Home Page Link Thaxted - under the present flightpath and threatened with quadrupled activity Takeley's 12th century parish church, close to proposed second runway Harcamlow Way, Bamber's Green - much of the long distance path and village would disappear under Runway 2 Clavering - typical of the Uttlesford villages threatened by urbanisation
Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport

image SSE NEWS ARCHIVE - October to November 2003

30 November 2003

THE FINANCIAL TIMES JUMPS THE GUN
ANOTHER RUMOUR – "STANSTED CHOSEN FOR SE AIRPORT EXPANSION"

These headlines greeted readers of yesterday's prestigious "Financial Times".
Further hard information was not forthcoming, only speculation and expectations.

Our Comment: Where did this rumour come from? Interested parties? Leaks designed to test reactions? There have been a series of such stories, to date all denied by the Government. We are surprised that a paper with the reputation of the Financial Times should present the story as fact. Write and tell the editor your views! Predictions that Stansted as well as Heathrow will also suffer from air pollution are persistently ignored. Such predictions cannot be mathematically removed by inventing new less polluting operational scenarios or by assuming that the smaller numbers of homes affected can simply be compulsory purchased. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law, and in the case of Air Quality legislation plants have protection too. Hatfield Forest cannot be dismissed or demolished.


THE OFFENDING ARTICLE
Darling rules out third runway at Heathrow for now
Cathy Newman, Chief Political Correspondent - Financial Times - 29 November 2003

Stansted is set to get the first new airport runway in south-east England for almost 20 years following a decision by the transport secretary that further expansion at Heathrow would not be possible in the near future without breaking European pollution laws.

Alistair Darling will next month defy the threat of a legal challenge from the airline industry when he unveils the 30-year strategy for British aviation, aimed at addressing an expected surge in air traffic.

However, he is expected to leave the door open for a third runway at Heathrow later in the 30 year period.

The airline companies, which have lobbied the Government intensively in recent months, said last night Mr Darling was making a "historic mistake" not to give Heathrow the green light for immediate expansion. They claim that restricting growth at the south-east's main aviation hub will hand airports in France and the Netherlands a huge competitive advantage.

A White Paper to be published in mid-december will set out the government's belief that building another runway at Heathrow in the short term would breach EU rules on emissions of the dangerous pollutant nitrogen dioxide. Expansion at Gatwick is prohibited until 2019 because of a 24 year-old deal with West Sussex County Council, so Stansted in Essex remains the only realistic option over the next decade.

The prospect of a new airport at Cliffe, on the Thames estuary, has been ruled out because of protests from bird-lovers and environmentalists. The decision is almost certain to be challenged in the courts, but the government believes, having taken legal advice, that it is on firm ground.

Big airlines, such as BA and Virgin Atlantic say that building at Stansted rather than Heathrow is legally contentious because the new runway could be funded by landing fees they pay, yet it would largely benefit rival companies based at the Essex airport.

This report goes on to quote Andrew Cahn of British Airways, who said he had "no idea" what the government would decide, … they should first build a runway which the market wants and where there's a demand…"

The report concludes by suggesting that Mr Darling has not yet made up his mind as to whether the second new runway could be built at Heathrow and avoid breaches of the EU Air Quality law.

Pat Dale


30 November 2003

FOOTNOTE ON RAIL

High-speed trains on track – but not to UK
Andrew Clark reports - The Guardian - 28 November 2003

Britain's railways were left languishing as the poor relation of Europe yesterday as France's high- speed TGV network announced ambitious plans to roll out 200 mph trains across the continental mainland.

The report goes on to describe how passengers could reach Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Fankfurt and Munich in from 3 to 5 or 6 hours from Paris. It goes on to compare French and UK performance and plans.

The UK Strategic Authority has plans for one service to Scotland, which is unlikely to be built until 2020. From being a leader in rail travel the UK is now the "slowcoach".

SNCF's chairman, Louis Gallois said that a more enlightened view towards railways could have avoided the British Government's dilemma over how to expand London's airports. "It's so difficult to build airports – it's a good thing to have high-speed railways to relieve the need for airports."

Our Comment: Mr Darling, please note.

Pat Dale


27 November 2003

BAA CLAIMS THAT THE PROBLEM OF AIR POLLUTION FROM AIRPORTS CAN BE SOLVED
"AIR QUALITY TARGETS WILL BE MET"

How will this come about?
BAA Gatwick hosts first air quality seminar

BAA Gatwick hosted the airport's first air quality seminar on Thursday 13th November at the Hilton Hotel.

A panel of experts from across the UK joined representatives from BAA Gatwick to deliver a series of presentations, which explained why air quality is such an important issue, how air quality is measured, and what the airport and other organisations are doing to improve it.

The seminar was attended by over 50 delegates including members of Gatwick's Consultative Committee, who represent local government, environment and community groups, policy makers from local NHS Trusts and senior managers from companies across the airport.

Roger Cato, BAA Gatwick's managing director, introduced the seminar, which focused on examining local air quality issues, as well as climate change on a global level. He said: "Air quality is a technically complex and emotive issue and is increasingly important to our local communities and other stakeholders."

"The seminar provided an opportunity to build understanding of key policy, technical and health issues concerning air quality at Gatwick, while hearing first hand the progress being made by BAA Gatwick and other organisations to improve air quality."

Dr Graham Earl, BAA Gatwick's environment strategy manager, highlighted the fact that while the number of passengers at Gatwick has risen in recent years, measured No2 levels on the airport has fallen.

He explained: "Advances in aircraft and vehicle engine technology, an improved understanding of the sources of emissions, together with our own air quality management programme, has contributed towards this improving performance."

He also illustrated that monitoring in the local community showed that all government air quality objectives were currently being met.

He continues: "However, we are not complacent and there is still room for improvement, but by adopting a responsible, integrated approach to tackling the issue in partnership with our airlines, local authorities, government and environmental specialists, we are demonstrating the progress which can be achieved."

BAA Gatwick has undertaken a range of activities to address local air quality, which include:

* Cutting fuel emissions by providing fixed electrical ground powers units for all aircraft stands and restricting the use of mobile ground power units

* Re-building the airport's fire-training ground so that in future, most training exercises can use the more environmentally-friendly liquid petroleum gas rather than kerosene

* Contributing towards local authority costs for air quality monitoring and to play an active part in local air quality management action plans

* Continuous air quality monitoring on the airport and a commitment to re-assess airport contributions to local air quality every 3 years

* Commitment to play an active part in influencing our business partners and other key stakeholders in the developments and take-up of new "cleaner" technologies

* Initiatives and incentives to improve the emission's performance of the on airport vehicle fleet

Our Comment: A little vague, paying for more monitoring will not help to reduce emissions. Of course, more electrical ground power units will help - and more electrically operated vehicles. The fact remains that aircraft are still the most polluting form of transport. Are BAA going to back those who are moving towards a greener-by-design aircraft? Will they introduce emission pollution charges at their airports?

Pat Dale


27 November 2003

BIGGER AND BIGGER AIRCRAFT
What are the effects on noise and pollution?

BAA set to spend £450m on developing Heathrow
by Kevin Done - 26 November 2003 - Financial Times

BAA, the UK airports group, is planning to invest about £450m at Heathrow during the next 10 years to prepare the airport to handle the A380 super-jumbo, the world's biggest-ever commercial aircraft, which is due to enter service in the second quarter of 2006.

The highly congested airport, the world's busiest international aviation hub, will be one of the main centres for services of the 555-passenger double-decker airliner with carriers including Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Qantas and Singapore Airlines expected to fly the A380 to and from London.

The aircraft that is being developed at a cost of about $12bn ( £7bn) will have a big impact on Heathrow and could be accounting for 12 per cent of the airport's business within a decade of its introduction.

Paul Fairbairn, BAA development strategy director, said the aircraft would launch a new era at Heathrow in 2006 and would account for one in every eight flights or 60,000 take-offs and landings a year by 2016.

At present one in every nine flights at Heathrow is a Boeing 747 jumbo, but introduction of the A380 with 35 per cent more passenger capacity will enable nearly 10m more passengers to fly to and from the airport with no increase in flights.

Virgin Atlantic, the UK long-haul airline controlled by Sir Richard Branson, will become the first European operator of the A380 with the first of six firm orders due for delivery in July 2006, only a couple of months after Singapore Airlines becomes the world's first carrier to operate the aircraft.

Heathrow is already operating at peak capacity in terms of aircraft movements with no free slots available for most of the day.

Sir Richard called on the government to make the building of a third short runway at Heathrow an urgent priority of its long-awaited aviation white paper, due to be published late next year, rather than the addition of a second runway at Stansted. "We don't want to see a white elephant built at Stansted and financed by Heathrow," Sir Richard said. He called for BAA's three London airports to be broken up into separate companies.

Virgin, which will be the first A380 operator on the North Atlantic, said it would start its initial services between London and New York's JFK airport in summer 2006. In the following two years it plans to launch the A380 on routes between Heathrow and Los Angeles and Hong Kong, as well as to Sydney, if it can gain traffic rights to pick up passengers in Hong Kong for Australia. Other possible destinations are Tokyo, Johannesburg and Washington.


27 November 2003

THE BALANCE OF PAYMENTS WAS WORSE

The National Statistics Office reports on tourism last year
17 November 2003

UK citizens spent £27bn abroad last year, mostly in Europe. Incoming tourists spent only £11.7bn. This is an increased loss to the balance of payments of a record £15.2bn. Officials said that it was the main reason for the country's overall trade deficit in 2002 of £19bn.

Our Comment: Does the Government really want to facilitate this drain by encouraging more opportunities for cheap travel to Europe? More air traffic? More runways?

Pat Dale


26 November 2003

MORE THREATS OF LEGAL ACTION?

East Anglian Daily Times - 24 November 2003

CAMPAIGNERS opposed to the expansion of Stansted Airport have received a boost after another organisation threatened legal action to halt the development.

The latest organisation to talk of possible court action is Bar UK, which is unhappy that the Government proposes to expand Stansted ahead of Heathrow and Gatwick, despite Stansted being expected to find it hard to pay for its own development.

Bar UK, is the trade association for scheduled airlines doing business in Britain.

The trade association wants the Government to build a third, short, runway at Heathrow airport in west London and a second runway at Gatwick airport in West Sussex.

But Bar UK said that, should the Government opt for a new runway at Stansted, it was doubtful if it could be funded from the income generated there. It said the money would have to come from profits made by airport operator BAA at Heathrow and Gatwick.

Bar UK's chairman, Mike Carter, said: "If the Government proposes to develop new runway capacity at Stansted before Heathrow and Gatwick, and to have that expansion funded by the users of BAA's other two London airports, I expect Bar UK members to support a recourse to legal action."

Chairman of the Stop Stansted Expansion Campaign (SSEC) Norman Mead said: "This confirms our view and although we don't wish the runway on Heathrow or anywhere else, it is good to see our arguments are being listened to."

Mr Mead said a report into the economics at Stansted Airport by Professor David Starkie made similar points as those made by Bar UK.

The report was commissioned by SSE and Uttlesford District Council and sent to MPs, airline operators, local authorities and other interested organisations.

Mr Mead said: "It is very much a deeper problem than just putting in a runway at Stansted. It has got to be paid for, it has got to be economical, airlines have got to want it and it has got to be sustainable. It is none of those things."

"We are looking at what further legal action we could take if things go against us but it is good to see these arguments being made elsewhere."

BAA admit that, while a new runway at Stansted was financially feasible, "the charges needed to remunerate the investment would need to be shared across users of the London system as a whole rather than applied to Stansted users only."

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, who is expected to publish the Government's White Paper on airport expansion in London next month, has said that "doing nothing is not an option" as he seeks to lay down a firm policy to cope with aviation demands for the next 30 years.

Other problems facing Mr Darling as he prepares the White Paper include, a third runway at Heathrow raises huge environmental issues; A long-standing agreement not to expand Gatwick before 2019 would have to be overturned to build a new runway there; The operators of Luton airport are threatening legal action if expansion at the Bedfordshire airport is ruled out; The Civil Aviation Authority has expressed concern at allowing charges at one airport to pay for expanding another.


24 November 2003

BAA MAKES NEW CLAIMS - FACT OR FICTION?

BAA tells Treasury that aviation is Britain's
most heavily taxed form of public transport

BAA Press Release - 18 November 2003

BAA chief executive, Mike Clasper, has written to the Chancellor cautioning against increasing taxes on aviation, citing new research which shows that aviation is the most heavily-taxed form of public transport in Britain.

The research, by the respected independent economist Bridget Rosewell of Volterra Consulting, provides a detailed assessment of the disparities in the tax and subsidy treatment of air, rail and bus travel.

Volterra found that railways receive a net subsidy from the Government of over £1.6 billion a year, equivalent to almost half their annual revenues, and the bus industry receives a net subsidy of around £650 million, equivalent to one-seventh of its annual revenues. Aviation, however, makes a net annual contribution to the Exchequer of around £750 million and receives only negligible subsidies for Scottish highlands and islands flights.

In per passenger terms, air passengers contribute £4.15 per journey to the Exchequer, while rail passengers are subsidised by £1.69 per journey and bus passengers by £0.15 per journey.

Volterra concluded that if aviation enjoyed the same treatment as the railway industry, aviation's tax bill would be cut by nearly £300 million a year - equivalent to cutting average air fares from £136 per return trip to £89.

The research was commissioned by BAA, to provide an authoritative independent examination of claims by pressure groups that aviation enjoys favoured tax treatment and is heavily subsidised.

BAA chief executive, Mike Clasper, in his letter to the Chancellor, wrote: "Volterra's report reveals that aviation is already the most highly-taxed form of public transport in Britain and is the only mode of transport making a significant net contribution to public funds, while both the rail and bus sectors receive very large subsidies.

"Speculation is rife in the press that you may be considering an increase in Air Passenger Duty, in order to ensure that air transport fully captures its environmental externalities in its cost structures. I believe that air transport, like any other form of transport or industry, should cover its external costs, but that it should not be treated unfavourably, compared to other forms of transport or industry.

"Aviation is already far closer to covering its external costs than any other form of public transport, so the imposition of any further taxes on aviation alone would be punitive and inequitable.

