London mayor Boris Johnson has made another attempt to revive his Thames Estuary airport plan through a new report aimed at rubbishing Heathrow.
The 78 page report Landing the right airport attempts to blow holes in the Airports Commission’s verdict that Heathrow is the best location for additional runway capacity in the south east.
It claims that despite Heathrow’s assertion that improved technology and quieter engines will mitigate noise pollution, building a new runway would fail to curtail the effect of the din of jet engines on local people. In fact, the report claims that it would unnecessarily expose 124 more schools and 43,000 school children to a level of aircraft noise proven to affect their level of reading and memory, than if the airport were to remain with two runways.
The report puts the cost of the long term health effects of exposure to the extra noise caused by a third runway at £20bn to 25bn over 60 years. The report claims to have used guidance published by the Department for Transport in December and that the cost reflects the increased risk of heart attack, stroke, dementia and other disorders shown to be linked to prolonged exposure to aircraft noise.
In the report Johnson says that there is no silver bullet for Heathrow’s “noise nightmare” and that the only credible solution to Britain’s aviation dilemma was to pursue plans for a new hub airport to the east of the capital, away from populated areas.
The report says that only a four runway hub airport in one of several potential locations to the east of London has any chance of being built and delivering the increase in connectivity the UK requires. It adds that a hub to the east of London would spur regeneration and new housing, contribute £92bn to the UK economy by 2050 and support 336,000 jobs around the country.
“There is no silver bullet for the noise nightmare of a third runway at Heathrow and any approval of expansion would clearly result in decades of legal challenges,” said Johnson. ”Its cramped urban location simply cannot accommodate the kind of airport this country requires to compete on the global stage and the cost to the taxpayer of necessary road and rail connections would be huge, however well disguised.
“That means the government has a bold decision to make - but not a difficult one. They must surely finally recognise that the only long term vision that sustains our economy and safeguards our health is to build a four runway hub airport at the Thames Estuary or Stansted.”
The report also stresses that a second runway at Gatwick would not be the answer to the UK’s aviation problems.
The Landing the right airport report is available at www.tfl.gov.uk/aviation.
Report conclusions and next steps
It is clear from the Airports Commission evidence presented that Heathrow expansion is wrong for the economy and wrong for the environment. It neither provides the connectivity the UK needs, nor is it able to avoid dire impacts on public health, whether the hundreds of thousands exposed to significant aircraft noise, or the risk to legal limits for NO2.
It places considerable pressure on already congested surface access networks, which would require significant interventions if they are to function effectively.
Gatwick expansion is at best a stop gap. Its environmental impacts are lower, but not serving as a hub, its connectivity is more limited and it will not offer the wide range of long haul routes that a hub can offer. It also requires more surface access capacity if extra demand is to be accommodated on already crowded routes.
If we are to secure the connectivity that meets the UK’s long-term economic need, then the only option is a four-runway hub. The Inner
Thames Estuary and Stansted, located to the east of London, away from densely populated areas, are each able to deliver that connectivity whilst absolutely minimising the local noise and air quality pollution impacts. A mixture of new, planned and existing surface access infrastructure would ensure fast, reliable access and help unlock key development and regeneration sites along the corridor.
In December 2015, the Government rightly recognised that it did not have robust evidence to be in a position to take forward expansion
of Heathrow. This is no surprise: Heathrow expansion remains environmentally and politically undeliverable. As part of its next phase of work, it is incumbent on Government to revisit the entire Airports Commission process and consider a full range of credible options – including alternative hub locations.
A failure to do so will undermine any attempt to bring forward a National Policy Statement and leave a decision vulnerable to legal challenge.
The Government has a critical responsibility: in making a decision, it will set the parameters for the UK’s ability to export goods and services and attract investment and tourism for decades to come. No longer should we be detained by a solution which does not even answer the basic question, the need for a step-change in connectivity, not to mention its disastrous consequences for public health. We need a hub airport that can fully connect the UK to the world, support UK growth and prosperity and deliver benefits for generations to come.