Heathrow expansion needn’t come at the cost of air quality

Our target is to have 50 per cent of passengers travelling to the airport by public transport


On this blog, Green Party London Assembly member Darren Johnson has made a call to cut London’s air pollution levels at the expense of Heathrow expansion and the benefits it can bring.

But contrary to what Mr. Johnson claims, the economic potential of Heathrow expansion need not come at the expense of the environment and local air quality. 

Heathrow expansion can and should only go ahead within EU air quality limits and we have designed our North West runway proposal to do so. In its recent consultation, the Airports Commission has also been clear that our proposal can be delivered within those limits and will not delay EU compliance.

Today, the contribution of Heathrow to the two monitoring stations that breach limits north of the M4 is low, 16 per cent at Hillingdon and 6 per cent at Hayes, because in fact the majority of traffic near these stations is non-airport related.

However, we understand that air quality is a real concern for local communities and an issue London needs to tackle urgently. That is why we are working with partners to increase our strength as the UK’s best connected airport when it comes to public transport by delivering projects like Crossrail, upgraded Piccadilly services and Western Rail Access.

We have also recently announced plans to make Heathrow an Ultra-Low Emission Zone by 2025.

40 per cent of passengers already take public transport to arrive at the airport and a quarter of our airport colleagues use a bus to commute to work every day.  Because of our incentives and investments, by the time Heathrow is expanded, over 50 per cent of passengers could travel to the airport by public transport and all air quality legal limits would be met.

Our commitment to improving local air quality is not new, nor is it just tied to our plans for expansion. In fact, we already have a good track record of improving air quality, and have reduced emissions from airport activity by 16 per cent over five years.

We are committed to working with government, local authorities and the mayor of London – Boris Johnson and whomever succeeds him – to make concerted and prompt action to decrease vehicle emissions and for Heathrow to continue playing our part to reduce emissions across the airport.

Matt Gorman is Heathrow’s director of environment and sustainability

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