"Taxes such as APD are blunt and ineffective instruments for dealing with environmental impacts. While they might capture the monetised value of the impacts, they leave the impacts themselves unaddressed. Far better are instruments which target and reduce the impacts at source, or which use market mechanisms, such as emissions trading, to incentivise real reductions in the impacts."

Mr Clasper added: "The aviation industry does not object to the financial support that Government provides for railways and buses, but asks that air transport is treated fairly and not singled out for punitive treatment. The UK gets a great financial deal out of aviation; not only do we pay for all our own infrastructure and operations, but we pay £750 million a year in net taxes to the Treasury on top."

Our Comment: His "facts" are suspect. What do YOU think of his arguments? Views please to p.m.dale@btinternet.com

Pat Dale


Graham Young replies:

I think the flaw in BAA's claims is the fact that most of aviation is NOT public transport. Most people fly for leisure or business and because they have no "public transport" alternative. If aviation is public transport then so is my car because both fit the same profile - polluting and desirable.

If you accept this and then compare taxation on aviation to taxation on car usage, you can see that the aviation industry is getting a very good deal from the government.

Public Transport commonly typifies a mode of transport that is partially public funded because it provides a more environmentally friendly alternative compared to other forms of transport. If aviation were public transport then my mother would probably have a free, government provided "plane pass". I can't see anyone suggesting that OAPs need free flights!


Brian Ross makes 16 points:

1) Air travel is exempt from fuel duty, VAT and environmental tax/charges.

2)  If aviation fuel was taxed at the same rate as the motorist pays for unleaded petrol, this would raise £6.3 billion a year for the Exchequer (precisely the amount required to fund a £25 a week increase in the single state retirement pension).

3) The VAT and other exemptions have been estimated at about £5 billion a year, making a total tax break of over £11 billion.

4) Compared to this, Air Passenger Duty collects only about £850 million a year.

5) The motorist pays a total of about £43 billion to the Exchequer. This amounts to net taxation of about £38 billion after allowing for investment in road building and road maintence.

6) Road transport accounts for about four times the level of carbon emissions but contributes more than 40 times as much in taxation.

7) In terms of the climate change impact, it is estimated (by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) that emissions from aviation are about 3 times more damaging compared to emissions from surface transport. This is because of the much greater impact of emissions at high altitude.

8) [Derived from the preceding points (6) and (7)], the climate change impact of air travel is three quarters of the climate change impact of road travel - but road travel pays 40 times more in (net) taxation.

9) Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

10) The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the Sustainable Development Commission, the Institute of Public Policy Research, the European Environmental Agency - as well as others - have called for an end to subsidised air travel and have suggested that the cost of the average air ticket should increase by between £35 and £40 in order to address the problem of its increasing impact upon climate change.

11) It is disingenuos of BAA to describe aviation as "public transport".  When the airlines start putting clippies on the aircraft, giving free passes to senior citizens, and start providing scheduled services for the benefit of the poorer members of society, and for remote communities, then they might be entitled to make this claim.

12) Even buses and trains pay fuel duty - albeit at a modest rate compared to the motorist.

13) In the US, Japan and elsewhere, aircraft pay fuel duty for domestic flights.  There is nothing to prevent the UK government introducing a tax on fuel for domestic air travel.

14)  The Government is committed to making aviation pay the environmental damage it causes.  The Government is also entitled to decide that aviation should pay its fair share of the general taxation needed to fund decent schools, hospitals, retirement pensions etc.  The industry should accept its obligations to pay for the damage it causes to the environment and, in addition, its fair share of general taxation.  It is outrageous that BAA should be seeking to wriggle out from these obligations to society.

15) The BAA Report, by Volterra Consulting, was commissioned and paid for by BAA.  It deserves the same 'health warning' as air travel itself.

16) Apart from omitting to mention aviation's wide ranging tax breaks, the report also fails to mention that there is a history of the Government subsidising the development and manufacture of the aircraft themselves - everything from the billions of subsidy to develop Concorde to the most recent £500 million of taxpayers money given to the development of the new Airbus.


23 November 2003

QC BACKS BA'S HEATHROW FIGHT
by Dominic O'Connell - The Sunday Times - 23 November 2003

BRITISH AIRWAYS has told ministers they can give the green light to a new runway at Heathrow without fear of judicial challenge from environmental protesters. Rod Eddington, BA's chief executive, has commissioned a legal opinion from John Steel QC, one of Britain's leading planning-law experts, on the likelihood of a challenge to a third runway. The report, in which Steel judges a challenge unlikely to succeed, was sent to the government last Tuesday.

It is the latest salvo in a barrage of evidence BA has sent to ministers in the past few weeks in support of a new Heathrow runway.  Alistair Darling, transport secretary, is expected to set out the government's choice of a site for a new runway in southeast England in a matter of weeks. Senior executives at BA and other airlines operating from Heathrow are becoming increasingly worried that the government will choose Stansted as the first site for development.

On Thursday, Eddington, Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, and Sir Michael Bishop, chairman of BMI British Midland, wrote to Tony Blair saying that the choice of Stansted would be an error. "We believe it would be a historic mistake to constrain the industry by requiring development in a location that is unsuitable for the needs of the market. It is also clear that funding for such a development would not be forthcoming," the letter said.

Government insiders expect Darling to pick Stansted, but leave the door open for the development of Heathrow a few years later. Ministers fear that European Union emission regulations may provide protesters with grounds to mount a judicial review if Heathrow is chosen for development first. But Steel, in a 30-page legal opinion, says that the government could easily see off any attempt at a judicial review.

"A decision of the secretary of state and government to include in the white paper (a third runway at Heathrow) as the principal or first option to accommodate the need for additional runway capacity in the southeast would be wholly in accordance with the law and would easily be defensible if any challenge by way of an application for judicial review were to be made," said Steel.

BA has also sent technical evidence to the Department of Transport, challenging emission forecasts that suggest Heathrow would be in breach of European Union standards. BA's own research found that emission levels around the airport were much lower than had been thought.

Airline-industry sources said ministers were now examining interim measures to increase Heathrow's capacity. Among these is a switch to "mixed-mode" working, which would allow take-offs and landing on each of the airport's runways. Heathrow is at present operated in "segregated" mode, with each runway handling only take-offs or landings.

Our Comment: There are always differing legal opinions on the coverage of any new legislation especially that based on a European Directive. Breaches of Environmental laws should be challenged - they are there for our protection. The situation at Stansted would be no better than at Heathrow - the predictions are that air quality legislation will be breached. The population may be smaller but everyone has rights that need to be protected. The same legislation also protects vegetation. Hatfield Forest, near Stansted airport is the most complete surviving example of a Forest dating from the early medieval period. It has over 850 ancient trees, some over 600 years old and is in the top ten forests in the UK. The National Trust is already concerned that the threshold limits for damage have been exceeded now, at 18 mppa. Does the destruction of 1049 acres of such irreplaceable forest not concern the Government? or the European Commission?

Pat Dale


23 November 2003

MORE AIRLINE BATTLES

Air France attacks Ryanair - Ryanair attacks Air France
Andrew Clark reports in the Guardian - 22 November 2003

RYANAIR DEMANDS APOLOGY FROM AIR FRANCE

Ryanair yesterday wrote to Air France's boss, Jean-Cyril Spinetta, demanding a formal apology for a highly unusual public statement in which the French carrier accused the Irish low-cost airline of spreading "fallacious information".

The dispute between the two airlines over flights to Strasbourg airport reached boiling point this week as Ryanair's boss, Michael O'Leary, launched an attack on Air France's fares. In a newspaper article, Mr O'Leary claimed that the French airline's cheapest mid-week ticket from London to Strasbourg cost Euros 780 or £570 return.

Air France insisted the figure was inaccurate, claiming it was "proof that consumers should not take Mr O'Leary's statements at face value, as he frequently has recourse to disinformation and untruths when making public pronouncements". The airline continued "Consumers should not be taken in by the fallacious information put out by Mr O'Leary. It is about time that they understood that Ryanair does not compete fairly." Air France claimed its cheapest price was Euros 56 though this was a weekend fare and not midweek.

The two airlines have been at war since September when Ryanair was forced to withdraw from Strasbourg following a successful court challenge by Air France which claimed that its deal with the city's airport was illegal. Now Air France's subsidiary has restarted the route from Strasbourg to Gatwick, Ryanair claims the airline is "ripping off" consumers and says passenger numbers have collapsed.

The Irish airline is fighting a rearguard action to fend off the expected ruling by the European commission that its cheap deals with publicly owned airports constitute illegal state aid.

The report concludes with a quote from BA's boss Rod Eddington, "The EC should apply their existing rules on state aid without fear or favour. No one should receive special treatment, no matter how loud they shout."

Our Comment: Repeat that quote – "No one should receive special treatment, no matter how loud they shout". We are happy to agree with BA. It must of course include all the special taxation favours enjoyed by all airlines and airports to the detriment of increasing numbers of those who live round airports.


ANOTHER LETTER TO TONY BLAIR
This time from the Airlines

Kevin Done reports in the Financial Times - 22 November 2003

Leaders of the airline industry buried their rivalries yesterday to issue a joint appeal to Tony Blair to make the building of a third runway at Heathrow airport the top priority of the aviation White Paper due to be published next month.

The report goes on to say that the letter tried to allay fears that Heathrow expansion would breach the Air Quality legislation "by the end of the decade", as predicted in the Government's consultation document. The airline chiefs were confident that the main environmental concerns could be addressed.

Our Comment: Well, they would say that wouldn't they! We understood that levels of nitrogen dioxide are already above mandatory limits around Heathrow. If they have not found a solution to an existing problem how will they solve it in 10 years time with even more aircraft and aircraft related traffic? It can't all be blamed on passing vehicles!

Exactly the same excesses are predicted for an expanded Stansted, fewer houses in a rural area but the legislation also covers plant life – Hatfield Forest and farming land. BAA themselves predicted in the Environmental Impact Assessment for expansion to 25 mppa that there would be breaches at Stansted. As with Heathrow efforts have been made to reduce these predictions but, as long as aircraft engines continue to emit significant amounts of pollutants, local air quality will be affected.


MICHAEL O'LEARY STATES HIS CASE
In defence of the low-fare airline revolution

by Michael O'Leary - 20 November 2003 - Financial Times

The European Commission will shortly complete its investigation into Ryanair's low cost base at Brussels Charleroi Airport in Belgium. Will the Commission allow publicly owned airports to compete on a level playing field against privately owned airports? Or will the Commission prevent government-owned airports from competing and end the low-fare revolution pioneered by Ryanair at underused airports such as Charleroi?

The chief beneficiary of the Ryanair revolution has been the European consumer, who can now travel right across Europe at prices that start from less than Euros 10 ( £7). This year, Ryanair's 24m passengers will pay an average one-way fare of just over Euros 40 before tax. Consumers are not the only beneficiaries. Secondary and regional airports in the UK have enjoyed rapid traffic and profit growth over the past decade. So have those airports in continental Europe where Ryanair and EasyJet, among others, have expanded rapidly. This case is not just about Ryanair: it is about promoting more competition between private and public airports to lower costs for the benefit of the consumer.

Southwest Airlines of the US has a 30-year record of growth, in part based on encouraging local communities and airports to bid against each other for the enormous benefits that flow from the carrier's investment in their local communities. Developers of out-of-town shopping malls compete to attract the big retailers such as Tesco, J. Sainsbury and Ikea. What Ryanair has done at Brussels Charleroi is no different.

In 2001, Brussels Charleroi was an unused, empty airport, competing against a number of privately owned airports such as Glasgow Prestwick, Frankfurt Hahn and Stockholm Skavsta to be selected as Ryanair's next European base. Charleroi was successful and, as a consequence, Ryanair traffic at the airport has grown in just two years from zero to more than 2m passengers. It is only because of this success that high-cost competitors like Brussels International Airport are now asking the Commission to take action that would block Ryanair's growth, limit competition and force up air fares.

If the Commission does not allow competition between public and private airports, high fares will return to many other European airports and the surrounding regions. At Strasbourg, a court case brought by Air France recently succeeded in blocking Ryanair's low-cost deal, forcing us to move services to Baden-Baden. Air France/Britair has replaced Ryanair's Euros 19 return fares to London with a midweek lowest fare of Euros 780 return, over 40 times more expensive than Ryanair. As a result, traffic to London has collapsed. Is this really the future for air travel in Europe?

European integration and the free movement of people depend on low-cost air travel. Air travel should not be the preserve of the rich. But if the Commission rules against Ryanair's Charleroi operation, that will be the inevitable consequence. EasyJet's deal at Berlin will be the next to be challenged by its high-cost competitors. Costs will rise and consumers will be forced to pay higher fares.

Ryanair's deal at Charleroi complied with the European Union's state aid rules. First, Ryanair pays a fee for every passenger - we are not, as some have claimed, net recipients of subsidies. Second, the agreement, which was offered to all our competitors, is already the most widely publicised airport deal in history. It could not be more transparent. Third, if competitors think the cost base at Charleroi is so low, they should stop complaining and move there. Charleroi has offered them a similar deal, so there is no question of distorting competition. Fourth, the state aid rules allow the Walloon government to use lower prices to stimulate traffic at an unused airport facility in exactly the same way that every private airport reduces its charges if it wishes to grow its business.

Europe's passengers have been ripped off for more than 40 years. Before Ryanair, airports, airlines and regulators conspired to protect national carriers at the expense of consumers. We negotiate hard but fair deals with underused airports. They cut their charges; we deliver low fares and enormous traffic growth. Above all, we then pass on these lower costs to passengers and force our high-fare competitors to reduce their prices. What we do is great for passengers and good for Europe. If the Commission wants the interests of consumers to come first, it must support us.

The writer is chief executive of Ryanair

Pat Dale


23 November 2003

THE GOVERNMENT'S VIEW ON HEATHROW POLLUTION

From the Report from Westminster - Written Answers to Parliamentary Questions - 19 November 2003

Heathrow Pollutants

Mr. Randall (Con, Uxbridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what research he has commissioned on methods of maintaining levels of nitrogen dioxide around Heathrow Airport within EU limits; (2) whether a third runway at Heathrow Airport would remain an acceptable option in the forthcoming Aviation White Paper in the event that relevant pollutants could not be contained within EU limits; (3) what assessment his Department has made of the action plan to minimise emissions from Heathrow Airport which BAA plc was required to produce as a condition of the planning permission for the fifth terminal.

