Heathrow: expanding an air pollution hotspot

On the same day that four Parliamentary Committees united to condemn government inaction over air pollution, the House of Lords debated the National Policy Statement (NPS) on the expansion of Heathrow. The former really ought to have an impact on the latter, but our Government doesn’t seem to be listening.

Heathrow already breaks air pollution limits. I’ve spent years listening to the supporters of expansion telling me what they would do to reduce pollution if they got the green light to add another runway. They never think to do those good things now and show they can reduce pollution down to legal limits ahead of expansion.

For all the talk of congestion charging and electric vehicles, the only thing guaranteed to happen at the airport is a bigger car park to cope with at least 40,000 to 60,000 extra vehicles a day on the roads.

The only new infrastructure in the Heathrow NPS is a tunnel for the M25 and moving some big roads around. There is no extra money for rail links, just aspirations. Yet, there are meant to be an extra 200,000 extra trips per day by public transport, a lot of them relying on the Metropolitan Line and Elizabeth Line, which Transport for London are upgrading anyway, to cope with anticipated overcrowding.

The NPS shows that expansion will negate all the benefits of the Mayor’s plans to reduce air pollution near Heathrow.  We know that the pollution generated by expansion will shorten people’s lives. Despite this, I suspect that there are majorities within the Parliamentary Conservative and Labour Parties who will back expansion. So here are some other points about the Heathrow NPS.

No guarantee that regional airports and jobs won’t go into decline as Heathrow favours international routes.

No guarantee that taxpayers won’t be landed with a multi-billion pound bill to pay for new transport infrastructure.

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