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Noise and air quality to decide LHR expansion

[November 26th 2008]

Heathrow airport has guaranteed expansion will only go ahead if strict noise and air quality targets are met.

The airport is today asking the government to appoint an independent assessor to guarantee public confidence in noise and air quality limits if expansion is approved.

Heathrow says that even if a third runway is approved the number of flights at the airport will only be increased within the environmental limits.

And it also says it will only increase the number of flights using its two existing runways in mixed-mode at peak times when the airport has significantly enhanced punctuality and reliability to a standard developed with airlines, passengers and business groups.

“We have listened to the many arguments around expansion at Heathrow. Although the economic case remains compelling, we understand that we can only increase the number of flights if we can safeguard levels of noise and air quality,” says the chief executive of airport operator BAA, Colin Matthews.

“By calling on an independent assessor to scrutinise the airport’s performance against these limits, we are providing an uncompromising assurance that we will operate Heathrow Airport within the limits laid down by Government. If we don’t, the number of flights in and out of Heathrow could be capped,” continues Matthews.

The BAA boss says mixed-mode would only be used to increase the number of flights from Heathrow at peak times when punctuality has improved to an agreed standard.

“Today, Heathrow operates at 99.7% capacity, reducing resilience when problems arise. The extra flexibility offered by mixed-mode and the third runway will enable Heathrow to match the reliability of its international competitors,” Matthews states.

Heathrow says it will also work with airlines and other aviation industry partners to develop new technology which will reduce emissions and address the industry’s contribution to climate change.

Discussions are ongoing too about high-speed rail links to the airport. Heathrow says it plans to consult on a revised ground transport strategy to integrate a three-runway Heathrow with the UK transport network.

Written by: Nick Purdom