Mr. McNulty: The Government has reviewed a wide range of evidence, including information contained within the BAA pic Air Quality Strategy and Action Plan, in considering the future development of Heathrow. The Government remains of the view that a new runway at Heathrow could not be considered unless it could be confident that levels of all relevant pollutants could be consistently contained within EU limits. Final decisions will be announced in the forthcoming air transport White Paper.

Our Comment: We must remind the Minister that the same concerns must apply to Stansted.

Pat Dale


21 November 2003

A DEBATE ON SUSTAINABLE AVIATION

Thanks to the MP for Putney, Tony Coleman, MPs were able to debate this vital question. The debate was held in Westminster Hall - 18 November 2003

Tony Coleman has gone into great detail on the need for the environmental impacts of aviation to be fully taken into consideration when planning future aviation expansion. He considers the need for environmentally friendly aircraft and asks why successive governments have not invested in the necessary technology.

The debate should be read in full. It covers all the important points, all of which SSE has already made, and now they are being presented to MPs.

A full Report can be found on this website. Read it!

Pat Dale


21 November 2003

NEWS FROM WESTMINSTER

House of Commons
Oral Answers from the Secretary of State for Transport

Air Transport (Energy Efficiency)

4. Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South): What estimate he has made of the energy efficiency of (a) high-speed train travel and (b) short-haul flights for journeys (i) within the United Kingdom and (ii) between the United Kingdom and France.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): I am aware there have been a number of studies, but with no firm conclusions.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that if there were synchronisation between rail and air travel in the advance booking systems, more people would use the rail services?

Mr. Darling: I agree that it is important to provide people with better choice in transport, and I can tell my hon. Friend that, once the first phase of the west coast modernisation is complete next year, journey times between Birmingham and London, for example, will come down to just over one hour and 20 minutes, and between Manchester and London to just over two hours. Those journey times will provide a favourable choice compared with travelling by air. In relation to domestic journeys and those made using the new channel tunnel rail link, I believe that rail can offer a very good choice, providing a faster journey. The key is to ensure that it is reliable as well.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Will the Secretary of State come to one firm conclusion now—namely that RAF Northolt should be eliminated from the review on airport facilities in the south-east of England for short-haul operations? The airfield is far too small, it is in a highly built-up area, and I am sure that his ministerial colleague, the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) would concur that there would be fury from local residents if short-haul scheduled services were permitted there.

Mr. Darling: I have made it clear on a number of occasions that we will deal with all airports in the aviation White Paper, which we will publish next month. The hon. Gentleman will just have to wait and see what our conclusions are.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): Obviously we welcome my right hon. Friend's comments on using the tunnel. I think that it is a benefit, but it ought to be a benefit for all in the UK. Will he try to ensure that there are direct links from the north-west to give us the same service and benefits that people get in the south-west and the south-east?

Mr. Darling: My hon. Friend makes a good point. The first stage of the channel tunnel rail link was opened in September, and I am pleased to tell the House that today the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty), was able to present a bouquet of flowers to the millionth passenger to use that service since then. [Hon. Members: Ooh!] I understand that the reaction of the passenger was just the same as that of hon. Members, and that the upgrade to first class was probably more greatly appreciated than the opportunity to meet my hon. Friend.

The point is that the channel tunnel rail link means that journey times between London and Paris and Brussels are reduced, and that the journey between London and Paris will come down to two and a half hours when the project is completed in 2007. When the route runs through to St. Pancras, it will allow for far better connections to the rest of the country. As I was saying a moment ago, that will provide a better choice for passengers wishing to go to the continent. It does not, of course, get round the point that it is likely that the demand for air travel—not just to Europe, but to other parts of the country—will continue to grow as well. That is one of the things that we have to consider as we reach our conclusions in relation to aviation.

Airports White Paper

7. Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): When he plans to publish his White Paper on airports in the south-east of England.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): We expect to publish the air transport White Paper covering the whole of the UK next month.

Mr. Lilley: I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. When he publishes the White Paper, will he ignore the blustering threats of legal action by the operators of Luton airport and accept that there is massive local opposition—I have got another 1,000 signatures to add to the many that he has already received—to over-expansion of the airport to the size of Gatwick? There are no direct rail links to the airport, and the overflying stacked above it means that it will be less safe. The airport is closed more frequently than any other airport serving London because of weather conditions, and, on the right hon. Gentleman's own calculations, development is the least cost-effective option of all those that he is considering.

Mr. Darling: I am aware of the right hon. Gentleman's strong feelings about development at Luton because he has made them clear on previous occasions. My answer to him, as it will be to everyone else who catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, is that people just have to wait a short while longer before finding out our conclusions.

Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North): While there is always some opposition to airport development, my right hon. Friend must know that there is strong support for the development of Luton locally. There is unanimous support among Government Members for the development and even, I think, strong support among Opposition Members. Is it not the case that Luton could be expanded quickly, simply and cheaply and contribute substantially to airport needs?

Mr. Darling: My hon. Friend is right that, in relation to just about every airport in the country, there are strong feelings both for and against. I am acutely aware of the fact that when I publish the White Paper there will be a lynching party from one direction or another.

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford): Regardless of what is in the White Paper, it is crucial that our scrutiny of the Government's plans is both informed and thorough. Will the Secretary of State therefore confirm that he will publish the evidence that he receives before the White Paper, and that he will give us a proper, full debate in this House in January?

Mr. Darling: The question of whether the matter will be debated is in the hands of the usual channels, but for my part I would welcome a debate. As I have said, whatever we decide, our conclusions are bound to be controversial, and there are bound to be strong feelings on both sides of the argument. Indeed, I know of the hon. Gentleman's feelings about the issue of airports in his constituency, because he has spoken to me about it.

When we publish the White Paper, we shall of course then publish the representations that have been received, but perhaps it would help the hon. Gentleman and the House if I point out that the White Paper will set out a framework against which the industry and people can plan for the future. It is not as if its publication will be the end of the story, with no more debate. If further expansion takes place, there are planning procedures to go through and there will be all manner of debate and discussion, so there will be plenty of opportunity in this House and elsewhere to discuss the proposals. But it is important that we publish the White Paper, because it will be the first time since the mid-1980s that a Government have set out what their strategy ought to be, taking into account the fact that more and more people are flying for business and leisure reasons. Any Government have a duty to set out a framework against which people can plan.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): Can the Secretary of State reassure the House that he will not seek to decant the excess growth that cannot be absorbed by London airports to other regional airports without there being environmental frameworks in place of a similar standard to those in the south-east, in order to protect the communities surrounding those airports?

Mr. Darling: On the first point, the demand and pressure on airports is not just a phenomenon in the south-east of England—it is happening right across the country. As I have said many times, this year about half the population will fly at least once, and of course, a substantial number fly more often than that. As I have also mentioned before, in 1998 about 5 million people flew on low-cost airlines, but this year the figure will be in excess of 45 million. That is happening throughout the country. However, my hon. Friend makes the important point that environmental measures must be put in place to ensure that the environment is preserved. As we have said on many occasions, aviation, like every other industry, has to meet the consequences of the damage that it causes, so his point about environmental protection is very important.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): The High Court ruled that the Government's air transport White Paper was flawed, and I trust that the Secretary of State will agree that the consequence has been even more delay. That has meant uncertainty for those who live around Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and other airports in the south-east, and a continuing planning blight. Has he ever apologised for getting the White Paper so wrong that the High Court had to throw it out and the Government had to start again?

Mr. Darling: The White Paper has not been published yet, so if there has been a ruling against it I should be very surprised. What I think the hon. Gentleman is trying to get at is the consultation process, during which, as he rightly says, the Government took the view that Gatwick should be excluded because of the legal agreement between the then British Airports Authority and the county council. Before he starts demanding apologies, I should point out that many of his colleagues representing constituencies around Gatwick welcomed that decision when it was taken.

The hon. Gentleman will recall that on 28 November last year, I told the House that, in the light of the High Court ruling, rather than prolonging the agony, we should consult on the basis that Gatwick had to be considered, and we are now doing that. As I pointed out 12 months ago, that would inevitably mean a delay in reaching our conclusions, which I had originally hoped to publish in the summer. I made it clear then that they would not be published until the end of this year, and I am determined that they should be published by then—that is, next month—so that the problems of blight and uncertainty that the hon. Gentleman complains of can be addressed.

Written Answers 17 November

Heathrow Airport

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effect on regional economies of a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Mr. McNulty: The assessment of additional capacity options is based on direct benefits to passengers from allowing more people to fly and giving passengers a greater choice of timings and routeings. No assessment has been made of the wider economic benefits including those to regional economies of additional airport capacity, though some of these will be captured in the direct benefits, particularly to business passengers.

House of Lords

Oral Answer

Airport Capacity

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether their consideration of airport capacity in the south-east includes the option of a new airport in the Thames estuary.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has made it clear that he would consider all serious proposals for new airport capacity submitted in response to the consultation paper. A number of proposals that are alternatives to, or variants of, options set out in the consultation have been submitted. Those include proposals for new airports in, and around, the Thames estuary area.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Will he confirm that there are no serious technical problems associated with building an airport in the Thames estuary, as it is quite shallow? Will he also confirm that many fewer people would be affected by noise if the airport were built in that location, although one must accept that more seagulls would be affected?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, there are advantages with a number of the additional submissions that have been made as a response to the consultation paper. The Secretary of State is in the process of considering those matters on a factual basis, taking into account all issues. The White Paper will be published before the end of the year.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton: My Lords, before I ask my question, I should say that for many years I have been on the board of the Thames Estuary Airport Company. I was grateful to hear the Minister's comments. The company has twice submitted our plans for the area.

I hope that the Prime Minister's meeting with the CBI yesterday may have caught on with the House. He suggested to the CBI the need to find new ways of attracting private finance into transport infrastructure improvements. Our offer to fund privately and build an offshore airport in the Thames estuary, together with the cost of all supporting infrastructure, to a sum in excess of £33 billion, surely provides an excellent opportunity to take up the advice of the Prime Minister. It would be almost folly to ignore private investment on that scale. Is it not essential, therefore, that the proposal should be accepted in principle and included as a valid and possible option in next month's White Paper?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as I have said, all serious proposals—that is a serious proposal—in addition to the ones contained in the consultation, are subject to evaluation at present. As the House will recognise, the extension of airport capacity is not an easy issue. It involves the interests of a very large number of people, and there are disadvantages attendant on any solution, as well as a very real need to provide additional capacity. I assure the noble Lord that the proposal that he has advocated with strength today is fully under consideration.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, if the Government were to accept the airline industry's forecasts of the doubling of passenger numbers by 2020 and a trebling by 2030, we would have no chance whatever of meeting our Kyoto targets or reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Would it not be more appropriate for the Government, while they carry out their review of airport capacity, to consider seriously the role that long-distance rail services can play in replacing short-haul aircraft, especially now that the first stage of the high-speed Channel Tunnel link is open?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, undoubtedly, one advantage with rail, as opposed to internal airport capacity for internal flights, is its lower level of pollution. However, my noble friend will recognise that, even if it were believed that the capacity necessary in 2020 or 2030 was exaggerated by the airlines, it is still the case that airline travel, including overseas and internal flights, is increasing by a very significant factor. We must take account of the pressure of demand.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, is it the Government's intention that the White Paper, which as the Minister said is due by the end of the year, or perhaps even by Christmas, will be their final view, or will it be a consultation paper? Will the Minister accept that, if it is the latter, he will have a lot of extremely worried people coming to him on the subject of Gatwick? The destruction of the surrounding countryside, were another runway to be built there, is almost impossible to imagine, unless one has actually been there and seen what would happen.

As for Stansted, are the Government determined to ensure that ground transportation, including rail transportation in particular, would be large enough to sustain an additional runway there?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Baroness seeks to draw me into debate on the White Paper in circumstances in which I am not prepared to be drawn in detail. However, she is right that we cannot conceive of an expansion of Stansted without considering the question of infrastructure and transport. That is true of all the other airport proposals as well. The noble Baroness is also right when she suggests that there are disadvantages to any expansion of Gatwick. The simple fact of the matter is that, with any proposal, there are manifest disadvantages. However, there is also a very real need.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, what weight do the Government give, in considering the capacity for future airports, to an airport being able to operate 24 hours a day, as I believe will be done in other countries? We need to keep up with that.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, if there is one way to upset those who live near airports, it is to suggest that the plague that they suffer from frequent flights during the day should continue at the same level overnight. That is a path down which I would not want to commit the Government at this stage. However, as all noble Lords will recognise, if we do not increase airport capacity, we will not only cause a severe reduction to our economic capacity in this country but disappoint the very large number of people who increasingly use air flights for their holidays abroad. We would certainly affect the capacity of London to be the finance capital of the world.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that broader considerations have been given in the deliberations, to issues such as job creation and the traffic and rail flows, in view of the large number of passengers who currently fly in and out of the London area but do not live in that area and travel significant distances? I refer particularly to those who come from west of Reading.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Baroness has a point, in that we may see the build-up of regional airports in order to reduce the use of Heathrow for on-flights by passengers. That puts very considerable pressure on all the south-east airports, and not only Heathrow. However, the noble Baroness will also recognise that the airline industry and the airports are a very significant contributor to the economy and a major form of employment for a large number of our fellow citizens.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that merely to refer to the demand for air transportation is only one side of the argument? Historically, the provision of roads on a demand basis only has resulted in a policy that has run out of road—if I may be allowed a small pun. Would it be possible at least that, in thinking about the expansion of airport capacity, the Government might consider that merely meeting demand is not necessarily the way forward?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness: we are not into "predict and provide", or simply making an assessment of the number of airline journeys that might be made and extending airports to meet that capacity. She will recognise from the figures that I have quoted that the potential expansion is so huge that it will need some response, even if it was scaled down very significantly. In some respects it will need to be, because of the necessity of meeting our Kyoto targets for emissions of carbon dioxide, to which reference was made earlier. To meet those requirements, we shall need to restrict some aspects of air travel. However, she must also appreciate that demand is such that to go some way to meet it requires extension to airport capacity, without any doubt.

Pat Dale


19 November 2003

MORE ARGUMENTS ABOUT COSTS

EU ruling threatens cut-price flights to Europe
by Paul Marsden, Transport Correspondent - Daily Telegraph - 13 November 2003

THE future of cheap flights to Europe was in severe doubt yesterday after Ryanair said it expected many of the discounts it enjoys on airport charges to be declared unlawful.

