Parliament is voting tonight (Monday 25 June) on the Government's Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) to construct a north-west runway at Heathrow on Monday 25th June. If approved, the final NPS will provide the framework and criteria against which a development consent application will be judged. The Government has already committed to the Third Runway aka North West Runway (NWR) rather than the other two options (extending the existing northern runway (ENR) or building a second runway at Gatwick), although confirmed in 2015 that both other options are deliverable.
The Transport Select Committee (TSC) in their report on the NPS published in March made 25 clear recommendations, many of which sought further information. The Committee's eventual support for the NWR was heavily caveated.
The final NPS released on 5th June by Grayling is little changed from the draft, and the majority of the Transport Committee's recommendations will be left for the Secretary of State to decide on at the development consent order (DCO) stage of the process.
The conclusions below are all drawn from the Transport Committee report and the Government's own figures contained in documents associated with the NPS.
There's No Economic Case Now
There is little evidence that further expanding Heathrow will benefit the whole country
* Heathrow expansion delivers more intense use of existing routes eg LHR-NY, rather than growth in new destinations
* Expanding airports in the SE would suck yet more transport capital investment away from the other regions
* Most passenger growth will be out-bound leisure passengers and transfer passengers, thus offering little direct benefit to the UK economy, and taking visitors away from the UK's tourist destinations and travellers pick the best place to transfer if a direct flight is not available
* Birmingham airport and MPs point out that passengers there will be less than an hour to Central London with HS2.
* Revised Government figures show a third runway at Heathrow could actually produce a net economic disbenefit over 60 years, a worse calculated outcome than a second runway at Gatwick which produces a net public value and is lower risk. Furthermore Government calculations do not account for the full cost of meeting climate targets or monetising the environmental impacts.
* A second runway at Gatwick is cheaper to build and the impact is over mainly rural areas and delivery poses far fewer risks.
The Government's own forecasts show that a third runway at Heathrow;
* will restrict growth at non-SE airports by 24% by 2030,
* reduce domestic routes to Heathrow from the current 8, to 4 or 5
* will mean over 160,000 fewer international flights from Regional airports by 2050, thus making the regions LESS connected to the rest of the world than now (TSC p 27).
* Most regional links to London can only be protected with Government subsidy (and only 1 per region is likely)
* The hub airport model is being superseded through the preference for direct point-to-point flights by passengers and businesses helped by the new ultra-long haul Dreamliner planes. (TSC p44).
* Capacity (currently unused) outside London could, without Heathrow expansion, grow by 62% in flights and by 96% in passengers. The TSC (p423)
* Manchester airport has recently announced the launch of direct flights to Africa and India, and Gatwick will soon have 50 long-haul destinations.
* The TSC said (p26) "the DfT's forecasts show that direct international connectivity from the regions would be lower with a NWR than without expansion." Creating yet more capacity in the SE
* Domestic UK slots into Heathrow are high-risk, and the landing charges are significantly higher than those of London's other airports. BA have recently halved their links between Leeds-Bradford and Heathrow as they are not commercially viable.
* Without Government intervention, domestic slots from regional airports to Heathrow cannot be guaranteed, particularly if slot prices rise to pay for expansion. The Government merely states an ambition of delivering "up to 15%" of all slots. Furthermore it is likely that only one route per region would be protected.
* The final NPS does not set out how it proposes to enforce Heathrow's domestic connectivity commitments.
An argument used by Unite and the GMB (but not by 4+ other unions that oppose expansion) is that Heathrow expansion will create Jobs. However, the construction and operational job creation is assumed by Government "to have no net national employment impact" (DfT Appraisal of Employment Effects, Sept 2016 p2). Of course jobs are created when airports grow - but that case can be made for any airport. The TSC confirmed (p62) that the promised jobs would be displaced, not new ones.
