General News

Below are links to stories of general interest in relation to aviation and airports.

 

New study by London TravelWatch shows more airline passengers using cars or cabs to get to Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton

A new report has been produced by London Travel Watch. "Way to go: Improving public transport access to London's airports". It gives comprehensive details about the various components of surface access transport, with information on what works well and what does not for each airport, and current state of any improvements.  The report indicates that airline passengers are more likely to travel by car or taxi to catch flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton than they were 7 years ago, in a trend they say is “concerning”. Despite major investment in rail and coach links to the three airports, the proportion of passengers using public transport actually fell slightly between 2012 and 2016. But at Stansted, with accessibility improved by new coach connections, the use of public transport had improved. The proportion using public transport fell from 41% to 39.1% at Heathrow, 44% to 43.6% at Gatwick and 33% to 31.4% at Luton. Failings of public transport and the growth of taxi apps like Uber cited as reasons. Numbers using public transport rose at Stansted from 51% to 54.7% and at London City from 50% to 50.9%. Heathrow continues to encourage car parking, from which it earns huge revenues.

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Bristol Airport wants to introduce a free drop-off zone – but only if allowed to expand to over 10million annual passengers

Bristol Airport wants to bring back a free drop-off zone and create a new waiting area for taxis. The airport has not had a free drop-off zone since it removed its 10-minute 'free' period in May 2011. People now pay £1 for up to 20 minutes. The airport has now announced plans to introduce a free drop-off zone - but only if it gets planning consent from North Somerset Council to expand. People living near the airport complain about cars clogging up local areas, with drivers parking in lay-bys and residential roads to avoid paying to park at the airport. The airport's expansion plans, with hopes of expanding from the current 8 million annual passengers up to 12 million, (its current cap is 10 million) would include a new authorised waiting area for taxis and a free drop-off area for other vehicles. It is not yet known how much time drivers will get for free. The plan is included in the airport’s proposals for the Section 106 Agreement, so is dependent on the plans being approved. The airport hopes to reduce opposition to its plans, by this small gesture towards helping with the local parking issue. And to please future air passengers. 

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Bristol airport hope to expand from 8 to 12 million annual passengers; 73% rise in CO2 emissions

Bristol Airport is hoping to expand. There is a consultation that started on 19th December, and ends on 26th January, on their plans. Details can be found here.  The headline application issue is a 50% growth in passengers - from the current 8.2 million per year, to 12 million by the mid 2020's. Carbon emissions from flights are estimated to rise by 73% from 746 ktCO2 in 2017 to 1,290 ktCO2 with 12 million passengers, an increase of 73%. The increase in passengers will be achieved by de-restricting night flights up to 4,000 per year, expanding car parks, changing road lay outs, and building a multi-storey car park (persuasively capped with some wind turbines). There are further plans to raise passenger numbers to 20 million by 2040. There is a lot of local opposition, focused on issues such as congested roads, 'parking blights' (cars parked in lanes etc), other local environmental impacts, noise pollution - through the night and day. There are some minimal hyper-localised 'Noise Insulation Grants' (up to £5000 for glazing). The airport plans to get more income in from cafes, shops and car parking, to boost profits. Bristol Airport is entirely owned by Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan - it is not British owned at all.

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Government tries to deny its climate responsibility to aim for 1.5C temperature rise, in pushing for 3rd Heathrow runway

The pre-trial hearing for the series of legal challenges against the Government’s decision to expand Heathrow takes place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday 15th January.  In legal correspondence between the defendant (Government) and one of the claimants, Plan B Earth, the Government argues that “[Plan B] is wrong to assert that “Government policy is to limit warming to the more stringent standard of 1.5˚C and “well below” 2˚C’.  This means that the Government is effectively denying that its own policy is to limit warming to the level that has been agreed internationally is required to avoid climate breakdown. The legal challenge brought by Plan B Earth and Friends of the Earth assert that the Government decision to proceed with Heathrow expansion was unlawful as it failed to appropriately consider climate change. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell described the case as “the iconic battleground against climate change”.  The Committee on Climate Change had previously expressed surprise that neither the commitments in the Climate Change Act 2008 nor the Paris Agreement (2015) were referenced in the Government's Airports National Policy Statement (aka. the plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway).This is a huge inconsistency.

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Pre-trial hearing on 15th January of the 5 legal challenges against ‘unlawful’ Government decision to approve 3rd runway

Campaigners are taking the government to court in a bid to overturn the “unlawful” decision to approve a 3rd Heathrow runway. The pre-trial hearing for Friends of the Earth’s case will take place on Tuesday at the High Court, when the activists will lay out their opposition based on several grounds. There are 5 separate legal challenges being brought by a range of organisations, on  grounds of climate, air quality and harm to the wellbeing of local residents.  It would be virtually impossible for Britain to meet its obligations to cut emissions under the Paris climate agreement if a new Heathrow runway is built [or for that matter, one at Gatwick either]. The Government's advisory body on climate change, the Committee on Climate Change, has warned the expansion also threatens the government’s own legally binding pledge to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Transport secretary Chris Grayling said, without any justification for his belief, that he was "confident" that technical innovations would cut aviation CO2 emissions enough, so expansion could happen without breaking the targets. Hopes that either biofuels or electric planes would enable aviation to become a low carbon means of transport are unrealistic. 