The airline's 18-destination French network was under particular threat as a result of a ruling by the European Commission that incentives airports have offered to Ryanair constitute illegal state aid. Routes could be cut before next summer. More than two million passengers have flown between the operator's Stansted base and the French regions this year, many visiting holiday homes bought by Britons on the strength of the air link.

All the no-frills carrier's French bases are publicly-owned. They will thus be affected by the result of the Commission's lengthy investigation into Ryanair's agreement with Brussels Charleroi airport. The airline said it had learned that the Commission's draft report found that "substantial parts" of the deal breached EU rules.

The airport is owned by the Walloon regional government, which approved grants worth an estimated £5 million a year to subsidise landing and handling charges and marketing costs.

Ryanair pays a landing fee 85 per cent lower than the list price. However, since the airline's arrival, the annual passenger "throughput" at Charleroi has risen eight-fold to nearly two million, sharply boosting the local economy.

The Commission's final decision is expected next month. The company says it will lodge an immediate appeal with the European Court, though this process could take two years.

Ryanair's lawyers hope they can delay implementation of the ruling until the appeal is resolved. If they fail, however, the airline will cease operations at Charleroi and transfer the aircraft involved to a privately-owned Continental hub. Managers say they would adopt the same approach for other publicly-owned airports. Negotiations are already under way with a dozen private alternatives.

Some European countries, such as Italy, Germany and Sweden, have a significant number of non-state airports, but not France. The removal of Ryanair from the French market would be likely to result in British Airways and Air France fares moving upward, as competition eased. Ryanair routes to Italy, Germany and Sweden are not expected to come under threat, and may expand. The airline also indicated that most of its Spanish destinations would be safe.

The Irish-registered carrier is the prime victim of the Commission's position because it has specialised in deals with small regional airports to which few, if any, other operators fly. The vast bulk of demand comes from leisure travellers.

Easyjet tends to prefer higher-cost, mainstream airports which will attract business passengers. However, the airline's recently announced plans for flights from Luton, Liverpool, Bristol and Newcastle to the state-sector Berlin Schonefeld airport could face the axe.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair chief executive, said outlawing discounted charges would do "untold damage to the growth of low-fare flights and competition in European air transport".

He added: "This decision will be a great day for high-fare airlines and high-cost airports like Brussels Zaventem, which brought the case against us. It will mean a return to expensive travel and less choice as publicly-owned regional and secondary airports will not be able to compete fairly against the private sector."

Mr O'Leary said the cancellation of routes would not take place until legal avenues had been exhausted.

He expressed the hope that the French government might put pressure on the Commission to soften its decision, as the closure of so many routes would do substantial damage to the country's tourism industry. Ways in which airports might be privatised to circumvent the ruling were being discussed by regional chambers of commerce, he said.

Marcelle Speller, of Holiday-Rentals.com, which represents about 1,000 people who let out houses in provincial France, described the EC ruling as a "great blow". "This is going to hit a lot of people," she said. "There will be those who have made their home in France and relied on Ryanair to come home to see friends and family. They will find themselves cut off. "On a business level, property owners will lose a lot of bookings."

Amy Coley, 32, and her husband Benn, 31, run an activities holiday business based at their house near Pouillonin Aquitaine, south-west France, only about 40 minutes away from Pau and Biarritz airports. Such was the importance of Ryanair that they included an internet link to its site from their own web page.

"This is going to make a massive difference to our business," Mrs Coley said. "Benn collects people from the airport and now the nearest one is going to be three times as far away."


EasyJet says to Ryanair "shut up and face the music"
An Article in the Guardian, Nov. 18th, "British Airways flies into a pensions black hole" by Terry Macalister & Andrew Clark, reports on EasyJet's position

This report, after describing how BA has found a hole in its pension fund has had to increase its annual pension contributions. BA has been hit by competition from the "no-frills" airlines and has had to axe 12,000 jobs. However, EasyJet has revealed a 28% slump in its profits to £52, blamed on the Iraq war. Their Chief Executive was quick to predict a rise in passenger numbers from 20m to 24m this year, which would pass BA's European operation.

The report comments that critics have suggested that the airline could be hit by the expected European Commission's ruling that Ryanair's cut price deals with publicly owned continental airports constitute illegal state aid.

EasyJet counterattacked, saying that Ryanair was unique in expecting to be paid by airports for landing passengers. The Chief Executive, Ray Webster, is reported as saying "My message to O'Leary is to shut up and face the music. It's his problem – he created it".

Our Comment: During the last few weeks Ryanair has been conducting an advertising campaign comparing their very low fares to EasyJet's alleged higher ones. Recently Ryanair offered free tickets plus a promise to pay £1 of the passengers' airport tax. Any Takers? Who benefits? Who suffers? Is this really beneficial to our economy?

Pat Dale


19 November 2003

MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT AVIATION FINANCES

Air passenger duty drives users in right direction
by K.R. MOORE - 17 November 2003 - Financial Times

Sir, If nothing else, Michael Meacher ("The false arguments for airport expansion", November 10) has started the debate on air travel, which incidentally should extend to all travel, and is long overdue. We have made a commitment to the Kyoto agreement to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and the transport sector is an important source of such emissions.

The Cabinet Office published the Energy Review document last year with the objective of reviewing national energy creation and use. Transport is a big energy user and desperately requires government to play its part in order to "drive" transport users to make sensible choices with regard to energy use in exercising their right to enjoy freedom of movement.

Aircraft require a great deal of energy during take-off to arrive at their cruising altitude. This can be best expressed in terms of CO emitted per passenger kilometre. Cruising at the selected altitude and landing are relatively efficient in terms of energy use. It makes sense, therefore, to make long-distance journeys by air. It is a nonsense to make short journeys by air such as from London to any other destination in England, Scotland or Wales where the aircraft starts to make its descent almost as soon as it reaches its cruising altitude.

For such national journeys, we should be using a high-speed electrified railway system. Shorter distances make sense using bus, coach or private car.

Your correspondents from British Airways and BAA (Letters, November 12) are understandably critical of Mr Meacher and nationally applied fuel duty on aviation fuel would not be competitive. Government could "drive" transport users in the direction of more appropriate transport systems by using the air passenger duty selectively. For example, a passenger arriving at Heathrow from the US, say, does not have a reasonable alternative to air and so the APD could be set at £10. A passenger arriving at Heathrow from Glasgow, on the other hand, does have a more appropriate alternative and so in this case the APD could be £50 or more.

The idea that the aviation industry pays its way compared with the railway industry is incorrect. The rail fare and subsidies pay for the infrastructure. In aviation the infrastructure is the atmosphere and nobody pays for this. The contribution of aircraft to global warming and environmental pollution is enormous and the APD is the measure for correcting this imbalance.


Stansted: Airlines don't want expansion
14 November 2003 - Newsquest Media Group Newspapers

Essex, Stansted

British Airways and other Heathrow-based airlines will fight "every inch of the way" to prevent Stansted Airport expansion, it has been revealed.

BA said it would even resort to legal action to prevent "the expansion nobody wants" happening at Stansted. The company said it was not prepared to pay crippling extra costs to the British Airports Authority to subsidise any work at Stansted.

"No other airline based here will want to pay out to help their competitors at Stansted either. It is known the airlines, or most of them, already at Stansted are reluctant to pay for the expansion themselves," said BA.

Campaign director, Carol Barbone, said: "We'll be demonstrating to the Prime Minister and his colleagues that we are continuing to fight proposals to expand Stansted tooth and nail, just as we have over the last 17 months."


19 November 2003

MORE SUGGESTIONS FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO CONSIDER

Time for the UK airports edifice to be split into three businesses
by NICHOLAS MARTIN - 13 November 2003 - Financial Times

Sir, Philip Mickelborough's case for releasing BAA's stranglehold on airport provision in the South East (Letters, November 11) will be cheered by regular air travellers in Scotland, where the same BAA also owns three important airports: Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The impact of this monopolistic structure on the development of services for passengers could not have been to the fore of government thinking at the time the Conservatives privatised BAA or, presumably, at any time since under Labour.

Retail space maximisation seems to take priority over the more mundane mechanics of handling aircraft and travellers primarily for the benefit of the latter. The sheer sameness and lack of imagination or real consideration for the customer are so often apparent. Readers will have their own experiences: the hour-by-hour management of security staff numbers (reduce until there is a good queue?); the herding of passengers on and off buses even when gates at the terminal and air bridges are clearly available; and so on.

Many travellers could and would choose between Edinburgh and Glasgow and among Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted on the basis of passenger convenience and comfort while at the airport - very often a longer period than in the air. Break this edifice into three businesses (Heathrow; Gatwick, Glasgow and Aberdeen; Stansted, Edinburgh and Southampton) and release the energy that competition for airlines and passengers could create! Lifting the dead hand and diseconomies of monopoly should even release value for shareholders.


AND THREATS: Lawsuits threatened as Luton airport is 'frozen out'
by Russell Hotten - The Times, Business News - 14 November 2003

The chief executive of Britain's second largest airports operator is to warn the Government today that he will take legal action if Luton airport is frozen out of plans to expand air services in the South East.

Keith Brooks, head of TBI, also plans to raise concerns about the impartiality of the Government's relationship with BAA, his more powerful rival and owner of Heathrow and Gatwick airports, The Times has learnt. Any action by Mr Brooks could have serious consequences for the Government's plans to build another runway at an airport in southeast England, plunging the issue into a lengthy regulatory battle.

Mr Brooks said the potential of Luton, owned by TBI, had been ignored by government officials working on a White Paper on airport expansion, which could be unveiled as early as next week. He will today tell advisers to Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, of his frustrations at trying to "get Luton on the agenda".

Mr Brooks said: "We are not going away. If we feel that we have been marginalised then I will take whatever political or judicial action is open to me, in Britain and in Brussels."

He will also raise his concerns about BAA's influence in the corridors of power. "I am concerned about BAA using its monopoly position in the South East. I am concerned about the impartiality, given (BAA's) connections with government."

Mr Brooks believes that some independent advisers working for the Government and other authorities on the airport issue are former BAA employees. "I would question the independence of some of these people," Mr Brooks said. The White Paper is expected to recommend where another runway should be built in the South East, as well as measures to help to ease the congestion at the region's airports.

Heathrow is the big airlines' favoured location, though it faces formidable opposition from the environmental lobby. Gatwick, once ruled out on legal grounds, is now also a contender for the runway.

Stansted is also emerging as a real possibility, because the strength of opposition to Heathrow and Gatwick means that the Government might not be able to build the runway in time.

BAA's runway capacity in the South East will run out by 2013 and some in the Government believe that Stansted is the only airport that could be expanded by then.

However, BAA says it would have to fund the cost of building a Stansted runway by raising its fees at Heathrow and Gatwick. That would anger Heathrow's big airlines, such as British Airways and Virgin.

With Luton just 40 miles from Stansted, supporters of TBI believe that the arguments for putting a runway at its airport are just as strong as its near neighbour.

Mr Brooks said that local opposition to an additional runway was not as strong in Luton as elsewhere.

Even if prevented from opening another runway, Mr Brooks said Luton should be allowed to raise the threshold on the number of passengers that can use the airport.

He said: "In the short term, Luton provides the solution for the Government. Gatwick has 32 million passengers off one runway. Luton has seven million." A spokeswoman for BAA said: "This is a democratic process involving extensive consultation by a democratically elected government. It would be ridiculous to imply that we played any different role to any other organisation in this process."

Our Comment: TBI is a relative newcomer to the Airports business. It owns several airports in the UK and many more in various parts of the world. Luton airport is very near Luton itself. What do local residents feel about TBI's zeal to expand? Ask the local group campaigning against the expansion of Luton airport. LADACAN Tel: 01582 713535. Email: info@ladacan.org

Pat Dale


19 November 2003

SOME HOPE ON THE HORIZON

Action in the European Parliament
Press Release - Brussels, 13 November 2003

Green/EFA Conference on Noise Pollution
Commission should ban night flights and state aid

MEPs from the Green/EFA Group called today for the Commission to fulfil its role as Guardian of the European Community's treaties and protect the citizens of Europe by banning night flights and stopping state aid for airlines. Ten million Europeans currently suffer from noise disturbance at night and at a Green/EFA conference in the European Parliament held yesterday and today, nearly 200 people from the aviation industry, NGOs, the European Commission and academia met to discuss how to tackle the problem of noise pollution. Green MEPs addressed the press this morning to explain the outcome of the conference, and their plans for the future.

Dutch MEP Alexander de Roo, Vice-President Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer, said: "We call for an immediate ban on night flights between 11.00pm and 7.00am at all airports in the European Union. This ban must be introduced across Europe to create an equal level playing field. We also want the night to last for at least eight hours for all European citizens."

Caroline Lucas, MEP for South-East England, said: "NGOs in my constituency, where London Gatwick airport is located, have long accepted that they must work together to ensure that opposition to airport expansion in their region does not simply lead to expansion elsewhere in the country. This conference builds on the same principle of solidarity but at a European level. The current rapid growth in air traffic is due primarily to the cost of flying remaining artificially low. The Commission has accepted that this growth is unsustainable. We feel that by introducing laws to internalise the costs of air traffic – forcing airlines to pay for the costs of their emissions and noise pollution – demand can be managed and we can avoid recklessly increasing the number of European airports as is currently proposed."

Belgian Ecolo MEP Paul Lannoye said: "The European Investment Bank granted €8bn in loans to the air transport industry between 1998 to 2002, and certain European regions give significant financial incentives to 'low cost' airlines. This thinly disguised state aid is detrimental not just to an open market – it effectively constitutes environmental 'dumping'. Therefore, I call on the Commission to clamp down on activities that distort competition and that contradict the EU's policies on sustainable transport and the protection of European citizens against harmful noise pollution."

Hiltrud Breyer, German member of the Parliament's Environment Committee, said: "Noise has negative effects on the mental development of children. Their reading ability and long-term memory is being considerably damaged. A recent study has shown that allergies and respiratory diseases increase when children are subjected to a combination of emissions and noise. We cannot continue to neglect the damaging effect of noise on children's health."


