Geoff Hoon’s ministerial statement on Heathrow on 15th January

16.1.2009   (Department for Transport website)

This is the text of Geoff Hoon’s statement in Parliament on 15th Jan 2009:



In the 2003 Air Transport White Paper, the Government set out its support – in
principle – for a third runway at Heathrow airport: support that was conditional
on any development meeting strict local environmental conditions.

Economic benefits

Heathrow airport supports over 100,000 British jobs.   A third runway is forecast
to create up to 8,000 new on-site jobs by 2030 and will provide further employment
benefits to the surrounding area. Its construction alone would provide up to 60,000

But, more significantly for businesses across the United Kingdom, Heathrow is
the only hub airport – it is our most important international gateway.

It serves destinations that none of our other airports serve and it provides
more frequent services to key international destinations such as Mumbai and Beijing.  
It connects us to the growth markets of the future – essential for every great
trading nation.   In doing so, it benefits every region of the United Kingdom.

But Heathrow is now operating at around 99% of its maximum capacity – leading
to delays and constraints on future economic growth.   Heathrow is already losing
ground to international hub airports in other competitor countries.   This makes
the UK a progressively less attractive place for mobile international businesses.
Delays damage the efficiency of the airport but they also cause unnecessary carbon
dioxide emissions as up to four stacks of aircraft circle London waiting to land.

Mr Speaker, the Government remains convinced, therefore, that additional capacity
at Heathrow is critical to this country’s long term economic prosperity.

We consulted in November 2007 on three options for providing additional capacity,
and on whether the environmental conditions could be met. We received nearly 70,000
replies.   I have now considered the responses and reached my conclusions.

Mixed Mode

Two of the options would use the existing runways for both arrivals and take-offs,
otherwise known as Mixed Mode. This would improve resilience, reduce delays and
has the potential to provide early additional capacity.

It is clear from the consultation, however, that residents under the flight paths
greatly value the present alternation of runway operations at around 3pm, which
gives them respite from overhead aircraft noise for at least 8 hours each day.

Having carefully considered the evidence, including from the consultation, I
have decided not to proceed with mixed mode.    

I have also decided to extend the benefits of runway alternation to those affected
by aircraft taking off and landing when the wind is blowing from the east.   I
will therefore end the Cranford agreement, which generally prohibits easterly
take-offs on the northern runway.   This will benefit the residents of Windsor
and others to the west of the airport, and Hatton and North Feltham to the east.

I support the continuation of the other operating procedures as set out in the

Third Runway

This leaves the question of a third runway. Let me first explain my conclusions,
in the light of the conditions, on noise, air quality and surface access set out
in the 2003 White Paper.


In 1974, some 2 million people around Heathrow were affected by average levels
of noise at or above 57 decibels. By 2002, that number had reduced to 258,000
people as the result of significant improvements in aircraft technology.

In the White Paper, the Government committed not to enlarge the area within which
average noise exceeded 57 decibels. In the light of all the evidence, including
from the consultation, I have decided that this condition can be met, even with
a third runway.

Indeed, because newer aircraft are quieter, the numbers of people within the
57 decibel contour by 2020 is expected to fall by a further 15,000 from 2002,
even with more aircraft movements in 2020. And the number of people affected by
higher levels of noise is expected to fall even more significantly: for example,
a 68% reduction – more than 20,000 fewer people – affected by noise averaging
66 decibels and above.

Air Quality

On air quality, the Government is committed to meeting our EU obligations. The
relevant pollutant at Heathrow is Nitrogen Dioxide, for which the EU has set a
2010 target of an annual average of no more than 40 microgrammes per cubic metre.
As with most other major European economies, the  United Kingdom  does not yet fully
comply with this limit: largely as a result of emissions from motor vehicles.  

The area around Heathrow is by no means the worst example in the country, and
the limit is currently exceeded in a number of places in the United Kingdom, in
most cases by more than near Heathrow.  

Meeting EU air quality targets is an issue that must to be addressed across the
United Kingdom, not simply around Heathrow airport. The European Commission has
agreed that Member States could be allowed an extension to 2015, if member states
can show that they have plans in place to meet the targets.   This presents a significant
challenge but I am committed to supporting the actions, mainly in relation to
motor vehicle emissions, necessary to achieve it.

