Heathrow case undermined

8.2.2009   (Sunday Times)


AN independent parliamentary audit has called into question the government’s
economic and environmental case for expanding Heathrow airport.

Last month transport secretary Geoff Hoon approved a third runway and sixth terminal
at Heathrow, arguing that emissions targets could be met and that the expansion
was economically indispensable.

However, the briefing produced by House of Commons library researchers, who are
widely respected for their objectivity, casts doubt on some of the government’s
key assumptions. These range from the availability of new "green jumbos" to optimistic
forecasts of the growth of air travel.

Hoon said only low-emitting planes would be allowed to use the runway, but the
report – published just last week – cautions that "aircraft designs do not at
the moment incorporate many of the features highlighted by the secretary of state",
and that "for the foreseeable future, kerosene will remain the only viable option
[for fuelling aircraft]."

For this reason, the report casts doubt over the Department for Transport (DfT)
assertion that pollution at Heathrow (which is already in breach of emissions
targets) can be cut to meet EU targets as early as 2015, when the airport hopes
to open the new runway.

It says "unless there are some very rapid improvements in technology, it will
be some time before more environmentally friendly commercial aircraft are in widespread

Reports by the House of Commons library are relied upon by MPs for providing
impartial analysis of topical subjects.

Theresa Villiers, shadow transport secretary, said: "Even the impeccably bipartisan
and impartial work of the Commons library has exposed the weakness of Labour’s

"Hoon’s ‘reforecast’ figures on environmental safeguards rely on planes that
aren’t even in the pipeline."

The report is also sceptical about the DfT’s estimate that the runway will bring
up to £8.2 billion worth of benefits to the economy, saying it "does not account
for various factors" that could slash its value to £1.5 billion or less.

It also argues the government’s own green policies could endanger the DfT’s optimistic
forecasts of demand.   It says new aircraft emissions taxes and a higher oil price
in 2030 "would . . . reduce the benefits of expansion".

The report says the DfT’s cost-benefit analysis "does not consider" alternative
schemes, and points out: "The investment required for [Heathrow] expansion might
be spent on a new airport in the Thames estuary, or high-speed rail."

The DfT said its analysis had been "thorough and rigorous".




House of Commons Library



71 pages, pdf.

Expansion of Heathrow Airport

available at:   http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2009/rp09-011.pdf



Those opposed to Heathrow expansion now include:

Environment Agency

Sustainable Development Commission

2M Group of local authorities

Mayor of London

Greater London Assembly

Lib Dems


….the list goes on

and now the HoC Library …..