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Danish newspaper to tackle journalists’ air travel, and promote only lower-carbon holidays in its travel section

Major Danish newspaper Politken is reported to be planning to refocus its travel section to destinations easily reachable without flying. The holidays it will write about will be domestic, Nordic, and northern European destinations which are easily reachable by public transport.  Politiken is also to try to stop its journalists taking domestic flights, for news stories within Denmark.  More significant still, it is hoping to put restrictions on the staff's international air travel, so this would be permitted only when absolutely necessary and if such journeys are offset by contributions to "credible climate initiatives".  The paper has also recently launched its own online climate calculator enabling users to work out the average carbon impact of their air and road travel.  In the UK, even newspapers like the Guardian, which do excellent and extensive coverage of climate change topics, also take numerous adverts for flights and holidays by air. They also have a travel section that encourages people to take more holidays, many to destinations only reachable by plane. 

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Richmond Council condemns latest Heathrow consultation – for unacceptable increases in noise and air pollution

Heathrow has a consultation, closing on 4th March, on its future airspace, both for the existing 2 runways and with a possible 3rd runway. Heathrow claim they will take the responses and view of residents etc into account. However, Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, has condemned the latest consultation – claiming 25,000 extra flights would be disastrous for the borough. He, said: “We have always said that Heathrow needs to be better and not bigger. But clearly size is everything to the airport. Heathrow are proposing the biggest changes to its flight path since it opened. People living in Richmond and other areas of West London will find their respite from overhead noise cut under these proposals. Not to mention the additional 25,000 more flights a year – which will no doubt be crammed into the early morning schedules, delivering more misery for our residents. Let’s not forget, these extra flights will still require Planning consent." He said it was a bad case of the government "putting the cart before the horse" in having got a parliamentary vote in favour of the runway (many votes by MPs who very little indeed about it) before details of flight paths and other impacts were known.

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Report by Biofuelwatch shows Neste, planning to make bio-jet-fuel, is using huge amounts of palm oil

A report by Biofuelwatch reveals that the Finnish biofuel and oil company Neste, which expects to become the world’s biggest producer of aviation biofuels in 2019, relies heavily on palm oil, a leading cause of rainforest destruction. It cannot even guarantee that its palm oil is not sourced from illegal plantations inside a national park. Neste is investing €1.4 billion in new biofuel capacity in its Singapore refinery, which the company plans to turn into a hub for aviation biofuel production. It is already one of the world’s biggest producers of biofuels for road transport. In 2017, Neste used almost 700,000 tonnes of crude palm oil - as fuel - as well as an undisclosed amount of crude palm oil, which the company claims to be ‘wastes and residues’, contrary to legislation in several European countries.  The oil palm plantations and mills supplying Neste are mainly in Indonesian and Malaysian provinces with particularly high deforestation rates linked to palm oil. Some is proven to come from an illegal plantation in a national park in Sumatra. Neste’s sustainability standards take no account of indirect land use change (ILUC) which mean the climate impact of palm oil is x3 as bad as the fossil fuels it replaces. Neste continues to try to hide the fact it is using palm oil, and exacerbating deforestation and biodiversity loss.

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Tahir Latif (PCS Union): Trade Unions must demand jobs that protect our planet, not destroy it

The Trade Unions are divided on whether to support a 3rd Heathrow runway. Unfortunately many have been led to believe, by the airport and its backers, that there will be wonderful jobs in future with expansion. And without it the jobs are in danger. The  reality of airport jobs is somewhat different.  In a new blog, Tahir Latif, President of the PCS Aviation Group, and NEC member, discusses the sorts of jobs that Trade Unions should be supporting, if we are to have a habitable planet in future. He comments: "Too often, trade unions are seen as part of the problem, desperate for jobs and therefore willing to support employers who are intent on blindly taking us towards disaster in the name of further profits. ... But that does raise two important questions: (1) does our survival as a species trump the jobs argument and (2) does the jobs argument stand up to scrutiny anyway. ... The impact of climate change can’t be underestimated. ...The IPCC report puts us on notice: we HAVE to change. And if industries like aviation (and oil, coal, gas etc.) cannot continue their unchecked growth, then unions are NOT looking after their members long term interests by clinging to them. When change comes or is forced upon us, workers in those industries will be stranded in obsolete jobs without the skills or any plan for an alternative."

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Decreased take-off performance of aircraft due to climate change

With ever rising global temperatures, (not assisted by the amount of carbon emitted by aircraft, and the non-CO2 impacts of their emissions at hight altitude), planes will probably have more difficulty taking off and climbing - due to the thinner air.  Already planes need a greater length of runway to get airborne at airports at higher altitudes, and in hot climates. Some research estimates how this may become a problem in future. Maybe runways will need to be longer, and planes will not climb as fast (making more noise for those on the ground below, perhaps)

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