UK parliamentary Transport Committee: More work needed on Airports NPS
The Transport Select Committee has said that the UK government must address concerns on a range of environmental and social impact before its Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) is ready for parliamentary approval.
In a statement issued today, the Transport Committee said that it “accepted there was a case for additional runway capacity, particularly hub capacity and that expansion at Heathrow could deliver the Government’s strategic objectives for greater connectivity for passengers and freight”.
However, the Transport Committee said that “additional safeguards are needed to ensure that the interests of passengers are protected, and the adverse environmental, social and health impacts on affected communities are addressed”.
The Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, commented: “The Committee’s recommendations improve the NPS and reduce the chance of a successful legal challenge.
“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.
“At present, the draft NPS does not guarantee that passengers will be protected from the cost risks associated with the scheme. The Secretary of State must set out how airport charges will be held down.
“During our inquiry, we heard how communities might be affected. Thousands of people across London could be exposed to worse levels of noise, air quality and traffic congestion – there must be sufficient measures to protect or compensate them.
“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.
“This must all be done before a final NPS is tabled for approval by both Houses of Parliament.”
Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the Transport Select Committee’s endorsement of Heathrow as the right location to expand airport capacity, but warned that the costs could “still spiral out of control”. IATA also welcomed the Committee’s recommendations that the government consider giving the Civil Aviation Authority greater powers to regulate Heathrow’s passenger and airline charges, and that these charges be held flat in real terms.
In a statement issued today (23 March), Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe, said: “The airline community supports Heathrow as the right location to expand airport capacity, but has two overriding concerns: affordability, and operational flexibility. Both are jeopardized by the current plans from Heathrow’s owners.
“The Select Committee’s recommendations on cost control should be essential reading for the government, for Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd (HAL), and anyone with a stake in the future of air transport in the UK. At the moment, we are looking at extra capacity in the right place, but at the wrong price. We need guarantees regarding how costs will be managed, especially if key risks are not known at this stage.”