A third runway at Heathrow Airport has been endorsed by the Transport Select Committee but only if it resolves issues including noise, costs and regional connectivity.
The Airports Commission approved a third runway to the northwest at Heathrow in July 2015 and the Prime Minister, Theresa May gave the scheme the green light in October 2016, with Parliament due to vote on the proposals later this year.
The committee says the issues need to be addressed before the scheme is approved so as to reduce the likelihood of successful legal action.
Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood says: “The Northwest Runway scheme, as set out in the draft NPS, is the highest cost expansion option and one of the largest privately financed infrastructure projects anywhere in the world.”
Greenwood, who is also the Labour member of parliament for Nottingham South, says the draft National Policy Statement does not guarantee that passengers will be protected from the cost risks, and that thousands of London residents will be exposed to worse levels of noise, air quality and traffic congestion.
She says: “The Government and Heathrow have made efforts to mitigate these significant impacts, but safeguards on air quality, surface access, connectivity, costs and charges and noise should be strengthened. As a matter of urgency, we also want to see how the Government plans to deliver the necessary airspace change.”
Improvements that have been recommended include more stringent air quality compliance; improvements to surface access due to the lack of information about proposed changes surface access and to the M25 motorway; a clear definition of domestic routes; a night time flight ban; how the scheme will be funded and not significantly increasing airport charges.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed the endorsement of a third runway but warns that costs could spiral out of control.
IATA regional vice president for Europe, Rafael Schvartzman warns that the suggested costs of £14-17 billion is an optimistic estimate and that Heathrow’s charges are already the highest in the world.
He says: “Heathrow Airport Limited have not been clear on the funding of crucial works such as the proposed bridging of the M25 and the relevant surface access schemes. The only way these concerns can be addressed is to ensure that there is much greater transparency on the costs of construction. Heathrow is a facility that benefits the entire nation – it is too important not to be under careful oversight.”