters.  This is very important as some believe they were included in the number of supporters, with the very biased, airport-funded "Back Heathrow" Campaign which completely wrongly and misleadingly stated that the airport would have to close if it could not expand.

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PCS union reiterates its view that Heathrow job claims cannot be trusted, and 3rd runway would be too damaging

Tahir Latif, of the PCS (Commercial and Public Services Union) had a letter in the Evening Standard, reiterating his union's view on Heathrow. Responding to a letter from Sam Gurney, of the TUC, backing the runway because of potential job gains, Tahir said: "Sam Gurney’s support of a 3rd runway at Heathrow glosses over many issues. There are serious doubts over the jobs claims in terms of the number, quality, duration and conditions, and similar concerns about where and to whom the economic benefits would accrue. Unions that oppose the runway are as keen to protect their members’ jobs as the TUC but recognise the massive environmental impact that will result from 250,000-plus additional flights per year. Instead of inflicting large-scale environmental damage, we need to demand job creation that retrieves the UK and London from its wretched environmental performance — not worsens it."  In the past the PCS has said they oppose the 3rd runway as there is little real evidence supporting the extravagant promises made about jobs. Although the PCS wants to "protect Heathrow jobs whether or not the airport expands, the environmental impact of a 3rd runway would be too serious. PCS advocates sustainable transport and the creation of new jobs in that growing sector.”

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