Will this plan fly?

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After years of prevarication, the overnment has finally given the go-ahead to a third runway at Heathrow.

Announcing the decision, transport secretary Geoff Hoon stressed that Heathrow airport supports over 100,000 British jobs and was operating at around 99 per cent of lts maximum capacity. It was already losing ground to International hub airports in other competitor countries.

Hoon also stressed that the number of people affected by noise from aircraft had gone down and would continue to fall even with the extra runway. Air quality and public transport targets would also have to be mel.

Heathrow accounts for more than half the UK air freight traffic by weight, so the decision on a third runway will have a significant impact on logistics activity. Globalisation means more and more goods will be moved byair in the future.

BTFA director general Peter Quantrill points out that the airport ranks fourth in Europe for airfreight throughput and the new nmway will help Heathrow to maintain its status as a key global airfreight hub.

“The lack of nmway capacity at Heathrow has been a major contributory factor to the increased congestion and delays faced by ow’ members who move airfreight through Heathrow.”

BUI, opponents of the plan are not likely to give up easily. London mayor Boris Johnson, or “Bolo” as he is popularly known, has vowed to fight the third nmway arguing that “the govenunent is hell-bent on exacerbating a planning error of the 1940s and that Heathrow is not fit for purpose”,

He argues that there has never been a proper public debate on the issue and there now has to be. He is arguing for a new airport in the Thames estuary instead.

There have been similar proposals in the past but there is now significant support with Labour MP Nick Raynsford chairing a crossparty parliamentary group on the proposal. A site has been identified and Doug Oakervee, the engineer responsible for Hong Kong’s new airport, is working on a report for the mayor into whether a site in the estuary is feasible. His report is expected to be completed around the end of March.

Clearly, the opposition to the third runway at Heathrow is not about to go away. Christopher Snelling of the FlA points out that planning permission will probably not be obtained before the next general ejection. This could be a big problem for the scheme as a new governing party could easily decide not to go ahead.

LEZ is less

Bolo last month managed to destroy what little credibility the Low Emission Zonc ever had whcn hc suspended the third phase of the scheme. It would, he said, have a detrimental impact on small businesses. And big businesses, he might have added. To take a step back, the LEZ was introduced last year by thc previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, with the aim of stopping highly polluting vehicles from going into London. And, because of the draconian penalties, it has had some success in removing a tiny number of old lorries from the roads.

BUL anyone with half a brain long ago realised that to have any real impact on the vehicle-created poUution meant taking on the thousands of old cars and vans driving around London. Aecording to mayor Boris, there are abouL 90,000 vans and minibuses which from October 2010 would have faced a bill of up to £2,000 for abatement equipment, or £15,000 for a new vehicle. They would have alternatively faced £100 daily charges or fines of £500 for each day they entered Greater London.

“Many of these will be owned by small businesses, charities, and self-employed Londoners already hard hit by the recession. Simply put, the cost of fitting poUution equipment or getting a new vehicle would have come as a punch in the ribs to those who need uur help at this time, would have destroyed profit margins, and endangered our businesses. I am confident that the new course we have set finds a balance between London’s environmental and economic needs and that we can lower emissions in more imaginative ways,” he said.

He is now promising to work with Defra on a package of measures to address PM10 emissions in London to meet EU targets.

However, this decision really places a huge question mark over the functioning of the LEZ and in particular the plan to raise the bar for the vehicles that are affected by it. From January 2012, vehicles affected by phases one and two will have La meet the Euro IV standard to be able to come into London without penalty. Clearly a rethink of the whole strategy is urgently requlred.






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