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TfL and Airports Commission at odds over impact of Heathrow third runway

Newly released documents show that the Airports Commission’s estimate of the cost of rail links needed to support the third runway at Heathrow airport is as much as £11bn below that of Transport for London (TfL).

The documents, obtained by Greenpeace via a Freedom of Information request, show that the Commission based their estimate on the premise that the only rail cost associated with the third runway would be allowing Southern Rail access to Heathrow, which they estimated to cost £488m, or £810m allowing for optimism bias.

However, TfL not only estimated the cost of Southern access to be £1.5-£2.5bn, they also allowed for additional costs, such as T4 shuffle (worth £200m, or £332m with optimism bias), the Crossrail 2 extension (£2.9bn, or £4.8bn) and a new rail link through Staines (£38m or £64m). In total, TfL estimated the railway costs of the third runway as £7-£12bn.

Allowing for road costs as well, the Commission’s estimate total estimate was £4.1bn and TfL’s was £18.2bn. It is unclear who will pay these costs – Heathrow owners are meant to pay for infrastructure costs, but have said they will only pay £1.1bn.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, which opposes the expansion of the runway, said: “These figures reveal a gaping hole in the financing for Heathrow expansion. The UK public needs to be told the full truth. It makes no sense to waste billions on a project that jeopardises efforts to meet legally binding targets on air pollution and climate change.

“George Osborne should come clean with UK taxpayers on whether they’ll need to bail out this project before it has taken off.”

The papers also raise concerns about the Commission’s estimates of the third runway’s impact on passenger levels on London’s railways.

TfL expressed concern that the Commission’s calculations were based on the assumption that a three runway Heathrow would serve 103.6 million passengers every year and require 90,000 additional staff, despite TfL estimating it could be as much as 149 million passengers and 109,200 staff.

The Commission also assumed that rail projects that are currently only at the planning stage such as Western Rail access to Heathrow, Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo Line extension will definitely go ahead, and that Crossrail will run six trains an hour instead of the promised four.

Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph expressed concern about the impact of the funding shortfall on the rest of London’s transport.

He said: “The new figures from Transport for London show that Heathrow's expansion will pose a threat to the rest of London's transport – the black hole in funding links to Heathrow can only be filled at the expense of other transport projects in the capital. Overcrowded trains and buses, clogged roads and increased pollution are not prices worth paying for Heathrow's destructive expansion.”

John Stewart, chair of anti-third runway campaign group HACAN, said: “What makes these figures so compelling is that they have not been plucked out of the air. Transport for London has done its sums. All their figures are backed up by detailed, painstaking work. The government ignores them at its peril when making up its mind about new runways.”

In a letter dated 22 October 2015 Boris Johnson, mayor of London and an opponent of the third runway, said: “London is a global city and needs a solution that can meet its long term aviation needs without the detrimental environmental and economic impacts Heathrow would cause. The Airports Commission’s recommendations fail to provide this solution.”

RTM contacted the Department for Transport for comment but they didn’t reply at the time of publication.

To view all the Greenpeace documents, click here.

(Image c. Warren Rohner)

UPDATE 26 April 10.50am

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The different figures measure different things, the main difference being the work that is required exclusively for airport capacity, projects that support airport capacity but have wider benefits, and those that are needed for wider population and economic growth over the next 20 to 30 years. 

“The government has always been clear that, whichever of the three shortlisted options is chosen, we expect the scheme promoter to meet the full cost of any surface access proposals that are required as a direct result of airport expansion and from which they will directly benefit.”




Neil Palmer   25/04/2016 at 20:22

Wasn't one of the claims for expanding Heathrow that it would better allow it to compete with airports like Amsterdam, Frankfurt, etc. for international connecting flight business? What percentage of expected additional passengers would be connecting, and therefore not require ANY ground transportation to or from Heathrow?

Huguenot   26/04/2016 at 10:00

I think there is a typo in this report. "John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, which opposes the expansion of the railway ..." should read "... Greenpeace UK, which opposes the expansion of the runway ...".

John Walker   26/04/2016 at 14:52

Refere my studies for a New Hub Airport and associated Aerotropolis Garden City which solves all of these problems at considerably less cost.

Rupert Le Bere   26/04/2016 at 20:02

It's been clear from the outset that all supporting data for the 3rd runway has been manipulated by the government in favour of Heathrow. It's good to see that TfL has had the audacity to question the Govt propoganda. And suggesting that dear Mr Osborne shoud come clean with the UK taxpayers on the subject is a bit like expecting electric trains to Cardiff in 2017.

Andrew Gwilt   26/04/2016 at 22:51

If a 3rd runway is to be built then it would stop the proposal for a new international airport to the east of London in the Thames Estuary that Boris Johnson has planned his own way to built a new airport to the east of the Capital which a 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport is most likely needed despite environmental issues and air pollution where people live near to Heathrow Airport such as Staines which is about 2 miles from the airport and a mile from the M25 motorway.

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