Immediately around Heathrow action will be necessary to ensure that we meet the
air quality limits by 2015. Our forecasts predict that, in any event, we will
be meeting the limits by 2020 even with airport expansion.

Air quality and noise compliance

Normally these decisions would be taken on the basis of forward projections and
modelling.   To reinforce our commitments on noise and air quality, I have decided
however that additional flights could only be allowed when the independent Civil
Aviation Authority is satisfied:

  • First that the noise and air quality conditions have already been met.   The air quality limit is already statutory.   We will also give the
    noise limits legal force.
  • Second that any additional capacity will not compromise the legal air quality
    and noise limits.   We will give the CAA a new statutory environmental duty to
    ensure that it acts in the interests of the environment in addition to its existing
    obligations and duties, and that it follows guidance from myself, my Rt Hon Friend
    the Environment Secretary and the Energy and Climate Change Secretary.

Moreover, in the event that air quality or noise limits were breached, the independent
regulators will have a legal duty and the necessary powers to take action – or
require others to take the action – needed to come back into compliance.   In the
case of noise this would be for the CAA.   In the case of air quality, where emissions
from roads and rail around Heathrow also need to be considered the Environment
Agency will act as the enforcement body with appropriate guidance from Ministers.

Public transport

Mr Speaker, the third local condition for expansion for Heathrow was the provision
of adequate public transport. Major improvements in rail access have already been
announced, including increases in capacity on the Piccadilly line and the introduction
of Crossrail services from 2017. This will provide a maximum capacity of 6,000
passengers per hour which will be able to accommodate the estimated demand for
rail access to a three-runway airport.

The Government also welcomes the lead being taken by BAA to promote the Airtrack
project providing direct rail access to the airport at Terminal 5 from the south
and west. The Department will work with BAA and Network Rail to consider this
and other schemes to improve connections from Heathrow to places like Waterloo
and Guildford, Reading and other stations on the Great Western Mainline.

Mr Speaker, having considered all the evidence, I have decided that all three
of the Government’s conditions for supporting a third runway at Heathrow can be

I can therefore confirm that an additional terminal and the slightly longer runway
proposed in the consultation are the best way to maximise the efficiency of a
larger airport.

However, I want there to be a limit on the initial use of the third runway so
that the increase in aircraft movements does not exceed 125,000 a year, rather
than – at this stage – allowing the full additional 222,000 aircraft movements
on which we consulted.

I have also decided that any additional capacity available on the third runway
will, after consultation, be subject to a new "green slot" principle, to incentivise
the use at Heathrow of the most modern aircraft, with further benefits for air
quality and noise – and indeed carbon dioxide emissions.

Transport policy and carbon dioxide reductions

Mr Speaker, it is of course crucial for transport – including aviation – to play
its full part in meeting our goal to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

As a result of UK leadership on aviation emissions in particular, carbon dioxide
emissions from international aviation were included in the EU 20% greenhouse gas
reduction target for 2020, agreed by the Prime Minister with other European leaders
in December last year.

Under the EU emissions trading scheme this reduction will occur whether or not
Heathrow is expanded.   With a fixed cap for aviation across Europe, doing nothing
at Heathrow would allow extra capacity at other hub airports like Frankfurt, Schipol
and Charles de Gaulle.   "Doing nothing" will damage our economy and have no impact
what so ever on climate change.

The framework for reducing emissions across the EU covers international aviation
and all sectors of each member state’s domestic economy. This includes emissions
from domestic transport within the UK.

The Government has already made clear it will respond to the advice of the Committee
on Climate Change on carbon budgets, taking into account aviation, and we will
set our carbon budgets later this year.

These budgets will reflect the measures in the EU 2020 package, such as tough
new limits on emissions from new cars.   To reinforce the delivery of carbon dioxide
savings, and to lay the ground for greater savings beyond 2020, I am announcing
today funding of £250 million to promote the take-up, and commercialisation within
the UK, of ultra low emission road vehicles. With road transport emissions so
much greater than aviation’s, even a relatively modest take-up of electric vehicles
beyond 2020 could – on its own – match all the additional carbon dioxide generated
by the expansion of Heathrow.  