The Heathrow area (West London and the Thames Valley) is the second most economic vibrant sub-region after Central London. It has relatively low unemployment, high vacancy rates at all skill levels, a housing crisis and the other local growth sectors are having to compete with the area for staff. The challenge in the area is the number of low-paid, zero-hours jobs.
Heathrow could work with partners NOW to create 5000 good quality apprenticeships, it doesn't need to wait for expansion.
Finance: The Transport Select Committee (TSC) and the business<https://www.ft.com/content/e07697ee-6ca8-11e8-92d3-6c13e5c92914> community have raised significant concerns about how the expansion will be financed as Heathrow is already heavily indebted.
Heathrow is planning to fund only the £14bn cost of building the runway and terminal, and £1.2bn for the direct access in from the motorway system. The Government expects the private sector to pick up the bill for the costs of additional transport infrastructure needed to deliver Heathrow's promise that Runway 3 will generate no new road traffic.
Government economic forecasts assume the runway opening in 2026 which is highly ambitious given the various and inevitable legal and logistical challenges that lie ahead for Heathrow.
Heathrow is already perhaps the UK's greatest generator of CO2 emissions. Expanding Heathrow further would require growth at other UK airports to be curbed and probably other economic sectors so as to remain within carbon targets. The Committee on Climate Change has said that the Government should present the business case for expansion on the assumption that carbon is capped at 37.5 mt. The Government has set out no plans for achieving this.
There has been no analysis of the wider climate change impacts from NOx emissions at altitude. This can only reduce the amount of aviation Cow2 emissions that can be accommodated under the Climate Change Act.
Minimising Local Noise and Air Pollution
Noise: Government figures confirm that over 2.1m people (1m households) will experience more noise with a third runway but the Government has not assessed the noise impact on most of these people.
Over 300,000 people will experience significantly worse noise (>54dB Daytime Average Noise); for most, their homes are under the final approach paths to the new runway, and they experience relatively low levels of aircraft noise now. Most are not aware they will have planes directly overhead on final approach, and most will not benefit from the noise and compensation package to be offered to those closest to the airport. (The equivalent figure for Gatwick's second runway would by 19,000 - TSC p31)
Areas that currently get 8 hours daytime respite from overflying planes through alternation will get no more than 6 hours if a third runway is built and possibly less.
Furthermore, last week the Government appeared to be reneging on past promises, and indicated they will relax a cap on the total number of planes to be permitted, and on the night flight respite period.
Air Pollution and Traffic Congestion: The Heathrow area is already in breach of EU air quality limits, and all roads are hugely congested for much of the time.
* Heathrow have announced that expanding the airport by almost 50% will create no new road traffic, yet have not evidenced this and are not prepared to fund the inevitable transport infrastructure projects required. No comprehensive surface assess assessment was published with the draft NPS to assess the impact.
* New rail proposals are needed now for a two-runway airport. Crossrail provides little modal shift from road to onto rail, and the Government is not prepared to fund the long-planned western and southern rail links
* The Government has lost three legal challenges on its air quality policies.
* No assessment has been made of the additional pollution from planes.
There is no strategy in the NPS as to how the Government will support local communities in respect of noise and pollution after the planning process is finished.
* The Government appears to have written a blank cheque to Heathrow by signing an agreement with a clause reaffirming the company's right to sue the government if Ministers back out of the scheme; a clause not included in agreements with Heathrow Hub (ENR) nor Gatwick. Heathrow's gearing ratio is already a staggering 87%, rising to around 91% with expansion, which raises questions as to its financial viability but perhaps suggests why they need a Government guarantee.
* There are several significant legal and logistical risks that will delay expansion at Heathrow including Councils around Heathrow ready with a legal challenge and the Government has refused to address the issue of the Lakeside Energy to Waste plant that is in the way
So Chris Grayling is prepared to write a blank cheque to Heathrow on behalf of all taxpayers, with little net benefit to the economy, a cut in connectivity for the regions and a disastrous impact on the environment and road infrastructure of large parts of London and the South East.