16 November 2003

STAND OFF OVER STANSTED
The Prime Minister favours a new runway in Essex,
but airlines say it's Heathrow or bust for Britain's aviation industry

Jason Nissé reports - 16 November 2003 - The Independent on Sunday

If the Government sanctions a new runway at London Stansted, not only will it never be built, but the decision itself will blight Britain's aviation industry.

The stark warning comes from the UK's two largest airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which are desperately lobbying the Government to allow a new runway to be built at Heathrow.

Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, is due to announce plans for at least one new runway in the south-east of England in an aviation White Paper next month.

The Cabinet is said to be split between whether to allow the first new runway to be built at Stansted in Essex or at the more popular Heathrow. Gordon Brown is said to favour the Heathrow option while Tony Blair believes Stansted is more acceptable politically.

BAA, which owns both airports, has not said which it prefers, though it concedes that the Heathrow scheme makes more sense economically. The Stansted plan, though, faces opposition from not only the airlines, but business and trade unions.

Andrew Cahn, the director of government affairs at British Airways, said: "A runway at Stansted would not get built. Nobody wants it. Nobody would pay for it. The tarmac wouldn't even get laid."

BAA has admitted the only way to make a new runway at Stansted viable would be to cross-subsidise it, probably by forcing airlines to move flights from Heathrow.

The airlines have vowed to take the Government to court to prevent this cross-subsidy.

"The prospect of airlines funding the development of an airport that we do not want is beyond the pale," said a spokesman for Virgin Atlantic.

Mr Cahn said that failing to build a new runway at Heathrow would send business to alternative European hubs at Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Schiphol in Amsterdam.

"The UK long-haul aviation industry would go into terminal decline. Charles de Gaulle will overtake Heathrow in the next five to six years," he said.

Digby Jones, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, is also throwing his weight behind the Heathrow campaign. "There should be built, as quickly as possible, a new runway at Heathrow," he said.

The CBI believes the south-east needs as many as three new runways, at Heathrow, Gatwick and, only then, Stansted.


16 November 2003

AIR FARES 'TO TAKE-OFF'
Unions warn Blair over new runway

by Julia Hartley-Brewer, Political Editor - 16 November 2003 - Sunday Express

Holidaymakers could face soaring air fares if the Government does not give the go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow, Tony Blair will be told this week.

Major airlines and trade unions will unite to call on the Prime Minister to back plans for the extra runway, which they claim could create 70,000 jobs.

Airline bosses fear that congestion at the country's busiest airport could turn Britain's skies into "the M25 of European airspace", leading to delays and pushing up fares as more and more travellers - who prefer to fly into Heathrow than London's other airports - compete for the same number of flights.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is expected to publish within weeks the Aviation White Paper containing the Government's recommendation on where to build another runway in the South-east.

The big airlines all favour Heathrow, despite huge opposition from the environmental lobby, but there are growing fears that the Government may opt for either Gatwick or Stansted.

The TUC and the GMB, TGWU and Amicus trade unions, as well as Balpa, the pilots' union, will all call on Mr Blair to back the plans to expand Heathrow.

Heathrow already provides about 150,000 jobs in west London and a further 100,000 across the UK. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber has written to Mr Blair warning of a "very serious impact on the future international competitiveness of the UK aviation industry" and damage to the UK's economy.

He wrote: "A new short runway at Heathrow can be expected to generate net economic benefits to the UK of £7.8 billion, which is significantly greater than any other options."

"No other airport in the UK can develop into an effective global hub to rival Heathrow and provide effective competition to our European rivals."

GMB general secretary Kevin Curran said: "A new runway at Heathrow is critical to regional expansions. Heathrow will become Europe's major hub airport, which will boost the economy not just in London and the South-east but across the whole of the UK."

"We strongly recommend that the Government gives the new runway to Heathrow as it is in the best interests of the whole country. Whether you're a holidaymaker or a business traveller, the new runway will make it easier to travel across the country and around the world."

The bosses of Britain's top three airlines - British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and BMI British Midland - have also all appealed to Mr Blair to back Heathrow.

Dan Hodges, director of Freedom to Fly, the aviation industry group, told the Sunday Express: "It is absolutely vital that we get a quick decision from the Government to safeguard British jobs and keep Britain at the centre of the aviation world."

"Without an extra runway at Heathrow, air fares will soar and bring an end to the cheap flights boom that has made it possible for every family to fly abroad on holiday."

"With the busy Christmas period coming up, every holidaymaker knows about the problems with delays because of congested airports."

"This runway is crucial if Britain's skies are not to become the M25 of European airspace."

Officials at the Department for Transport have insisted that "no firm decisions" have yet been taken on the runway's location.


13 November 2003

GOOD NEWS –BUT DON'T FORGET THE ENGINE
We also need an Engine design that produces less CO2 and Nitrogen Oxides

Cambridge team plans 'Silent Jet'
By Paul Marston, Transport Correspondent - 11 November 2003 - The Daily Telegraph

A RESEARCH project to design an airliner so quiet that its noise would be imperceptible beyond airport boundaries was launched yesterday.

Aeronautical engineers at Cambridge University plan to reduce noise by 50 per cent compared with today's quietest airliner within 15 years. Their backers include the Civil Aviation Authority, British Airways and Rolls-Royce.

The noise impact of aircraft engines has fallen about 80 per cent since 1960. But the huge growth in the number of flights has created semi-permanent noise corridors under the approaches to airports, which have become a major obstacle to airport expansion.

Prof Ann Dowling, a project leader, said she wanted to achieve a "radical change" in the shape and appearance of aircraft with noise reduction the top design priority.

The team expects to focus on 350-seat designs with engines in the body of the aircraft, rather than under the wings, to shield jet noise from the ground.


13 November 2003

VIEWS ON MICHAEL MEACHER'S ARTICLE

Different operators outside the South East should take control of main London airports
By PHILIP MICKELBOROUGH - 11 November 2003 - Financial Times

Sir, Michael Meacher raises some interesting and controversial points in his article about the true costs of aviation ("The false arguments for airport expansion", November 10), but the unwelcome prospect of a third runway at Heathrow does demand a more immediate solution.

Having used two of London's airports I doubt whether passengers' convenience, expense or comfort will appear on the airport managements' priorities until there is competition between Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. Furthermore, as someone who lives in the south of England I do not welcome the increasing concentration of wealth, economic activity and population in the South East. Both these issues, and the third runway, might be addressed by breaking up BAA and transferring ownership of each of London's three airports to the owner of a different airport in the Midlands or North. Not only would there then be competition within the London airport market, but the new owners would have an incentive to rebalance aircraft flights between parts of the country.

And if a third runway serving London were still necessary, perhaps it should be built in northern France close to the Channel tunnel; with duty-free shops, baggage reclaim and customs on board the trains it might have faster access to central London than Heathrow does at present.


Heathrow can meet environmental goals says BA
By ANDREW SENTANCE - 12 November 2003 - Financial Times

Sir, Michael Meacher argues ("The false argument for airport expansion", November 10) that there is a collision between the needs of the economy and the environment when it comes to airport expansion.

That is not so. The aviation industry takes its environmental responsibilities extremely seriously and has an excellent record in improving its environmental performance. For example, at Heathrow, the number of people suffering noise disturbance is down nearly 90 per cent over the past 30 years, despite the very significant growth of the airport over that period.

The aviation industry is not subsidised. Air passenger duty is a tax that raises nearly £1bn each year. The industry also pays all its own infrastructure costs. This is in stark contrast to the massive public subsidy injected into the rail industry.

In the absence of international agreement, the imposition of fuel tax or other surcharges related to global warming would penalise UK airlines. Emissions trading is a much more effective and efficient means of limiting our contribution to global warming. British Airways is already a member of the UK emissions trading scheme and we support the move to include aviation within emissions trading in Europe and worldwide.

We are also confident that the local environmental challenges of a third Heathrow runway can be overcome. Noise limits can be maintained within the level set at the Terminal Five inquiry and nitrogen dioxide emission levels around the airport can be kept within new legal limits that will be introduced in 2010.

Creating profitable expansion opportunities by developing Heathrow will allow the aviation industry to continue its good record of environmental improvement. With appropriate safeguards to limit noise and emissions, the construction of a third runway at Heathrow can yield both environmental and economic benefits.

Andrew Sentance, Chief Economist and Head of Environmental Affairs, British Airways

Our Comment: When is a subsidy not a subsidy? That is the question! Yes, passengers do pay a modest airport tax, but the sums when added up do not in anyway approach the amount of fuel tax that would be received if aircraft paid the same for fuel as road vehicles do. Neither do airports pay for all the extra roads and rail links that are required for airport traffic. Rail transport is the least polluting form of transport and as such deserves to be subsidised to encourage people to use it. Air travel is today the most polluting form of travel. A subsidy can only be justified for a new "greener by design" aircraft.


The Argument for more Runways cannot be justified
By GARETH HARPER - 12 November 2003 - Financial Times

Sir, Michael Meacher rightly points out (November 10) that the economic case for airport expansion is fallacious.

About one international passenger in five at UK airports is on business, so the business traveller does not need more runways. The steady rise in the number of overseas businessmen who use Heathrow en route to another overseas location, with fewer flights but better business opportunities than the UK, contradicts the argument that the UK would lose business if more runways are not built.

Additional runways are on the menu because of the recent and projected growth in leisure flying - particularly frequent, short breaks by those with disposable income to pay the derisory fare and the much higher costs of hotels. The latter costs explain why more than half the population does not and is not forecast to fly for leisure.

Mr Meacher argues that environmental taxes should be introduced to compensate for the tax exemptions the airlines enjoy. Increasing air passenger duty would be simpler and sounder. The duty was introduced 10 years ago as a surrogate tax because under international agreements the airlines can be charged only limited fuel duty and VAT. But APD raises only £1bn a year, whereas the fuel duty and VAT exemptions have increased in value to £10bn a year.

The Department for Transport's passenger forecast model has shown that, if the airlines had to pay £10bn tax a year rather than £1bn, the rate of growth in leisure passenger demand would drop to well within existing runway capacity.


BAA joins the Argument
Meacher bases his case on mistaken data

By MIKE CLASPER - 12 November 2003 - Financial Times

Sir, Michael Meacher (November 10) claims to have detected "false arguments for airport expansion". Unfortunately, his own argument is based on false data.

He says, for example, that the number of passengers at airports in south-east England is forecast to quintuple by 2030. Not so. The government's own figures suggest growth in the South East will be slower than in the rest of the country, where the predicted rise is roughly threefold.

He then argues that aviation, "unlike other branches of the transport industry", gets big tax breaks. On the contrary, aviation is the only form of public transport that is unsubsidised and also pays for all its own infrastructure. Air passengers, unlike rail or bus passengers, also pay £900m a year in air passenger duty, which is a proxy for aviation fuel tax.

We agree with Mr Meacher that aviation should pay for its accurately calculated environmental impact, which is why BAA believes aviation should sit within the Kyoto protocol and be subject to an effective regime of emissions trading. This approach would certainly have some impact on demand, but would also ensure that aviation continues to provide the mobility that people of all social backgrounds value highly.

Mike Clasper, Chief Executive, BAA


13 November 2003

NEWS FROM PARLIAMENT

New Early Day Motion
EDM 1903 Aviation and Rail Travel
Tabled by Rob Marris on 11.11.03

Rob Marris
Janet Dean

Total Signatures 2

That this House supports efforts to encourage travellers to use railways instead of short haul flights, but notes that, whereas several airlines allow booking up to one year in advance, railway operators in, for example, France and Belgium, do not allow booking more than three, and sometimes only two months in advance, thereby making it less likely that families will book their holidays by rail instead of by air; and calls upon the United Kingdom Government to encourage such railway operators promptly to introduce booking up to one year in advance.

Our Comment: Ask your MP to support this. (Sir Alan Haselhurst cannot do so as he is Deputy Speaker)


SOME INTERESTING WRITTEN ANSWERS TO PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS
Written Answers 4 November

Stansted Airport

Mr. Prisk (Hertford and Stortford Con): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department has made of the cross-subsidy in favour of Stansted Airport.

Mr. McNulty: Stansted is a designated airport subject to price cap regulation under the 1986 Airports Act. As such, the issue of cross-subsidy in favour of Stansted was considered by the CAA as part of its price cap review and decisions on BAA's London airports, published in February 2003. The Government will set out their policy on this issue in the Air Transport White Paper.

Air Travel

Mr. Maude (Horsham Con): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the total demand for air travel in the UK in 2060, expressed as a multiple of the present number of passengers using Heathrow, on the basis of the forecast rates of growth used to calculate the economic benefits of various runway options in the consultation on the Future of Air Transport.

Dr. Howells: The forecasts presented in the consultation document, "The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom: South East", 2002, extended to 2030. No forecast has been made of the total demand for air travel in the UK in 2060. However, for the purposes of the analysis of economic benefits of runway options, the forecasts were projected forward to 2060, assuming a 50 per cent. increase in demand from 2030 to 2060.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 11 September 2003, Official Report, column 373W, on air travel, what estimate has been made of the percentage change in the cost of air travel from 2000 to 2030, if no new runways were to be built in the UK.

Dr. Howells: The mid point forecasts in the consultation document: The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom-South East, assumed an underlying trend reduction in air fares of 1 per cent. per annum. In addition to this, if no new runways were built in the South East, passengers at Heathrow would pay a fare premium of £67.50 on a single journey in 2030. This fare premium would be higher if airport capacity outside the South East was also constrained, but no estimate has been made of this. The combined effect of these two factors would be an 18 per cent. increase in the cost of air travel in this case.

Airport Infrastructure

Mr. Challen (Morley and Rothwell Lab): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what (a) financial and (b) other support his Department will provide for new airport infrastructure, including associated transport links.

Mr. McNulty: The question of Government support for any new airport infrastructure is being considered in the context of decisions about future development. In our consultation, we invited views on the use of public money to support airport development and surface transport links, and we are analysing the responses. We will set out our policy in the air transport White Paper.


13 November 2003

MORE ARGUMENTS ABOUT NEW RUNWAY COSTS

Stansted runway plan in doubt, admits BAA
Outcry over scheme for all three airports to share the cost

By Alistair Osborne, Associate City Editor - 12 November 2003 - The Daily Telegraph

THE viability of a second runway at Stansted has been thrown into doubt by airports operator BAA admitting it could only realistically be funded by cross-subsidies from Heathrow and Gatwick.