But, Mr Speaker, action in relation to domestic transport is not sufficient.  
We need to take the same tough approach to aviation emissions as we are doing
in relation to other transport emissions.  

So having taken the lead in promoting the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions
Trading Scheme, the Government will be pressing hard for international aviation
to be part of the global deal on climate change at Copenhagen later this year.  
I have asked the Committee on Climate Change to report back later this year on
the best way in which such a deal for aviation could be structured.  

I can announce my intention to promote an international agreement to secure the
same kind of progressively stricter limits on carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft
as are already in place for cars within the EU. My Hon Friend, the Parliamentary
Under Secretary of State, has been in Tokyo this week setting that out to a meeting
of G7 Transport Ministers.

But I want to go further.   Work published by the aviation industry already illustrates
how it could reduce UK emissions below 2005 levels by 2050.   This could include
the use of new technologies like blended wings and through the sustainable introduction
of renewable fuels.  

I can announce that we will establish a new target to get aviation emissions
in 2050 below 2005 levels and I have asked the Committee on Climate Change to
advise on the best basis for this development.  

Mr Speaker, the Government will monitor carefully the emissions from aviation,
with the help of the Committee on Climate Change.  

Any future capacity increases at Heathrow, beyond the decision I have announced
today, will only be approved by the Government after a review by the Committee
on Climate Change in 2020 of whether we are on track to achieve the 2050 target
that I have announced.

So, Mr Speaker, we are effectively taking three steps to limit any increase in
carbon dioxide emissions:

  • First, we are limiting the initial extra capacity to around half of the original
  • Second, we intend that new slots at Heathrow will have to be green slots. Only
    the cleanest planes would be allowed to use the new slots that will be made available;
  • Third, we will establish a new target to limit aviation emissions in the UK to
    below 2005 levels by 2050.

Taken together this gives us the toughest climate change regime for aviation
of any country in the world, which gives Ministers the confidence that we will
achieve our 80% emissions reduction target. And in addition we will make it one
of our highest priorities to secure international agreement on measures to reduce
aviation emissions.

The airport clearly needs new capacity as soon as possible so as to reduce delays
and improve resilience. Since I am not willing to allow the two existing runways
to operate on mixed mode, I anticipate that the airport operator will bring forward
a planning application for a new runway to be operational early in the period
between 2015 and 2020 envisaged in the White Paper.

The parallel review of the economic regulation of airports is focusing on how
best to improve the passenger experience and encourage investment. In the regulatory
framework which results from this work, I expect the first call on new capacity
to ensure that journeys are more reliable for existing passengers.   We will therefore
have a better airport.




Summary of Decisions

2.     In summary, the Secretary of State –

  • confirms policy support for adding a third runway at Heathrow with additional
    passenger terminal facilities and a slightly longer runway (2,200m operational
    length), but subject to an aggregate limit of 605,000 annual movements, which
    would be subject to review in 2020;
  • does not support the introduction of mixed mode on the existing runways as an
    interim measure before a third runway;
  • confirms his intention to end the ‘Cranford agreement’ (which currently limits
    easterly departures off the northern runway);
  • confirms his view that the following operating practices should be retained and

    • ‘westerly preference’ (the preferred direction of operation of the runways except
      in strong contrary winds);
    • ‘ night-time rotation’ (the practice of alternating the use of the existing runways
      at night between westerly and easterly preference, subject to weather conditions);
    • ‘early morning alternation’ (the practice of alternating arriving aircraft between
      the two runways in the 0600 to 0700 period, subject to operational requirements).


Adding capacity at Heathrow airport: Decisions following consultation

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Adding capacity at Heathrow airport: Decisions following consultation (HTML Version)

Document outlining Secretary of State’s decisions following consultation on adding
capacity at Heathrow airport.
      Published:         15 January 2009

Adding capacity at Heathrow airport: Decisions following consultation (771 kb)

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Document outlining Secretary of State’s decisions following consultation on adding
capacity at Heathrow airport.      
Published:       15 January 2009