No assurances given by DfT Minister of State, John Hayes, on Heathrow 3rd runway and surface access



Heathrow third runway will mean more lorries and pollution, says Richmond MP Sarah Olney

By NICHOLAS CECIL  (Evening Standard)


More lorries could blight neighbourhoods close to Heathrow if a third runway is built, an MP warned today.

Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney raised concerns that more toxic air could be pumped out by an increased number of heavy goods vehicles on Heathrow freight journeys.

The airport has pledged that if it is allowed to expand there will be no rise in road trips by passengers in cars and workers to the airport.

But for freight journeys, it will only go as far as saying that there will be a “similar” number as at present.

In her first Commons debate, Liberal Democrat MP Ms Olney was set to say: “The economic case for expanding Heathrow airport rests on being able to increase the amount of freight that will pass through the airport.

“It is difficult to imagine that this increased freight will be transported to the airport on the backs of bicycles or carried on the Tube.”

She urged the Government to confirm that the plans for no net increase in road journeys would therefore include a sufficient reduction in passenger journeys to compensate for any increased number of freight movements. She also demanded that low-emission freight vehicles are used, where possible.


….. and it goes on, with more statements by Heathrow  ….


The debate can be read in full (it was not long) on Hansard here:

Here are a few extracts from it:

Sarah Olney (MP for Richmond Park) (LibDem) asked: 

“Heathrow airport has pledged that its landside road traffic will be no greater than it is today if planning permission is granted for a third runway. It is not entirely clear which day “today” is supposed to refer to, but logic demands that 2 February should be treated as “today” for the purpose of benchmarking, being the date that the national policy statement was published. If the pledge has any prospect of being honoured, the public have a right to know what benchmarks are being used to measure landside road traffic.

“Assuming that “today” is in fact 2 February, will the Minister confirm that detailed measurement and analysis of the landside road traffic was conducted on that day, for the purposes of comparison? Will he further confirm the extent of the area that was included within the measurement boundaries; whether that included my constituency; and that that analysis will be published without delay, so that the information is available to the public during the consultation period?”


“If, by some chance, the analysis of current landside road traffic was not carried out on 2 February or on any other day prior to today, will the Minister give details of exactly how Heathrow airport will be held to its pledge that there will be no increase in landside road traffic? I am sure he will agree that the possible increase in road traffic across a wide area of west London is a source of considerable anxiety for local residents, and that evidence of the Government’s commitment to hold Heathrow airport to its pledge that there will be no increase in traffic would set a great many minds at ease.”


“Of particular interest to those who live not only in my constituency and the surrounding areas but much further afield is the cost of surface access upgrade and how that is to be funded. In the absence thus far of any detailed figures from the Department for Transport, our best guess of the cost of surface access upgrades is that provided by Transport for London, which estimates the cost at between £15 billion and £20 billion. Heathrow has committed to meeting just £1 billion of that cost, leaving a black hole of between £14 billion and £19 billion. I have twice challenged the Secretary of State to tell me how that shortfall will be funded, but both times he has responded only to say that he does not accept TfL’s figures. That is all very well, and I eagerly await the publication of his Department’s own estimates, as requested earlier, but he has failed to answer the key part of the question about who will pay for that cost.”

….. and much more ….

Dr Tania Mathias (Twickenham) (Con) said:

“I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this important debate and agree with the important points she is making. Does she agree that on 2 February, pollutant levels should have been documented for the NPS? In London, we have already breached our annual air pollution limits.”

Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab) said:

“May I also congratulate the hon. Lady, my neighbouring MP, on securing this debate, so soon after being elected. Does she agree that many minds would be put at ease by knowing not only that Heathrow will not need to increase road access but that the crazy proposal to expand the M4 from four lanes to eight between junctions 3 and 2 will be pushed into the long grass as a result?”


“The hon. Lady is absolutely right about the need for the Government to be clear. Yesterday I went to Hounslow civic centre to see the Department for Transport’s exhibition on the proposals there and talk to very senior and expert officials of the DFT about the surface access plans. I was surprised that they could not answer questions about the expectation of traffic increases, given the different types of traffic that will be going to Heathrow should expansion go ahead, with a 47% increase in air traffic. Does she agree that that makes the consultation somewhat of a sham?”


They got no proper answers from the Minister, John Hayes, from the DfT:

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr John Hayes)

Here is are two examples of his comments:

“That said, it is important that we recognise some of the arguments that have been made in this debate, so let us be clear: it is fundamentally important in relation to expansion that Heathrow provides a detailed application, built on a detailed transport assessment, including a surface access strategy. That should be part of the process as we go forward, and it will be. That detailed analysis should be based on the latest available evidence on how the requirements in the airports national policy statement will be met. It is important to appreciate that, as we move to the point at which Heathrow Airport Ltd lodges its planning application, it will be expected to provide that kind of detailed analysis as part of the planning process.

“Moreover, the Government have been clear that it would be for Heathrow to meet the full costs of any surface access that was required only for airport expansion. That is set out in the draft airports national policy statement. As has been said, we are carrying out a full consultation, because we want to hear everyone’s views about the detail of that, but I repeat that we are committed to the principle that Heathrow must meet the costs of any surface access changes necessitated by its plans for expansion.

“Let me go further and say that the hon. Member for Richmond Park and others are right to point out, in relation to the way people get to the airport, that although no final plans or designs have been approved for the runway and there is a series of options, those changes will require us to think about the public transport needs of those who want to get to the airport. It is certainly our view that a greater proportion of people could be encouraged to use public transport to get to the airport.”


“I know that many others have views and estimates of what they believe the surface access costs might be. We do not accept some of the estimates. Some people have said—others might say surprisingly, but I will go so far as to say amazingly—that they might cost £18 billion. We do not accept some of the more extravagant estimates, because no final plans or designs have been approved for the runway. While there is a range of potential options for surface access improvements, it is for the developers to produce the detailed plan, as I said earlier, as part of the development consent order, which will be properly considered through the normal statutory planning processes. In a sense, we cannot prejudge exactly what the needs will be, nor what will be necessary to meet them, but we are clear that, in principle, surface access has to be part of the process that will now take place.”


“The hon. Lady asked about freight, and it is important to be clear that freight traffic will play a key part in the development of Heathrow—I have no doubt of that. It is absolutely right that a plan anticipating changes in freight movements is made and is subject to scrutiny and debate. We will inspect that plan, and the Government will expect the developers at Heathrow to deliver a cogent, well argued, proper assessment of the impact of any changes in the volume or character of freight traffic and how they might affect congestion, road safety, air quality and all those other matters that are dear to my heart and of concern to this Chamber and the whole House.

I see that I have only a moment or two before we conclude. In summary, I will write to hon. Members about any other matters raised that I have not dealt with. Let me be crystal clear: we will proceed with the expansion of Heathrow only on the basis that it is conducted in a diligent, thorough and sustainable way; for that is the responsible position taken by this Government on all such matters.”

…. and much more of that sort of statement ….


for his full comments