Responding to the Government's consultation on new runways in the south-east, BAA said: "We currently believe that the option for one new runway at Stansted would be financially viable but the charges needed to remunerate the investment would need to be shared across users of the London system as a whole rather than applied to Stansted users only."

The admission from BAA, which owns the three major south-east airports, threatens to wreck the case for a second runway at Stansted.

The Civil Aviation Authority, the industry regulator, has told the Government it is opposed to cross-subsidisation, while airlines and rival airport operators are threatening legal action should Stansted get the go-ahead.

The Government plans to publish its Aviation White Paper close to the centenary of the Wright brothers' first flight on December 17. The industry hopes it will recommend where the next south-east runway should be built.

In its response, BAA says that funding a £4 billion runway at Stansted on a "stand alone" basis would require the current maximum charges per passenger allowed by the CAA at Stansted to rise by 120pc to £9.39.

In reality, Stansted's charges would treble because BAA has kept them more than £1 below the maximum to attract low-fare airlines, such as Ryanair and Easyjet. The pair provided most of Stansted's 17m passengers last year and would bitterly oppose such a hike in charges.

Using a "system" approach, however, charges per passenger would only have to rise by 35pc to £5.79, BAA said.

Such an approach would fall foul of the CAA, which this summer told the Government: "It is less clear that allowing cross-subsidy from charges at one airport to finance capacity enhancement at another would be desirable or justifiable.

"Airlines based at Heathrow are likely to question why they should pay for capacity enhancement at Stansted, when they would receive little or no benefit and indeed could be improving the ability of airlines at Stansted to increase market share at their expense."

On Monday, British Airways chief executive Rod Eddington said if BAA tried to "milk" Heathrow to expand Stansted to the benefit of rivals such as Ryanair, "we will fight it tooth and nail".

Yesterday a Virgin Atlantic spokesman said if Stansted gets the nod: "There will be a massive row and frankly we think it would be difficult to push through."

Keith Brooks, chief executive of TBI, the operator of Luton airport, said such cross-subsidisation was an abuse of BAA's monopoly power.

"We have to compete with Stansted. The cross-subsidy thing is exercising everyone. The airlines are crying foul and so are we." He believes he would have a strong case with the competition authorities.

Yesterday a spokesman for BAA, whose seven UK airports handled 11.8m passengers last month, up 4pc year-on-year, admitted trying to fund Stansted on a "stand alone" basis would "delay" construction.

A Department for Transport spokesman said "no firm decisions" had yet been taken on the location of the next runway. Heathrow, the airlines' favoured option, also faces tough opposition on environmental grounds.

Our Comment: Surely any extra runways at Stansted also face tough opposition on environmental grounds. We keep asking why the legal protection afforded by Regulations on clean air should be denied to Stansted residents - they may be fewer in number but we are all entitled to the same rights. In addition, air quality limits for plants will be exceeded at Stansted - what about Hatfield Forest and all the farmland and other ancient woodland round the airport? These predictions cannot be changed simply by recalculating the figures. JUST AS IMPORTANT IS THE NUMBER OF LISTED HOUSES THAT WOULD NEED TO BE DEMOLISHED SHOULD THERE BE EVEN ONE EXTRA RUNWAY.

There would be a loss of all the countryside along the M11 and the A120, thousands of new houses, plus all the roads and services that would be needed, schools, hospitals and all in an area with a very limited water supply. Who would pay for all these developments?

Pat Dale


10 November 2003

"THE FALSE ARGUMENTS FOR AIRPORT EXPANSION"
MICHAEL MEACHER - Financial Times - Nov. 10th

After his battles on GM crops Michael Meacher has entered the Airport Expansion Battle. In an article in the Financial Times he reiterates some of the principal arguments against unconstrained airport expansion, the same arguments that have been repeatedly put forward by SSE.

Here is a summary of the main points he makes:

*  The official demand projections for air travel are based on an assumption that air fares will continue to fall by 1% a year and that aviation will continue to benefit from substantial "tax breaks" and be allowed to avoid their social and environmental responsibilities.

*  He gives examples of tax breaks - fuel tax and VAT, estimated at £10.3 bn a year, and the hidden costs of environmental pollution at £1.6bn a year tripling to 4.8bn by 2030, as estimated in the Treasury consultation document "Aviation and the Environment". Figures from the European Environment Agency suggest that the total hidden costs could have already risen to £12-16bn a year.

*  The economic case is even weaker. Taxpayers are, in effect, subsidising the aviation industry to fly tourists out of the UK to the net disadvantage of the UK balance of payments. Estimates for 2001 showed a net deficit on tourism of £14bn.

*  What about the advantages of cheap air travel for lower income groups? He points out that the CAA survey in 2001 showed that fewer than half the population fly, and they are overwhelmingly higher income earners, even on the budget airlines - three quarters of all flights.

*  The arguments for "Predict and Provide" do not stand up to scrutiny when the true costs of aviation are exposed.

*  The hoped for benefits of some 30-50% reductions in greenhouse gas reductions in other sections of the economy could be wiped out by the suggested growth in aviation. At the moment aviation contributes about 5% of all UK carbon dioxide emissions. This would rise to over 50% by 2030. Aviation is also responsible for nitrogen dioxide emissions which pollute the air round airports and, with aircraft contrails, add to the climate change effects of carbon dioxide.

*  No other city in the rich world tolerates what London does, aircraft flying low over their homes and workplaces, every 30 seconds at peak times. Disrupting conversation by day and sleep by night. Even more flight paths would be required if expansion goes ahead with more and more people affected.

He finishes by suggesting that an emissions charge should be levied at the EU level and that aviation should be brought within the Kyoto protocol, with an international emissions trading regime and global emissions capped at an acceptable level. Air pollution and noise limits should be set for all airports and night flights should be restricted, preferably ended.

Long distance rail travel is potentially the substitute for internal UK flights and needs to be "ambitiously examined". Above all, if the existing subsidies were phased out, the need for expansion would be "much reduced".

Pat Dale


10 November 2003

THE SUNDAY OBSERVER ENTERS THE ARGUMENT
Professor David Begg , the Transport expert, gives his view

"LET'S PUT THE BRAKES ON SCRAMBLE FOR THE SKIES"
David Begg on 'Why growth in air travel cannot go unchecked"
9th November 2003 - The Observer

The first new UK aviation policy plan for a generation is heading for a pre-Christmas takeoff. But will it fly high enough to break through the clouds and reach the clear blue skies beyond? The public focus until now has been concentrated on where we should be siting the next runways for London and the South East. But we need to be much more radical than that.

Sufficient runway capacity where it is most needed is an essential ingredient for maintaining a vibrant and competitive UK economy. More runways are long overdue and the Government needs to give a firm direction on their location and set a tight timetable for their introduction.

However the whole shape of UK aviation has changed out of all recognition since the Government last produced a White Paper. Domestic flights have become routine, providing stiff competition for the train on journeys as short as London to Manchester and helping regional airports to become a real force in transport. Meanwhile low-cost flights have opened up a new world, which has encouraged passengers to make journeys they would never otherwise have taken.

When the taxi to the airport can be more expensive than the airline ticket for a weekend break we have to ask whether we need a serious alternative to predict and provide and start to live up to our environmental responsibilities.

Long-haul holidays have become the norm rather than the exception. The figures are stark. Passenger numbers at UK airports almost doubled in the 10 years to 2001 - leaping from 84 million to 160 million. Mid-range forecasts show them doubling again to 333 million a year in just 12 years' time.

We really do need to start to put the brakes on and focus on growth where it is most needed and restraint where it is not.

So what are the key issues we should be looking for in the new White Paper? Regional airport growth is important. It attracts inward investment, making areas outside the South East more competitive.

Thriving regional airports can also ease pressure on hub airports like Heathrow, where up to a third of passengers are just changing flights and do not leave the airport at all. For example, if you live in the North West, why fly to the United States from Heathrow when you have your own direct flight from Manchester?

Just as importantly, a thriving regional airport cuts down on unnecessary car, rail and coach journeys to connect with flights, easing the strain on overcrowded road and rail networks. But if we are to encourage regional airport growth we must make sure that we take every opportunity to encourage access to it by public transport just as Manchester and Gatwick, in particular, have done.

However, the big prizes are to be had in the way we manage demand. A successful policy could both encourage airlines to make more use of regional airports - limiting pressure on South East runways - and reduce the pollution and environmental damage that aviation is causing.

Ten years ago the aviation industry worldwide was responsible for 3.5 per cent of all climate change emissions caused by humans - the equivalent of the UK's entire greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050 it is forecast to rocket to 15 per cent.

The current UK aviation passenger duty of between £5 and £40 a passenger raises £800 million a year. But this is only about half the cost of the climate change emissions the industry causes - let alone any of the other impacts. And there are no incentives for the industry to change.

The Government's new policy needs to focus much more on congestion on runways and in the air, local environment impacts, health effects and land blight. We need to be auctioning slots, setting tough ceilings on noise, putting a cost on congested airspace and giving local communities more control over the local impact of aviation so that it develops in harmony with the communities it serves.

Together these measures will rein back demand, reduce the pressure for new airports, use financial levers to divert flights from honeypot hubs like Heathrow to regional airports, make passengers more aware of the environmental cost of their flights and give local communities more powers to limit pollution.

If the UK is not to be disadvantaged, some of these measures will need European, if not wider, support. But now is the time for us to give a lead.


10 November 2003

THE OBSERVER ALSO PREDICTS TROUBLE AHEAD!
"AIRPORT PLANS IN CHAOS AS LEGAL THREATS MOUNT"

BA challenge to a bigger Stansted means all the likely options could go to court
Juliette Jowit, Transport Editor - 9th November 2003 - The Observer

Huge UK airport expansion plans are in turmoil this weekend after British Airways threatened legal action if Ministers develop Stansted instead of Heathrow. This raises the prospect of a legal challenge to any of the likely options, as government officials also that fear environmentalists or residents could fight development at Heathrow or Gatwick.

In a further blow to the Government, some airlines are understood to be threatening to boycott an expanded Stansted.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is expected to say next month where in south-east England up to three new runways should be sited, and in particular where the first of them should be built. The main options are for a third runway at Heathrow, up to two more runways at Stansted and a second runway at Gatwick, although planning problems make this unlikely before 2019.

Government officials said they have not ruled out Heathrow for the first new runway, but they need to be '100 per cent convinced' that pollution could be cut to below the European Union limit to avoid a legal challenge on environmental grounds.

Environment Ministers are understood to want less expansion, possibly approving just one runway for now.

However BA warned that it and other airlines would also want a judicial review if the most likely alternative - a second Stansted runway - is chosen. Andrew Cahn, BA's head of government affairs, said paying for expansion at Stansted would need cross-subsidy from Heathrow, which has been rejected by airlines such as BA which use that airport.

They could contest the argument that there is demand for more capacity at Stansted, whose development is opposed by operators there such as Ryanair, said Cahn.

'We don't want to start threatening judicial review [but] we'd want to look at everything we could do to try to change [government's] mind,' he added. 'It would be an historic mistake for UK plc and the aviation industry.'

Some insiders believe it will be 'extraordinarily difficult' to persuade the Government they can reduce pollution around Heathrow below the EU targets, which come into force in 2010.

However BAA, the owner of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, said its studies showed pollution would be lower than the government forecast and BA said it could be cut to below the EU limit.

Our Comment: Those predictions again? We have already asked when are the full details of these Heathrow "Studies" going to be made public? AND if there is any question of Stansted being the choice for an extra runway then full studies should be carried out here. The existing consultation predictions are totally inadequate and cannot be relied on. Even the initial predictions for 25 mppa showed NO2 pollution creeping outside the airport. The ancient protected Hatfield Forest already shows signs of pollution effects. Decisions should not be influenced by squabbles within the aviation industry.


8 November 2003

BAA (STANSTED) CLAIM THEY CAN AFFORD TO BUILD THOSE EXTRA RUNWAYS
This is the claim made in Business News (November 7th)
" Critics left grounded as London Stansted reveals hard currency of airport expansion"
By Ben Fountain

BAA Stansted FD Andy Mears has spelt out the stark, commercial reality of the Airport's massive expansion over the next 11 years. Its borrowing commitment explodes the myth promoted by antagonists that the growth plans hinge on subsidy. Stansted has committed to an investment of £786m over that period - and that excludes the costs of a new runway (or two) mooted in the Government's 30-year airport expansion blueprint.

Bearing in mind that Stansted would also have to build a new terminal and ancillary facilities to service any new runways, billions more may need to be found from the airport company's own coffers. Stansted's budgeting for the eventuality of new runways has been hampered by the long-term nature of the Government's decision-making process. Once a final decision is made by Whitehall, it may have to raise these billions at relatively short notice and at pertaining interest rates that may, by then, be swingeing. The only certainty is that the final outlay will be raised on the usual commercial basis.

Mears says: "There have been reports that Stansted is in some way subsidised and that future growth would be propped up by the BAA group. This is not the case. "We have an arm's length agreement with the holding company whereby borrowing is charged at the going rate. Our current interest bill, for example, net of capitalisation is currently £15 million. This is most certainly borrowing dealt with on a commercial basis."

"The Government's consultation document treats Stansted as part of a south-east system of air transport which has created the impression in some quarters that it is not a stand-alone airport. While we are keen to play our part in a 'London solution' to the UK's future air travel requirements, we reject the contention that Stansted's performance is hidden behind that of the group. "As part of a public company, Stansted files statutory results, which are in the public domain. We have shareholders, whom we must look after, which means that we must seek commercial returns on our investment. "Any capital expenditure project would be subject to stringent checks to ensure that we are doing the best by our shareholders. It is the only way a public company can operate."

"BAA has invested heavily across all of its airports, funded by its shareholders, without money coming in from the Government." BAA Stansted has pumped millions into the airport's infrastructure over recent years. In April 2002, Stansted opened a £60 million, 11,500 sq m extension to the airport terminal building. BAA co-funded with the Highways Agency a £36.5 million project to provide direct slip roads to and from the M11.

Mears said Stansted was still a young airport by any standards. He was fiercely proud of what had been achieved against a challenging backdrop. He is quoted as then praising the financial performance of Stansted against all the recent international difficulties and claiming a profit of £43.im for 2002/2003. He finished by suggesting that any new runway would take about 10 years to meet all the Planning requirements and that it had already been revealed that management expected the present runway to expand to 35 mppa in the not too distant future.


