BAA hope to build a third runway at Heathrow and increase capacity by using the same runways to land and takeoff (mixed mode operation). Plans for expansion at Heathrow have been met with opposition , not just by green lobby groups, but also MPs, who don't believe that expansion can be achieved within current environmental guidelines.
Yesterdays move by BAA is hoped to give the public confidence that the airport will operate within environmental limits. A decision on whether BAA can build a third runway is expected in the next few weeks.
BAA claims that regardless of the theoretical capacity created by mixed-mode and a third runway, the airport will only raise the number of flights if it operates within these environmental limits.
"We have listened to the many arguments around expansion at Heathrow," said BAA chief executive Colin Matthews. "Although the economic case remains compelling, we understand that we can only increase the number of flights if we can safeguard levels of noise and air quality.
"By calling on an independent assessor to scrutinise the airport’s performance against these limits, we are providing an uncompromising assurance that we will operate Heathrow Airport within the limits laid down by Government. If we don’t, the number of flights in and out of Heathrow could be capped."
However groups opposing Heathrow expansion remained sceptical.
"BAA are right to admit that they have lost the trust of Parliamentarians and local communities over the third runway," said shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers
"However today's letter is just the next in a long line of promises which may have been sincere at the time, that were subsequently cast aside by the company. We have seen this all before. What BAA needs to realise is that people do not want a third runway, we do not need a third runway, and under a Conservative Government there will not be a third runway."
BAA is also in discussions on high-speed rail options and is consulting on a revised ground transport strategy.