Heathrow produces some unconvincing attempts to persuade that its air pollution from freight will be reduced

Heathrow knows it has real problems worsening local air quality, with vehicles associated with the airport adding a great deal of pollution. The Airports Commission report was particularly weak on NO2 air pollution, and ignored the emissions from Heathrow’s air cargo. Heathrow has now put out a short document attempting to convince that it is making serious improvements to local air quality. On air freight, it says it will be getting shippers to share lorry journeys. Heathrow says in 2016 it will: “• Keep pushing for greater consolidation of vehicle loads at Heathrow and aim to provide an online venue for freight operators to buy and sell empty space on their trucks by July.  • Establish a sustainable freight partnership with operators by September with the objective of reducing emissions [No clue what that actually means ?]  • Develop and publish our plans for building a call-forward cargo facility to reduce congestion, idling, and emissions of vehicles coming to Heathrow by the end of the year.”  So that does not look like much. But Heathrow is trying to persuade the government soon. The reality is that Heathrow hopes to double its volume of air freight, with a new runway – and that freight is carried in diesel vehicles, and lorries are not producing less air pollution.


Heathrow’s new tool to reduce freight emissions

16.3.2016 (Heathrow airport press release)

Heathrow has today revealed new plans for a WebPortal aimed at consolidating freight loads, and decreasing the amount of trucks and emissions on roads around the airport. Encouraging freight company partners to operate sustainably is one of ten priorities Heathrow has outlined for this year in its new Blueprint to Reduce Emissions, also launched today.

[Heathrow’s little report is “Heathrow’s blueprint for reducing emissions Our top ten actions to reduce Heathrow’s emissions in 2016 ” ]

Heathrow’s plans for a freight WebPortal have been announced during the IATA World Cargo Symposium, where Heathrow has been named a finalist in the Air Cargo Excellence Awards in recognition of its customer performance, facilities, and value of cargo offering.

Incorporating sustainability into freight is a priority for Heathrow given the impact these operations have on the airport’s local environment. Heathrow is the largest freight port by value in the UK, handling over 1.5 million tonnes of cargo a year. This activity also generates a substantive amount of vehicle movements a day in the Heathrow area for servicing, deliveries and cargo operations, along with their related emissions.

Heathrow’s proposed WebPortal would be the UK’s first geographically specific system of its kind. Subscribed members would exchange and share information about any spare capacity on their vehicles. Once a match has been found, operators could then negotiate a price for this space amongst themselves.

This Portal, along with measures like providing an off-airport distribution centre, increased monitoring of the use of local roads by freight vehicles, and tighter rules on vehicle licensing will ensure the number of freight vehicles will be maintained at similar levels to today’s in the future and that the lowest emission freight vehicles are encouraged to operate around Heathrow.

Nick Platts, Head of Cargo at Heathrow said:

“Operating a cleaner, leaner and more efficient freight operation is an essential part of delivering on our ambition to be the best airport in Europe for cargo gateway in the world. This WebPortal can deliver for all. Our cargo partners can reduce their costs, our local communities will experience less congestion and improved air quality, and Heathrow will build on its strength as an airport of choice for cargo.”

By collaborating with stakeholders across London, emissions of NOx from the airport have reduced by 16% over 5 years. Heathrow’s Blueprint for Emissions Reduction outlines the top ten actions the airport will be focussing on this year to continue building on this record and reduce emissions further. Besides Heathrow’s work with freight operators, other actions listed in the Blueprint include a new £16.2 million investment in equipment at gates to ensure aircraft don’t run their engines, as well as instituting “eco-driving” training for airside drivers to reduce emissions.


Heathrow’s cargo strategy outlines the airport’s vision for cargo. Today, it will maintain being the UK & Ireland’s cargo gateway, 2020 be the preferred transatlantic gateway for Europe, 2025 one of the best in Europe, and by 2030 the best in Europe for providing a timely and predictable cargo service.


Heathrow cargo

Airports Commission did not properly look at air pollution related to air freight

Transport for London said Heathrow expansion “will lead to an increase in freight movements to and from the airport, and this was not properly included in the surface access assessment undertaken by the Airports Commission.”

TfL October 2015


Heathrow’s (rather thin and unconvincing) leaflet entitled Heathrow’s blueprint for reducing emissions Our top ten actions to reduce Heathrow’s emissions in 2016” says, on the subject of reducing NO2 from lorries etc carrying cargo:

Drive sustainable freight operations

“Heathrow is a major freight hub and is the largest freight port by value in the UK. As a result, there is an established network of logistics companies around the airport. Each year, Heathrow handles more than 1.5m tonnes of cargo. This cargo also adds to the volume of
traffic on the road network and to local emissions.