SSE is preparing an answer - here are some immediate comments.
Misleading half-truths from BAA Stansted?

The statutory accounts for Stansted Airport Ltd for the year ended 31 March 2003 show a £43 million operating profit on an asset base of £1,133 million (fixed assets of £1,114m + working capital of £19m). This is a return of 3.8% - 12 years after the 'new Stansted' opened. BAA's cost of capital is currently 10.55% (RPI + 7.75%) so it needs to earn £120 million at Stansted before the 1990/91 investment starts to pay its way.

The nonsense of the current regulatory system is that it doesn't matter whether BAA invest the money at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted - or whether they invest it wisely or not - it all goes into one pot and the regulator allows BAA plc as a whole to earn 7.75% + RPI on whatever they invest. So they keep pumping up Heathrow charges where they have a sellers market.

Thus British Airways, Virgin, BMI etc passengers are subsidising Ryanair's 'penny flights' and 'stag night specials' out of Stansted. No wonder BA etc are angry and no wonder the regulator has said that cross-subsidy must end by 2008. But BAA are putting pressure on the Government to allow the cross-subsidy to continue indefinitely.

It is BAA itself who argue that they cannot build a second Stansted runway without cross-subsidisation. (ref para 7.51 of their formal response to the DfT consultation, May 2003).

Pat Dale


8 November 2003

NEWS FROM THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

Airline Competition

Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow Shettleston Lab): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the fairness of competition between airlines operating in the UK; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McNulty: Fairness of competition between airlines is a matter for the UK competition authorities and, insofar as there is a potential effect on trade between EU member states, the European Commission.

Aviation Landing Charges

Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to equalise aviation landing charges throughout the UK; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McNulty: There are no plans because the Government do not set landing charges. These are set by the airport operator and, in the case of the designated airports, the CAA sets a price cap to airport charges in its capacity as economic regulator.

Our Comment: All these differing charges have nothing to do with the Government ! Back to BAA!

Heathrow (Nitrogen Dioxide Levels)

Mr. Randall (Uxbridge Con): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department will take to instigate levels of nitrogen dioxide consistently within EU limits by 2010 at Heathrow Airport.

Mr. McNulty: Heathrow Airport lies within an Air Quality Management Area declared by adjacent local authorities. Various emissions sources may contribute to potential NO2 exceedances in 2010. In the vicinity of Heathrow Airport mitigation strategies could apply to aircraft, airside and road traffic sources, although general 'background' levels of NO2 are also a major contributor (as elsewhere). BAA plc is required to produce and review an Action Plan to minimise emissions from Heathrow Airport as a condition of the planning permission for the Fifth Terminal.

Our Comment: Stansted airport is not within an Air Quality Management Area but it must be getting very near qualifying. Predictions for 25 mppa for NO2 at two places outside the airport breached the Air Quality legislation but BAA carried out sensitivity tests which of course reduced the forecast levels. However, inside the airport is another matter and some results of tests carried out by BAA have yet to be published. Obviously the situation has to be monitored and Uttlesford Council have equipment in place outside the airport. We have to remember that the forecasts for even one extra runway showed that the EU Directive would be breached. BUT once again, expect the forecasts to be subject to "sensitivity tests" (i.e. more calculations) and attempted reassurances that this is unlikely to happen. Such reassurances will be contested!

Kyoto Agreement (Aviation)

Mr. Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith Lab): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps the Government are taking in (a) European and (b) other international fora to encourage other countries to include international aviation in the Kyoto Agreement.

Mr. McNulty: Emissions from international aviation are not included in national targets under the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008–12). However, the Kyoto Protocol does require contracting parties to work through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation. The Government are therefore working hard in ICAO to engage other countries in the climate change debate and to reduce emissions from aviation. Discussion on action beyond 2008–12 will begin in 2005 when the Government will work closely with all Parties and argue strongly that the framework for global action after 2012 should address international aviation emissions.

Pat Dale


5 November 2003

THE BEST COMMENT ON THE ALLEGED RUNWAY BATTLE?

By Nic Ferriday (of Airport Watch) 31 October 2003, The Independent - London

Sir: Your story about Gordon Brown's and Tony Blair's disagreement on new runways (24 October) ignores the real issues about airport expansion. Tony Blair reportedly favours a new runway at Stansted, while Gordon Brown prefers Heathrow. But the real issue is whether we need any new runways at all before 2030.

As part of the work for the forthcoming consultation on airports, the Government carried out a series of calculations using a computer model called SPASM. Most of the runs showed economic benefits from extra airports at various locations in the South-east, with the biggest benefits at Heathrow. But these computer runs ignored the huge tax exemptions enjoyed by the industry and the fact that it does not pay for the environmental damage caused by air travel. The one run that allowed for these taxes and environmental costs showed that there is virtually no economic benefit in building extra runways at Heathrow or Stansted.

NIC FERRIDAY
London W7


5 November 2003

THE STANSTED/M11 CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT OPTIONS STUDY

After the initial shock, local Councils have rallied round and analysed the horrors of the proposals in the Colin Buchanan Report (See Press Statements by SSE and CPRE).

There is general protest that so little time has been given for comments. The predictions of the consultants are questionable - for instance, their conclusion that fewer jobs would be available at an enlarged Stansted Airport appear to be based on the assumption that productivity will rise to such a level that the airport could be run with a virtually skeleton staff. It seems that some authorities at Regional level are bewitched by the need for the Eastern Region to compete in the EU Regional Economic League Table. To do this productivity must rise, come what may. The validity of this prediction is very important for those of us who live in the M11 "corridor", more jobs, more people, more houses, more roads, more traffic, even more than are predicted in this Report.

However, even the reduced figures suggest that this is one Plan that simply could not be accommodated within the suggested area. To use the fashionable word, it is not sustainable, and a proper environmental impact assessment is needed before any further consideration is given to the proposals. In addition, we should have more time to add up all the figures and relate the plans to the suggested sites themselves. New towns at Great Dunmow, Stansted and Ugley, Elsenham and Henham, Hadham, Felsted, plus a tripling of Harlow, a massive expansion of Braintree and 2000 more houses at Bishop's Stortford. In addition, plans for more roads and rail network, plus the necessary schools, health services, hospitals, etc. etc. – a massive urban connurbation around the M11 and the A120.


North Weald Parish Council Responds to Airfield Proposals
1 November 2000 Epping Forest Guardian

THE formal response from North Weald Parish Council to the latest round of proposals to develop the airfield was finalised this week. Councillors were once again forced to call an emergency meeting with residents to discuss the proposals outlined in the Stansted/M11 corridor options study.

The study, unlike the Harlow Options Study, does not propose building housing on North Weald Airfield but instead suggests a park and ride scheme for up to 5,000 cars to be placed at the airfield to service Stansted Airport.

The report is closely linked to possible expansion at Stansted Airport and other proposals include a new transport link heading north across the parish from Epping and a new Harlow bypass road.

Council chairman Bob Wood slammed the short consultation time allowed to respond to the study: "We were able to hold a public meeting on Wednesday, October 22, and about 80 local residents attended. There was a clear view that the park and ride scheme is not appropriate and that North Weald Airfield should be protected," he added.

The council's response details 12 points including the historic heritage of the airfield, the basis for housing figures, the realism of the proposals and infrastructure and traffic aspects. Cllr Wood urged residents to make their views known to the report's authors. To see the parish council's response contact 01992 523825.


Thumbs Down for Growth Study
Eleanor Scotchbrook, 31 October 2003, Harlow Citizen

HOUSING proposals outlined in the Stansted/M11 corridor study would have a "very detrimental effect" on Bishop's Stortford. That was the opinion of Bishop's Stortford Town Council when it formally responded to the study on Monday. Planning and environment committee members concluded that the growth options, which would see 2,000 new homes built in the area, would bring no benefits to the town. Committee chairman John Wylie said: "The main reason we are against it (the study) is that it tends to have no beneficial value to Bishop's Stortford.

"The document says that even without a new runway at Stansted, Bishop's Stortford would be expected to take up to 2,000 new homes but there would be no jobs increase within the town. "We would effectively be taking a lot more homes but not gaining any benefits. We also feel the infrastructure would be unable to cope."

East Herts Council has also delivered its response to the plans, and while councillors have reiterated their opposition to airport expansion, they have supported some of the proposals in the study.

Council leader Mike Carver said: "We're against any expansion at Stansted and that will not change. However, we believe some of the study work is useful. "We are pleased the report authors recognise the importance of the rural nature of East Herts and that Harlow should be regenerated on its outskirts, not ours."

But Mr Carver highlighted the lack of provision of genuinely affordable homes and the importance of all development being sustainable The council also said the study failed to look closely enough at the impact development in surrounding areas would have on local infrastructure, particularly in terms of service provision and traffic generation.

Uttlesford Council will shortly publish their response. They consider that the time allowed for consultation is far too short and the Council Leader Alan Dean is making their views known to the Regional Assembly and to the other authorities who commissioned the Report, Essex, Cambridge and Herts County Councils, EEDA and the Government Office for the Eastern Region. The initial view is that there is not the environmental capacity for the scale of the development proposed, and that including assumed predictions for further runway capacity at the airport especially after 2021 is against what had previously been agreed with the Minister of State at the ODPM.


Campaigners Face More Housing Proposals
Eleanor Scotchbrook, 27 October 2003, Harlow Citizen

RESIDENTS in Stansted Mountfitchet are being urged to challenge the proposals for massive housing development for the area set out in the Stansted/M11 corridor study. Uttlesford Council leader Alan Dean has appealed to local people to take part in the consultation and resist the thousands of new homes the report predicts will be needed. Even with one new runway at Stansted Airport, consultants Colin Buchanan and Partners estimate more than 7,000 new dwellings would be needed in Stansted Mountfitchet by 2036.

Mr Dean said: "These proposals are ill-conceived and illogical. I fear that Gordon Brown and John Prescott want to turn this area into a 21st century urban sprawl."

"There will be no quiet, green countryside left. Aviation and car fumes and acre upon acre of high-density development will choke the green lung of Essex if they get their way."


What Does the Minister Say?
The Countryside will not be built on

JEFF ROOKER, The Evening Standard

"CONTRARY to suggestions in the article (Villages at risk of being concreted over in plan to build 200,000 homes, 22 October), the Government has no intention of allowing a "continuous suburban swathe" to be created across the London Stansted and Cambridge regions. Our Sustainable Communities Plan sets out the framework for all the growth areas, and is crafted precisely to avoid that sort of urban sprawl."

"Many people cannot afford a decent home in their own community within the London Stansted-Cambridge corridor."

"This has the potential to cause problems in the future: controlled housing growth is essential to secure a sustainable future for these communities, and to make sure that key workers can afford to settle in the area."

"As well as delivering more homes in the London Stansted-Cambridge corridor, the Growth Area programme will breathe new life into areas such as Harlow and the Lea Valley and protect countryside and villages by using previously developed land first, while avoiding wasteful low-density developments."

"There is no suggestion of development at Thaxted or Saffron Walden."

Jeff Rooker, Minister of State for Regeneration and Regional Development, Whitehall, SW1

Our Comment: We hope that the Minister himself reads both the Report and the Technical documents. The kind of development proposed by the Report can never be regarded as sustainable, not even in the existing town of Harlow, which itself was designed for a population of its present size, and has plenty of life in spite of persistent reports of alleged decay. His phrase "controlled housing growth" is the key word. The Report is old-fashioned Predict and Provide. He should advise it's rejection.

Pat Dale


5 November 2003

MORE SPECULATIONS ABOUT RUNWAYS

Air Pollution round Stansted would be negligible,
says Ben Webster in The Times (Nov. 5th)

Ben Webster gives his views in the Times on the likely contents of the Government's White Paper. He correctly points out that any extra runway at Heathrow would breach the EU Directive on Air Quality. He goes on to comment that only 20 people are likely to suffer at Stansted if an extra runway is built there. He forgets that 20 people have as much right to the protection of the law as several thousand round Heathrow. He also forgets that these are predictions, and as such are wide open to challenge.

BA have already attempted to reduce the exposure forecast at Heathrow by carrying out some of their own measurements and fiddling with the traffic figures in order to reduce the amount of the principle offending emission, nitrogen dioxide, that can be blamed on aircraft emissions. These figures are being examined by an independent group of consultants (so it is claimed) and we await their comments. We could equally well find figures that would raise the number of households affected.

Just as important, the question of the adverse effects of nitrogen oxides on vegetation have been ignored completely. They are included in the same EU Directive, and it is clear that the maximum permitted levels would be exceeded in Hatfield Forest and over the surrounding areas of agricultural land.

It is also clear that ozone levels over a much wider area would rise - these have not been considered in the SERAS report, yet overall ozone levels are also to be included in EU legislation and uncontrolled aviation expansion will certainly lead to further unacceptable rises.

Ben Webster also suggests that it would be easier to build a second runway at Stansted before runway capacity in the south-east is exhausted - by 2013 apparently. He should visit us and see how many homes have to be demolished, and investigate how many acres of concrete, new houses, roads and rail improvements will be required.

BA has threatened to refuse to pay charges at Heathrow if these are to be used by BAA to subsidise developments at Stansted. Who is going to pay for all the required road and rail network? Not the Government, and not BAA, except within the airport!

All this should lead us to one conclusion - whatever the arguments about the alleged economic benefits of airport expansion, unconstrained runway expansion cannot be allowed if climate change is to be arrested. The priority aim should be to produce environmentally more friendly aircraft and reassess the situation before billions of pounds are spent on acres of concrete and thousands of people's chosen way of life is destroyed forever.

Pat Dale


30 October 2003

REPORTS FROM THE PRESS

The Battle over the Runways
Stansted campaigners warn Blair over runway expansion

by Michael Harrison  The Independent - London  25 October 2003

CAMPAIGNERS LOBBYING to prevent the construction of a new runway at Stansted hit out yesterday at the disclosure that the Essex airport is the site favoured by Tony Blair.

Stop Stansted Expansion warned the Prime Minister that he would have a huge fight on his hands if he attempted to foist a new runway onto residents living near the airport.

The lobby group also said a second runway would not be economically viable because Stansted only survived at present with cross subsidies from BAA's two other London airports - Heathrow and Gatwick.

