Conservative Minister urges Heathrow night flight ban

Chelsea and Fulham MP and chief secretary to the Treasury, Greg Hands, has urged transport chiefs to ban all night flights at Heathrow airport, LondonNewsOnline has reported.

Citing research from international health bodies, including the World Health Organisation and the British Medical Journal, regarding the damaging impact on people’s wellbeing of sustained sleep deprivation, the Conservative minister has called for a night-time flying ban between the hours of 11pm and 6am. He said that he was frequently woken up at night by noise from aircraft passing over west London, adding that people’s lives were being unfairly disrupted.

His concerns were laid out in a letter to Lord Ahmed, the parliamentary undersecretary of state for transport, in which he stated that there should be a ‘comprehensive’ ban on night flights at Heathrow. He reportedly added: ‘For the past 27 years I have lived beneath the Heathrow flight path and, like many hundreds of thousands of Londoners, I am frequently woken up by aircraft noise. These Londoners have jobs to do and families to look after, for which they require a good night’s sleep. Accordingly, not only are people losing sleep because of being disturbed by aircraft noise during the night, but their daily lives are being indirectly affected by it.’

Mr Hands said that banning night flights for a seven-hour period each day would ‘lessen the detrimental impact on hundreds of thousands of Londoners living beneath the flight path’. He cited the example of Frankfurt airport, Europe’s fourth busiest airport, which has banned night flights between 11pm and 5am since 2012.

Local businesses support Gatwick expansion plans

Local businesses at Gatwick Airport have expressed their support for plans to expand the airport, according to This Is London.

Backing the Gatwick Airport submission, Rosemary French, executive director of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative (GDI) business forum, has written to the chairman of the Airports Commission, Sir Howard Davies, on behalf of 100 individual businesses and 12 business membership organisations, representing 5,500 businesses and neighbouring areas.

Ms French said: ‘Expansion at Gatwick with a second runway, alongside the maintenance of Heathrow as a two-runway airport, is the best next step in aviation provision for London and the South-east, because it is the most cost-effective of all the options, does not use public money, and the environmental implications are smaller.’

The Gatwick Diamond Initiative involves 38,000 businesses, which contribute £19 billion Gross Value Added (GVA), and has a population of 406,000 that are economically active.

Speaking of the Gatwick expansion in environmental terms, Ms French said: ‘We believe that the environmental blight that a third runway at Heathrow will bring to London communities is wholly unnecessary when a second runway could be built at Gatwick with far less environmental, noise and air pollution impact.

‘Gatwick already handles 9,233 passengers for every person affected by noise, compared to 261 passengers handled by Heathrow, according to the Airports Commission’s own report.’

According to officials at Gatwick airport, 19,000 jobs will be created as a result of a second runway, while the GDI is confident that the expansion could create up to 40,000 jobs by 2030.

The airport is also claimed to be the best connected in the UK especially to Central London.

Ms. French added: ‘Gatwick has a main railway line running through it that connects directly to London Bridge, St Pancras International and Victoria, as well as south to Brighton and the coast.

‘An expanded Gatwick Airport would be a catalyst to bring further improvements to the area with faster, more efficient public transport and surface access infrastructure, enabling employees to be attracted from neighbouring communities in London, Kent, West Surrey and East Sussex.’

Groups opposed to the expansion have however questioned the validity of local business support for the project.


Heathrow submits proposal for third runway

London Heathrow airport has submitted its formal proposal to the Airports Commission, offering three options for a third runway to address the UK’s lack of hub capacity.

The three options call for a new runway located north, north-west or south-west of the existing airport. Heathrow claims that all three options would be more competitive than any rival submission and will deliver extra capacity, at a cost of between GBP14 billion and GBP18 billion, operational by 2025 to 2029. However, GBP4 billion to GBP6 billion of the costs will be for public transport and noise mitigation and it is likely that that will be imposed on the taxpayer.

Both the north-west and south-west options will require a new Terminal 6, which would be similar in size and design to T5. The third north option would be the fastest and cheapest to complete, with a shorter 2.8km runway, restricting its use for larger four-engine aircraft like the A380. Construction would take five years from receiving planning consent, with an operational estimate of 2025 and total costs estimated at around GBP14 billion.

Heathrow said that it prefers the two westerly options, as the full-length runway allows for all aircraft types to take off and land, giving greater operational flexibility and also more periods of respite for local residents. The two westerly options also allow LHR to reduce its noise footprint by up to 20 percent by 2030.

The airport is already planning for a fourth runway, subject to an increase in demand. However, Heathrow CEO, Colin Matthews, said he believes a fourth runway will not be required until at least 2040.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has recently dismissed the claims that Heathrow could reduce its noise footprint with a third runway. Earlier this week, Johnson also announced his three preferred options of a four-runway hub to the east of the city.

However, Matthews reiterated the UK’s need for a hub airport, ‘with the capacity to provide the links to emerging economies which can boost UK jobs, GDP and trade. It is clear that the best solution for taxpayers, passengers and business is to build on the strength we already have at Heathrow.’

According to the airport, a new runway and terminal at London Heathrow would create between 70,000 and 150,000 new jobs, as opposed to ‘the biggest mass redundancy in UK history,’ expected if the government was to close Heathrow.

According to Johnson, this would be achieved either through a new-build hub in one of two locations in the Thames estuary, or a transformed Stansted. The estimated costs of the new-build options range from GBP50 billion to GBP70 billion, more than three times the amounts Heathrow quoted in its proposal.

Responding to the alternative option of building a four runway hub elsewhere in the capital, the Heathrow proposal said: ‘This [a third runway] is a more cost effective solution than building a new four runway airport from scratch when we may never need one.’

The Airports Commission is scheduled to announce a shortlist of feasible options by the end of the year, with a final decision expected in 2015.


Heathrow’s Fly Quiet initiative to rank airline noise levels

Heathrow airport’s forthcoming Fly Quiet initiative will see airlines that use the facility ranked by the level of noise that their aircraft produce.

The rankings will provide an overview of those airlines that are currently exceeding the permitted noise levels and work as a basis for a system of fines for the worst offenders. Fly Quiet will also involve some experimentation with alternative departure routes and steeper approaches, and the establishment of a noise insulation scheme for neighbouring homes and offices, when it gets under way later this year.

Colin Matthews, chief executive at Heathrow commented, ‘Heathrow is at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise and, as a result, even though the number of flights has almost doubled since the 1970s, fewer people are affected by noise.’ He added that noise reduction was an on-going priority for the airport that involved consultation with all affected parties.

Current regulations stipulate that aircraft that are classified among the noisiest are not allowed to land or take off between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am, which is designated as the ‘night period.’ The ‘night quota period,’ which operates between 11.30 pm and 6 am, is when other aircraft movements are limited by number and by an authorised noise level.

In addition to being the busiest of the UK’s airports, Heathrow is also situated in one of the most densely populated locations compared to other airports, including Stansted and Gatwick. These two conflicting factors mean that noise levels at the airport, especially at night, have long been a contentious issue.