Research for LHR: Air quality no stopper for expansion


Today, Heathrow welcomed the Independent Transport Commission’s (ITC) report “The Sustainability of UK Aviation: Trends in the mitigation of noise and emissions.” The report’s conclusions are unequivocal: environmental conditions are not a show-stopper to pursue airport expansion, including at Heathrow, given rapid technology improvements over the last 30 years which have reduced the British aviation industry’s impacts.

The report, written by independent sustainability experts Peter Hind and RDC Aviation Ltd, confirms that road vehicles are the principal contributors of air pollution: NOX and particulate emissions. This is verified by data gathered by air quality monitors around Heathrow airport, which show annual breaches of EU limits in two locations beside major road junctions, where airport-related emissions contribute less than 16% to the total.

The ITC report also highlights Heathrow’s strong record in providing alternative modes of transport for passengers going to the airport. Over the last 20 years, Heathrow’s passenger numbers have risen by almost 80% but airport related road traffic has remained broadly static. New public transport infrastructure such as Crossrail, HS2, Western Rail Access, Southern Rail Access and upgrades to the Piccadilly Line will treble Heathrow’s rail capacity by 2040 and enable 30 million more passengers to use public transport. This, along with measures to encourage sustainable transport by employees, makes it possible to deliver an additional runway without increasing airport-related traffic on the road.

We agree with the report’s clear call for the Government to act on air quality and to encourage a modal shift away from cars.

Matt Gorman, Heathrow Director of Sustainability, responded to the report, saying:

“Heathrow takes air quality issues seriously. This report adds to the evidence presented by the Airports Commission that road traffic is the main contributor to poor air quality and it is a national problem which needs government action. Heathrow has worked to maintain airport-related traffic broadly static since the 1990’s and is taking action to reduce emissions further by switching to electric vehicles and increasing public transport options for passengers and colleagues. Heathrow has called for local and national partners to work together on a plan to reduce the impact of non-airport related vehicles, which are the major source of local air pollution. The huge benefits of additional capacity at our airport need not come at the expense of the environment – Heathrow expansion can deliver for both.”

Heathrow’s ambition is to be the most sustainable hub airport in the world and will be setting out more ambitious plans in the coming weeks. Heathrow’s current approach to reducing emissions through its operations both on and off the airport is outlined in a ten point Blueprint for action.