Key partners: freight companies

In 2016, we will:
• Keep pushing for greater consolidation of vehicle loads at Heathrow and aim to provide an online venue for freight operators to buy and sell empty space on their trucks by July
• Establish a sustainable freight partnership with operators by September with the objective
of reducing emissions
• Develop and publish our plans for building a call-forward cargo facility to reduce congestion,
idling, and emissions of vehicles coming to Heathrow by the end of the year.”




Heathrow’s bid for a 3rd runway includes doubling air freight – with associated increase in lorries

In Heathrow’s proposal for a 3rd runway, it plans to double its cargo capacity. It hopes this will help its bid, due to the financial value of air freight. In the past, some of the air freight industry have said Heathrow ignored their needs. Heathrow is now saying that its key logistics role as a single primary air freight hub for the UK is important for the economy, for export competitiveness, and essential for British importers and exporters to enable them to access key global markets.  Some 65% of the UK’s £400bn air freight exports already travel via Heathrow, almost all as belly hold in passenger planes. The airport plans to have its freight area improved with a new cargo railhead, and better road links.  Speaking at the Runways UK conference on 2nd June, Simon Earle said local residents consulted by Heathrow were unhappy about the number of HGV lorries. Air pollution is already often in breach of air quality levels. An article by T&E bemoans the resistance to changes and to cuts in polluting emissions by the lorry manufacturers. That does not bode well for Heathrow air quality, with much higher numbers of HGV movements in future.




And at about the same time as Heathrow’s air pollution proposals:

ClientEarth takes government back to court over the inadequate air quality improvement plan it produced in December

Environmental lawyers, ClientEarth, have launched a new legal challenge against the UK government due to its repeated failure to tackle illegal air pollution. In this latest round of legal action, ClientEarth has lodged papers at the High Court in London seeking judicial review and will serve papers on government lawyers shortly. As well as the UK Environment Secretary who is named as the defendant, Scottish and Welsh ministers, the Mayor of London and the DfT will also be served with papers as interested parties in the case. ClientEarth believes the government is in breach of a Supreme Court order to clean up air quality. The Supreme Court ordered DEFRA to produce new air quality plans to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the “shortest possible time”. But the the plans the government came up with, released on 17 December 2015, wouldn’t bring the UK within legal air pollution limits until 2025. The original, legally binding deadline passed in 2010. The papers lodged with the High Court ask judges to strike down those plans, order new ones and intervene to make sure the government acts. ClientEarth said: “As the government can’t be trusted to deal with toxic air pollution, we are asking the court to supervise it and make sure it is taking action.” ClientEarth are launching a fundraising campaign to help fund this work. #NO2DIRTYAIR

Click here to view full story…

DEFRA produces plan to improve air quality – Client Earth regards it as inadequate

A ruling by the Supreme Court in April 2015 required the government to produce a comprehensive plan to meet air pollution limits by December. The government has now produced this. The intention is that it has to include low emission zones, congestion charging and other economic incentives. It is thought that due to the failure to meet European limits of harmful NOx gases, which are mostly caused by diesel traffic, there are up to 9,500 premature deaths each year in London alone. Under the government’s plan, “Clean Air Zones” will be introduced – by 2020 – in areas of Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton where pollution is most serious. However, though vehicles like old buses, taxis, coaches and lorries have to pay a charge to enter these zones – private passenger cars will not be charged. Also newer vehicles that meet the latest emission standards will not need to pay. Client Earth, the lawyers who brought the legal case against the UK government, for breaching the EU’s Air Quality Directive, said the plan falls far short of the action necessary to comply with the Supreme Court ruling, and they will make a legal challenge to force the government to take faster action to achieve legal pollution limits. “As soon as possible,” or by 2020, is not soon enough. 


London parents see toxic air as ‘the biggest health threat to their children’

By Nicholas Cecil (Evening Standard)

Mothers revealed their fear over toxic air in London today with seven out of 10 admitting they worry about its impact on their children.

A YouGov poll found that parents in the capital now see air pollution as the biggest health threat.

The stark findings are published as the Standard launches Clean London — a series of hard-hitting reports on dirty air and ways to tackle it.

Experts now blame air pollution for a death toll of more than 9,000 a year in the capital.

The survey, commissioned by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, shows 68 per cent of London parents are worried about their children breathing in dirty air.

…… whole article at