The Davies Commission was set up in 2012 with the aim of “identifying and recommending to government options for maintaining this country’s status as an international hub for aviation”. Its interim report in December 2013 set out the options it would consider: a third runway at Heathrow, extending the existing Heathrow northern runway for simultaneous takeoffs and landings, and a second runway at Gatwick.
It has now issued its final report, which recommends a third runway at Heathrow. The Commission’s final report marks the end of technical analysis but only the start of the political process.
The Richmond Heathrow Campaign is wholly against a new third runway at Heathrow. There is unlikely to be any net benefit to the UK aviation market or to the UK economy. Why? According to the Airports Commission’s own figures, a new Heathrow runway results in no overall increase in the number of UK passengers, business passengers, flights or connectivity because it would be fed by re-distributing growth from other UK airports - in particular from airports outside the southeast.
Heathrow expansion would result in cuts to flights at airports outside the southeast: as much as 45% at Birmingham, 30% at Bristol, 15% at Manchester and 10% at Edinburgh. It would stifle growth around the UK and concentrate it at a single airport in the economically overheated southeast. This would be contrary to the government’s aim of re-balancing the UK economy.
There is already spare capacity at these other airports, which could be taken up at relatively small cost compared to the £18.6 billion cost for Heathrow expansion plus the £20 billion estimated by TfL for improved surface access to avoid poor service, road congestion and pollution.
Together with existing commitments, Heathrow could need to fund £54 billion of investment. Much of this may have to be funded by taxpayers. Surely this cannot be justified if all it does is to duplicate existing capacity without any overall benefit to the UK economy?
Heathrow expansion also has a substantial environmental cost. With another runway, UK aviation would produce more than 25% of total UK carbon emissions by 2050 challenging legal climate change targets. Moreover, breaches of nitrogen dioxide statutory limits are likely to remain unresolved, making a 3rd runway unlawful.
World Health Organisation noise targets are not applied to Heathrow. If they were there could be 1 million people exposed to noise without expansion and 1.5 million with expansion. The number of people currently exposed is three times that of any other European airport. Uncertainty of where flight paths will be positioned creates a large blight over London for many years to come and several hundred thousand people would be exposed to aircraft noise for the first time.
The case against Heathrow expansion is overwhelming - more noise, more pollution, unjustifiable expense with no clear benefit to the UK or local economy. Instead, the Richmond Heathrow Campaign favours no new runways in the southeast but better use of existing UK capacity and improved access to London’s five airports, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, City and Luton, which together are an unbeatable match for any city.
Whatever the outcome of the runway debate, the Richmond Heathrow Campaign also seeks a ban on all Heathrow night flights and the enforcement of World Health Organisation targets for noise control and management.
For more facts about Heathrow expansion, see
The Richmond Heathrow Campaign’s position is that expected future passenger demand can be met with predicted larger aircraft and by substantially reducing transfers at Heathrow, most of which neither increase the number of destinations served nor benefit the wider economy. No additional runways need be built.
In particular, we are opposed to any expansion at Heathrow, which would increase noise misery for many
in West London or blight new areas of the city. Instead, Heathrow’s operations
should be managed to meet existing national and international public health guidelines. This includes the
abolition of all night flights.
On 17th June, Zac Goldsmith MP launched a campaign to highlight the impact of new flightpaths that would result from the new runway at Heathrow. While no firm plans have been published, there is a high degree of certainty that are several areas of London would suffer aircraft noise for the first time.
If you have friends in Hammersmith, Chiswick and Brentford, please alert them to Zac’s campaign and direct them to its web page at heathrowflightpaths.co.uk. Why? Because with an additional runway at Heathrow, they would experience noise levels equivalent to those in Barnes, Mortlake, Richmond and Kew.