The Government-commissioned report that recommended a new runway at Heathrow significantly underestimated the costs of improving surface transport access, which could exceed £18bn, according to Transport for London (TfL).
In a report last month reviewing the Airports Commission’s findings, TfL claimed that the Commission had vastly underestimated the scale of new rail infrastructure required to accommodate increased demand without impacting background traffic and had therefore underestimated the total surface access costs of the new runway.
It said the total cost of highways enhancements, including bus corridors, was £6.4bn, with £12bn of rail enhancements needed, giving a total cost of £18.4bn. This compared with the Commissions figures of £3.3bn for highways and £0.8bn for rail, giving a total of £4.1bn.
Jets at London's Heathrow Airport
The costs of these improvements are to be met by the promoter of the airport’s expansion, i.e. its owner.
TfL said the Commission had based its modelling on only a partially utilised three-runway airport, whereas a fully utilised airport would see a doubling of passenger numbers.
It also pointed out that the Commission’s consultants had only stated that an airport access charge of £20-40 for cars and taxis ‘may be enough’ to keep journeys by these modes at current levels.
The report also says: ‘If Heathrow expansion is allowed to proceed without this scale of infrastructure intervention and road user charging, there will be significant consequences, both for the airport and the wider region…Indeed, one might question the wisdom of attempting airport expansion in a location where the surface access network faces such constraints.’
It adds: ‘Increased congestion will also exacerbate the air quality problem.'
The Commission’s approach to air quality, which is to allow expansion of Heathrow as long as it is not the only location breaching EU limits, has been widely criticised.
In December, the Government, which is facing ongoing legal action over its attempts to bring air pollution within EU limits, delayed its decision on the Commission’s recommendations to allow time to consider environmental issues.
Last month the cross-party Transport Select Committee heavily criticised the Government’s approach to airport transport access, highlighting that many have been left ‘completely disconnected from major road and rail infrastructure’.