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Adonis pushes for Heathrow rail commitment

Adonis 3to2

National Infrastructure Commission chairman Lord Adonis has urged Heathrow and the government to commit to expansion-related public transport proposals by January, at the same time as the airport’s third runway plans have come under fresh pressure.

Adonis took to social media site Twitter to urge the government to publish plans committing to public transport measures such as Southern and Western Rail Access, needed to tackle an increase in vehicle journeys as a result of expansion.

His comments came as the Commons Transport Committee took evidence in its inquiry into the draft Airports National Policy Statement yesterday (Monday).

Both rail schemes are put forward in the government’s draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) but are not guaranteed to go ahead. Adonis also recommended setting up a vehicle access charge, with funds used to finance the rail schemes.

Without these measures, he warned that vehicle numbers will rise and pollution will get worse – contrary to promises made in the NPS.

Heathrow has previously said it is considering an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) around the airport to encourage public transport use.

Meanwhile Heathrow Hub director Jock Lowe has slammed proposals for a third runway, saying the north runway could be extended instead.

Heathrow Hub is an independent campaign to extend the north runway to around 6,650m, dividing it in half with a central buffer zone to allow simultaneous take off and landing. It argues this would provide as much new capacity as the proposed 3,500m third runway for around £9,7bn, compared to Heathrow’s £17bn expansion plans.

Writing in City AM, Lowe said a third runway is too noisy, complex and expensive to go ahead.

“I doubt very much it will happen. If it does, it will deliver less new capacity than originally claimed,” he wrote.

“Why build a third runway when an extended one is so simple? Far better to go for a project which is easy to deliver, which offers the same or greater economic benefits but fewer problems. It is common sense.”

Yesterday (Monday) the Commons Transport Committee heard evidence from the Airports Commission, the Department for Transport (DfT) and Heathrow on the draft Airports National Policy Statement, currently going through a second consultation after the government published its updated air quality plan in July.

The inquiry is scrutinising whether revised passenger number forecasts and air quality impact assessments were satisfactorily carried out for the draft NPS. Today an all party parliamentary group is expected to consider Southern and Western Rail Access for Heathrow.

A spokesperson for Heathrow said: “We have an ambitious plan to treble our rail capacity by 2040 and enable 30M more passengers to use public transport. If needed, we have said a congestion charge could be another way to reduce road journeys and support our sustainable transport plans. We will be consulting and gathering feedback on these and all our environmental plans as part of the planning process for expansion, so we can ensure we deliver benefits for our local communities, our airline customers and our passengers.”

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