Shock £17bn taxpayer’s bill for Heathrow expansion revealed through Freedom of Information request by Greenpeace
Environmental and transport groups have used FoI to obtain details from Transport for London (TfL), of their estimates of the amount of money the UK taxpayer would be expected to pay, for Heathrow’s 3rd runway. This comes to a staggering £17 billion, to cover the costs of transport links needed to deal with a massive traffic surge from a 3rd Heathrow runway. TfL say the actual cost would be around £18.4 billion – which is 4 times as high as estimated by the Airports Commission. Heathrow’s John Holland-Kaye reiterated, to the Environmental Audit Committee (4.11.2015) that the airport would pay only about £1 billion. The government made it clear (Oct 2015) that it expects aviation expansion promoters to cover any surface access costs.The vast amount of money required throws into question both the financing and feasibility of a crucial part of the project. The documents, released to Greenpeace through FoI, contain the first detailed comparison of the contrasting estimates by the Airport Commission and TfL. They show the figures published in the Commission’s report failed to take into account the costs of key rail schemes, extra buses, additional operational spending and road traffic management. The Treasury needs to properly assess the real costs of expanding Heathrow and guarantee taxpayers won’t be left to pick up the bill.
Shock £17bn taxpayer’s bill for Heathrow expansion revealed
25.4.2016 (HACAN press release)
UK taxpayers could be asked to fork out a staggering £17 billion to cover the costs of transport links needed to deal with a massive traffic surge from Heathrow expansion, according to confidential estimates disclosed today.
Transport for London (TfL) documents released following an investigation by transport and environmental campaigners have revealed a multi-billion-pound gap in the official figures for the costs of road and rail improvements required by a third runway at Heathrow.
According to the agency in charge of the London transport system, the real price tag for boosting surface access to an expanded airport is nearly four times the figure put forward by the government-appointed Airport Commission .
The revelation will reignite the longstanding controversy over who will pay for the road and rail works needed to deal with the extra traffic from a new runway. The government has made it clearthat it expects aviation expansion promoters to cover any surface access costs, but Heathrow bosses have said they are not willing to pay anything above £1.1 billion .
An analysis of the TfL figures released today shows this would leave a shortfall of at least £17 billion. The funding gap is large enough to throw into question both the financing and feasibility of a crucial part of the project .
The documents, released to Greenpeace following a Freedom of Information request, contain the first detailed comparison of the contrasting estimates by the Airport Commission and London’s transport agency. They show the figures published in the Commission’s report failed to take into account the costs of key rail schemes, extra buses, additional operational spending and road traffic management.
A third runway at Heathrow is expected to put an extra 30 million passengers on the Londontransport system every year by 2030, stretching the network’s capacity to breaking point.
In the documents TfL stresses that all transport upgrades included in its cost estimates will be essential to manage the increase in traffic. It also warns that, if surface access issues are not solved, there will be ‘serious implications’ for the government ability to meet its legal obligations on air pollution.
Environmental and transport campaigners from Greenpeace, Campaign for Better Transport and HACAN are calling on the Treasury to come clean over the real costs of expanding Heathrow and guarantee taxpayers won’t be left to pick up the bill.
Back in February, Andrew Tyrie, chair of the influential Commons Treasury select committee, wrote to George Osborne asking for more details about the calculations which led the Airport Commission to come down in favour of a third runway at Heathrow.
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “These figures reveal a gaping hole in the financing for Heathrow expansion. The UK public needs to be told the full truth. If the government picks up the tab for the extra costs, this would be a £17 billion taxpayer-funded subsidy in disguise. It makes no sense to waste billions on a project that jeopardises efforts to meet legally binding targets on air pollution and climate change. George Osborne should come clean with UK taxpayers on whether they’ll need to bail out this project before it has taken off.”
Campaign for Better Transport Chief Executive Stephen Joseph said: “Astonishingly, this cost is even greater than the Government’s hugely wasteful national road building programme. Spending this amount of money in London would worsen the North/South divide, whilst bringing little benefit to the capital. What London needs is investments in public transport to help people get around the city, ease congestion and tackle air pollution, rather than squandering limited funds on unnecessary airport expansion. While people elsewhere in England might well ask: What would the Northern Powerhouse be able to deliver with this level of investment?”
HACAN Chair John Stewart said: “What makes these figures so compelling is that they have not been plucked out of the air. Transport for London has done its sums. All their figures are backed up by detailed, painstaking work. The Government ignores them at its peril when making up its mind about new runways.”
Both sets of estimates include the costs of major road schemes such as putting part of the M25 in a tunnel and widening sections of the M4. But, crucially, the Airport Commission’s estimates overlooked the cost of additional buses, road traffic management, and major rail improvements such as an upgraded Great Western Main Line, a new rail link through Staines, and an extension to Crossrail 2 running from Teddington to Heathrow.
The Government is expected to give the green light to a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick later this year after the EU referendum has taken place.
All documents, including a summary table showing the contrasting estimates by TfL and the Airports Commission, can be found at energydesk.greenpeace.org
Notes for Editors:
- According to the TfL documents, the Airport Commission’s estimate for surface access costs adds up to £4.2 billion, but a figure of £5.7 billion has also been widely reported.
- Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye told the Environmental Audit Select Committee at its inquiry last year that Heathrow would only be prepared to pay £1.1 billion towards improved road and rail access.
- TfL estimates the overall bill for road and rail improvements to top £18.2bn. Taking out the £1.1 billion Heathrow bosses said they’re willing to pay, that would leave a funding gap of about £17 billion to be plugged.
Stefano Gelmini, Greenpeace UK press office, email@example.com, m 07506 512442, t 020 7865 8255
Alice Ridley, Campaign for Better Transport Press Officer, Alice.firstname.lastname@example.org.UK, t 020 7566 6483
John Stewart, HACAN, email@example.com, t 020 7737 6641, m 07957385650
While Heathrow try to claim cost of surface access needed for 3rd runway is just £2.2 billion, TfL estimates cost of £18.4 billion
Heathrow’s management have claimed that only £1.2bn of public funds would be needed to upgrade local road and rail links, for its 3rd runway, while Heathrow itself would spend a further £1bn, making £2.2bn. The Airports Commission estimated the cost to be around 5.7bn, to include widening the M4 and tunnelling the M25 under the runway. But now TfL has come up with figures showing the total cost would be about £18.4bn, which is hugely more. TfL believes Heathrow and the Commission have substantially underestimated the amount of increased congestion the runway would cause on the roads, and on trains due to 30 million more annual passengers. They also did not take freight into account. The government has said whichever airport might be allowed a runway would have to meet all the costs which arise due to a new runway, and from which the airport would directly benefit. TfL has added the cost of other vital transport infrastructure, such as improving bus services, traffic management measures and alterations to the South West and Great Western Main Lines. TfL says none of the schemes in its £18.4bn figure are already committed, funded or planned. The Campaign for Better Transport said the money would be better spent elsewhere eg. on the Northern Powerhouse.