Heathrow still has a mountain to climb in persuading politicians about its 3rd runway
Date added: May 14, 2014
Writing in a blog, the day Heathrow submitted their runway plans to the Airports Commission, John Stewart (Chair of Hacan, the community group for people affected by the noise from Heathrow flight paths) says Heathrow still has a mountain to climb. Their revised 3rd runway planshows they understand the need to pull out all the stops to make it politically deliverable. They appreciate that unless there are enough “goodies” for voters living under the flight paths and around Heathrow, governments will continue to be reluctant to commit to a 3rd runway. It is the proposals to deal with noise and community destruction that most politicians will be interested in. The view in the “Heathrow villages” of the offers of slightly higher than necessary payments to those facing compulsory purchase of their homes is that it will take much more than that to quell opposition. Heathrow does now acknowledge that aircraft noise is a problem outside the discredited 57 noise contour but few are really persuaded there would be less noise with 260,000 more flights per year. Whether Heathrow can do enough to persuade politicians that a3rd runway is politically deliverable is still open to real doubt.
Heathrow still have a mountain to climb. Today’s launch of their revised plan for a third runway link shows they understand the need to pull out all the stops to make it politically deliverable. But it also shows the extent of the task they face.
Their last attempt to get a new runway ended in failure link Since then, they have changed their name and their tactics.
The new tactics were to the fore in today’s announcement.
There was a clear recognition that, unless there are enough “goodies” for voters living under the flight paths and around Heathrow, governments will continue to be reluctant to commit to a 3rd runway in case history repeats itself and they fail to deliver.
The climate impacts of a new runway are important – and the airport’s claims about CO2 need be assessed to see if they stand up – but it is the proposals to deal with noise and community destruction that most politicians will be interested in.
The offer to people in the 750 homes that Heathrow estimates will be demolished (down from 950 last time because the alignment of the new runway has been moved a little further south) is more generous than before: the value of the house plus 25%; payment of relocation costs and any stamp duty. It will be a tempting offer to many residents who have faced years of blight and uncertainty. But what of those left behind yards from the new runway? The immediate reaction we are getting is the Heathrow will need to do a lot more to quell local opposition to a third runway. The quality of life in whole communities in places like Sipson, Harlington, Longford and West Drayton, as well as the village in the eye of the storm – Harmondsworth – will be changed forever. With so much to lose, expect a big fight back.
The attempt to deal with noise for people living under the flight paths further afield is much more sophisticated than last time. Quieter planes, improved operational practices and more respite periods are promised. Runway alternation is guaranteed – long gone is any thought of all-day flying on any runway. And there is an acknowledgement that aircraft noise is a problem outside the discredited 57 noise contour. All this is welcome – and, indeed most of the proposals need not be dependent on a new runway – but could I convince our members in Hounslow, Ealing, Richmond, Windsor, Clapham, Brockley and Tower Hamlets that their noise climate will be less disturbing with a 3rdrunway and its extra 260,000 flights a year? They would tell me it would need a miracle. And, so far, Heathrow have not proved they can deliver that miracle.
And then there’s Heathrow M25 problem. Heathrow has said that 600 metres would go into a tunnel with a runway built over the top. Possible in engineering terms but messy, disruptive and costly. Any government would want to know how much it would be expected to cough up.
Heathrow has tried to show it can deal with the air pollution and traffic problems around the airport through a mix of a congestion charge on cars using the airport and improved public transport links. The proposals are proof that Heathrow is addressing these problems with a seriousness that was missing previously. Only time will tell whether they have done enough to convince the Airports Commission and any future government to take a punt on a third runway.
And all the time Gatwick – and also still Boris Island– are breathing down Heathrow’s neck. Heathrow’s strongest argument has always been its economic case, principally the fact that, with a new runway, it could have direct links to around 40 more destinations (although all these destinations can already be reached with just one change). However it still hasn’t been able to shake off the challenge of the other airports.
Liverpool, with a new manager and a new style of play, fell just short of winning the League title this season. Like Liverpool, Heathrow are adopting a much more creative approach. Whether they can do enough to persuade politicians that a third runway is politically deliverable is still open to real doubt. The top prize may remain out of reach.
Heathrow airport has released a glossy 48 page document, for the public, promoting its north-west runway option. The document is very high on spin, aspiration, laudable future hopes and intentions of all sorts – but very thin on any detail of how these might realistically happen. Wishful thinking, writ large. For instance, on carbon emission, there are hopes of huge cuts through aircraft not yet invented, fuels also not yet in existence, and carbon trading – not yet in existence. Heathrow makes 10 commitments, but gives no detail about time-scale or who would enforce these commitments, or what would be the penalty for failing to deliver them. There are hopes of better air quality near the airport, 100,000 new jobs, £100 billion (no time scale given – probably over years ….) to the UK economy, and a lot on listening to the public. There are some very carefully chosen sentences about the increase in aircraft noise and numbers affected. Heathrow says it will reduce aircraft noise etc ….”by encouraging the world’s quietest aircraft to use Heathrow, routing aircraft higher over London, delivering periods with no aircraft overhead and allocating £250m to provide noise insulation.” The airport will submit its plans to the Airports Commission on 14th May.
What Heathrow’s 3rd runway proposal says on noise (not very convincing)
May 13, 2014
Heathrow’s publicity document on its 3rd runway plans has quite a lot on noise, as Heathrow realises that the noise generated by its aircraft is a key political topic, and is perhaps the main issue that would stop the runway. Having a new runway would mean the number of annual flights could increase by up to 260,000 per year (compared to the current 470,000 or so). This would inevitably create a huge amount more noise. But by only considering the people within the loudest noise contours (noise averaged over many hours each day) – the 57dBALeq countour and the 55dbLden contour – and not those who experience aircraft noise, but not quite as loudy, Heathrow claims fewer people will experience noise. This is manifestly not the truth. There may be slightly fewer, by massaging the figures, in the noisiest contours. But there will be many more experiencing aircraft noise, if not at the most intense levels. Already people miles from the airport, outside any current contour, are troubled and disturbed by aircraft noise. The document provides various maps and charts to try and make their point. The concept of respite periods is key in Heathrow’s attempts to win over the over-flown public, and those yet to be over-flown.
What Heathrow’s 3rd runway proposal says on carbon emissions and air quality (very little)
May 13, 2014
Just taking the parts on carbon emissions and air quality from Heathrow’s promotional document for its 3rd runway, the claims can be seen to be ambitious, or perhaps unrealistic. Tellingly they forget to mention carbon emissions in the press release, other than to say there is one of their 10 “commitments” (no indication how these are to be enforced) that they will “Keep CO2 emissions within UK climate change targets”. This appears to be largely on hopes of more efficient operation, plus planes as yet unbuilt, carbon trading systems as yet not in existence, and new fuels (they don’t actually mention biofuels), which also do not exist. On local air quality standards, which the Heathrow area currently often breaches, Heathrow says it wants a local congestion charge to reduce vehicle journeys, a lot more public transport (paid for by taxpayer?) and another commitment (enforcement?) to “Increase the proportion of passengers using public transport to access Heathrow to more than 50%”. They also depend on road vehicle engines in future emitting less NO2 than at present.