The angry reaction came as it emerged that the Government's decision on where to build new runway capacity could be delayed from its December deadline because of Cabinet in-fighting. The Chancellor Gordon Brown is strongly in favour on economic grounds of a third runway at Heathrow. But the Stansted option is supported by the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and the Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett, as well as the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

Supporters of the Stansted option say it would be less damaging to the environment and would affect far fewer Labour constituencies because of the airport's remote location in open countryside.

But Carol Barbone, campaign director of Stop Stansted Expansion, said: "Putting party politics ahead of what is right for this country merits our utter contempt and quite possibly the contempt of the courts.

"If the Prime Minister thinks he is going to have an easy ride by forcing his views on the people of this region, he'll be taking on more than he bargained for."

The campaigners also released a report by an economist, Professor David Starkie, which they claimed cast serious doubt on the feasibility of adding extra runways at Stansted. The report claimed extra runways would not be commercially viable unless it was cross-subsidised.

Professor Starkie also said Stansted's financial performance had been "astonishingly bad" since its last major expansion in the early 1990s, which has lifted passenger numbers to 17 million a year.

BAA rejected the claims, saying Stansted had broken into profit six years after opening and made a £43m profit last year. A spokeswoman said it was also at the point where it could cover its own cost of capital and would very soon be in a position to be self-financing.


A Letter from Terry Waite
The Independent - London  27 October 2003

Sir: Your report that the Prime Minister is at loggerheads with the Chancellor over whether Heathrow or Stansted should be the location for London's next runway suggests, at first glance, that our politicians at the highest level are properly debating serious issues of national importance and which are of particular concern to local communities. This is as it should be.

But when I read that the Prime Minister favours Stansted on the grounds that there are fewer Labour seats at risk in this area, I despair. Is this really what it comes down to?

The national consultation about airport expansion has given rise to the largest public response to any consultation in history. Over 400,000 members of the public have responded. This is an encouraging demonstration of faith in the political system, and an unusual one these days.

Anyone familiar with the landscape around Stansted, with its ancient woodlands and centuries-old villages which predate any British Prime Minister, will know that this is a precious and irreplaceable heritage. It would be unforgivable if this were all to be cast aside on the grounds of political expediency.

Is it surprising that the public is disillusioned with our politicians, and does the Prime Minister realise the responsibility he carries? If decisions of this nature are to be made on the grounds of political expediency, this represents a threat not only to our natural heritage, but to democracy itself.


Another View, more runways but not at Stansted!
Ditch Stansted, airline chiefs tell Darling
Mark Killick and Dominic O'Connell  The Sunday Times  26 October 2003

BRITAIN's airline bosses have told Alistair Darling, the transport secretary, to reject plans for a runway at Stansted because it would have to be cross subsidised by Heathrow.

Their message, in a letter sent last week, is a thinly veiled attack on BAA's near-monopoly on airports in southeast England. BAA owns Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, and has in the past supported investment in Stansted from profits made at Heathrow. "We are all agreed that all the airports in the southeast should be self-funding, with no cross subsidy from other airports either directly or via a common shareholding," the letter said.

It has been signed by representatives of most UK airlines, including Rod Eddington, chief executive of British Airways, and Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic.

The letter goes on: "British airlines would strongly oppose an airports policy which relied on such cross subsidy. Indeed, it would be open to challenge for being anti-competitive, as it would require airlines at one airport to support their direct competitors at another airport."

The airlines' intervention will increase pressure on Darling, who has to tackle the controversial runway issue in December when he publishes a white paper on aviation. Ministers are thought to favour Heathrow and Stansted, but are split on which is better.

Heathrow is the first choice of airlines, but some Labour advisers fear that the political fallout from a new runway at the London hub would far outstrip that of one at Stansted.

But a Stansted runway would be difficult to finance. "Stansted is the least attractive of the main options ... airlines operating at Stansted only want to pay for what they need ... although it will take many years to reach fundability, the option to develop an additional runway should be retained for the later years of the 30-year timeframe," the letter says.

BAA would be able to fund Stansted if it were allowed to use profits from Heathrow -a ploy that was ruled out by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The letter says: "Attempting to develop Stansted by such a device would carry the high risk of dependence on overturning a central element of the recent regulatory settlement, which removed cross-subsidy."

Relations between airlines and BAA have been at rock bottom since the airports company won approval this year to raise prices to pay for a fifth terminal at Heathrow.

Pat Dale


30 October 2003

NEWS FROM PARLIAMENT
Questions in the House of Commons

Written Answers October 24th

Aircraft Noise

David Taylor (North West Leicestershire Lab): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to include the measurement of aircraft noise in the noise mapping the Department is required to carry out under the terms of the EU Noise Directive 2002/49/EC; and what methods it will employ to measure these noise levels.

Mr. McNulty: Major airports will be covered by the Directive. A major airport is defined in the Directive as a civil airport, designated by the member state, which has more than 50,000 movements (a movement being a take-off or a landing) per year excluding those purely for training purposes on light aircraft. The noise maps will be produced by computation using the standard methodology as set out in ECAC Document 29.

Airport Capacity (South-East)

John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington Lab): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he intends to make planning decisions involving airport capacity, before he has decided how to tackle long term environmental damage consequent on them.

Mr. McNulty: The air transport White Paper will not take planning decisions, but will set out a long term framework of Government policy for airport development and seek to maximise the beneficial aspects of aviation and minimise the negative effects. In deciding on policies on new airport capacity, we will take account of the environmental impacts and consider measures to control and mitigate those impacts.

Written Answers 27 October

Airport Capacity (South-East)

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington Lab): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport following the publication of the White Paper on the future of airport expansion in the UK, whether the chosen site for expansion in the South East will have to undergo a planning inquiry.

Mr. McNulty: No decisions have yet been taken on future airport capacity in the South East. The White Paper will not convey statutory authorisation for any development. That would need to be sought subsequently. Where an airport operator brings forward a planning application, under the major infrastructure projects provision in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill currently before the House, the Government will have powers to call in planning applications which it considers to be of national or regional importance. A Planning Inspector will then be appointed to consider the application and make recommendations to Ministers.

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department has made of the likely timescale between the publication of the White Paper on the future of airport expansion in the UK later this year and a final decision being taken on the location of expansion.

Mr. McNulty: The air transport White Paper will set out the Government's policies on any preferred locations for future airport capacity. Planning approval for any new capacity will need to be sought subsequently. For the purposes of the SERAS study, it was assumed that following the White Paper any new runway might require two years for detailed design and project definition and a further two years for authorisation.

Written Answers 28 October

Aviation

37. David Taylor (North West Leicestershire Lab): To ask the Leader of the House what plans he has to bring forward proposals for pre-legislative scrutiny of a draft bill on aviation.

Deputy Leader of the Commons (Mr. Woolas): My hon. Friend will be aware that I cannot reveal the Government's future legislative plans or pre-empt the contents of the Queen's Speech.

Aviation Fuel

Mr. Kidney (Stafford Lab): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking in (a) European and (b) international forums to promote a common approach to imposing tax on aviation fuel.

Mr. McNulty: This matter was last raised internationally at the ICAO 33rd Assembly in 2001, when the overwhelming majority of States spoke out against the introduction of a tax on aviation fuel. Analysis by the European Commission has also suggested that an EU-wide tax would deliver minimal environmental benefit. However, the Government remain committed to finding alternative ways of applying the 'polluter pays' concept to civil aviation. Information is contained in the joint HM Treasury/Department for Transport discussion document "Aviation and the Environment: Using Economic Instruments", published in March 2003.


28 October 2003

MORE PRESS RUMOURS
GOOD NEWS THIS TIME!

Today, October 28th, the Guardian reports that Ministers are planning to double airport tax "risking a backlash from passengers and the increasingly popular budget airlines".

The latter were not backward in condemning such a move. An easyJet spokesman is reported as threatening to fight "tooth and nail any increase in air passenger duty…its an attempt to price people out of the sky…the Government should let voters say whether they like low cost flying or not."

We have to remember that while BAA has made a move towards virtually conceding that there has to be some constraints on air traffic expansion, the budget airlines continue to leave their heads in the sand and pretend that there are no environmental problems, that the dangers of global warming , aggravated by more and more aircraft pollution, will somehow just vanish.

Our Comment: The Government have committed themselves to imposing a more realistic price on flying. However this is done the result will be that ticket prices will rise. This is and should be an accepted feature of any service provision that damages our health and our environment. We still have choice, but we pay for it and the hope is that this will discourage us from over-use of the service in question. Lower income families do have a problem and a reduced choice, but while this is recognised in subsidies paid for essential services such as housing, can we really regard cheap flights as an essential service? Would voters, faced with that question, really approve their taxes to be used to subsidise cheap holidays by air? And, how many families are really affected? The costs of the actual holiday itself - apart from the costs of getting there - are high, as are the costs of investing in a second home.

The press report goes on to suggest that the airport tax could be doubled which would make it £10 for UK and EU trips and £40 for longer flights. The tax was introduced by the Conservative Government but reduced by Gordon Brown - (this should have been challenged at the time).

Our Comment: Even if doubled it would still not cover all the environmental costs of flying. We suggest that short haul flights should be taxed relatively more heavily - they are the most polluting and rail and bus should be able to compete in many cases. Long haul are essential to long distance travel and should be treated differently. Also, why favour recreational journeys over business trips? Business travellers have no choice!

Pat Dale


23 October 2003

NEWS FROM THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

EDM 1688 – Aviation Air Pollution, Sustainability and Climate Change
Tabled on 15.09.03 by John McDonnell

32 MPS have now signed this Early Day Motion. It is an excellent way by which MPs can publicly demonstrate their support or opposition to any proposals.

Our own MP, who has the Stansted Airport in his constituency, Sir Alan Haselhurst, cannot sign an EDM because as deputy Speaker he must remain neutral with regard to Parliamentary debates. (He does, of course, forward all letters he receives to the Minister concerned.)

However, many more MP's constituencies will be affected by Stansted's expansion as will those representing people who live near any of the UK airports threatened with another Runway.

Ask your MP what his/her views are, ask him/her to sign the EDM. It is a sensible expression of concern that all responsible Governments should observe. It puts air traffic on the same footing as other forms of travel and recognises that the present effects of unlimited aviation air pollution cannot be continued.

Those who insist on their right to choose cut price air travel whatever the consequences should direct their energies towards promoting a more sustainable aircraft. The motor industry is having to meet the challenge, why not aviation?

THE EARLY DAY MOTION
That this House calls on the Secretary of State for Transport to develop an aviation policy that accords with national air pollution, sustainability and climate change targets and pays its full external costs; further calls on him to work at a natioal, European and international level to reduce and eliminate the tax concessions received by the aviation industry in the form of tax-free fuel and VAT-exempt products; believes that he should ensure that the countryside, biodiversity and heritage are safeguarded, that aircraft noise does not erode rural tranquillity and does not continue to annoy significant communities both day and night; and further calls on him to explore the potential of high-speed rail as an alternative to short-haul flights.


Answers to Parliamentary Questions from the Secretary of State for Transport
21st October 2003

The Airports White Paper

5. Mr. John Taylor (Solihull): When he expects to publish his White Paper on airports.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): We plan to publish the White Paper before the end of the year.

Mr. Taylor: Will the Secretary of State hasten the relief from blight that has afflicted people in the east of my constituency by virtue of uncertainty and hasten the day on which I may reassure them that there will be no second runway at Birmingham airport?

Mr. Darling: I can only repeat what I said: we intend to publish the White Paper before the end of the year. I appreciate that hon. Members on both sides of the House want the Government's views as quickly as possible. The consultation has been completed, we are evaluating the responses and, as I said, we shall publish our conclusions.

Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North): My right hon. Friend will be aware that there is considerable enthusiasm for expanding Luton, which contrasts with resistance to expanding other airports, especially those in the south-east. I am sure that he knows that there is the possibility of developing a rail link between Luton and Heathrow—I call it the Luton-Heathrow flyer service—which would mean that Luton could become a satellite feeder airport for Heathrow and take some pressure off it. Will he take that into account when making decisions about future airports in the south-east?

Mr. Darling: I indeed know that there is enthusiasm in Luton to extend the airport. I am also aware of the plan to build the rail link—it is one of many in different parts of the country. However, hon. Members will have to wait until we publish our conclusions, which we intend to do before the end of the year. Of course, the conclusions will cover Luton as well as other airports.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): I warmly endorse what has just been said about Luton. Will the Secretary of State assure me that my 11,500 constituents who wrote to him to protest about Halfpenny Green becoming an international airport and the 12,500 letters on the same subject that have been forwarded to him by my parliamentary colleagues will all be taken most carefully into account?

Mr. Darling: Yes, all the views will be taken into account.

Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton): When my right hon. Friend considers the White Paper on future airport provision, will he give serious consideration to the contribution that regional airports can make? Local companies are investing substantial sums in them to improve services. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that those regional airports can make a valuable contribution to air transport across the United Kingdom and will extend services to areas around the world. We should consider further the development and work of regional airports. Will he assure the House that that will be part of the White Paper?

Mr. Darling: The importance of regional airports will figure prominently in the White Paper. It is not just low-cost flights that have experienced an increase in patronage at local airports. About 7 million people travelled on low-cost airlines in 1998; this year, the figure will be 45 million. That has contributed to much of the growth in regional airports, with more direct flights. Regional airports will not, however, provide the network that can be found at a hub airport such as Heathrow. Although regional airports can and will play a part not just in the development of air travel but in economic development in the areas they serve, they will not be the whole answer.

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge): The consultation on the White Paper mentions sustainable aviation. What does the Secretary of State understand sustainable aviation to mean?

Mr. Darling: That will be spelt out in the White Paper, which we will publish later in the year.

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): Will there be anything in my right hon. Friend's aviation report on the monopoly of large airports and the variation in landing fees?

Mr. Darling: All matters raised with us, and they have been many and varied, will be dealt with in the White Paper. I understand hon. Members' anxiety and their enthusiasm for getting me to anticipate what will be in the White Paper, but as its publication is in the not-too-distant future, I can only provide a general assurance that it will deal with all the points raised.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Before the Secretary of State publishes the White Paper, will he find time in his very busy diary to see for himself all those blighted communities near airports where the runways may be expanded as a result of his proposals, which have invited him and his ministerial team to visit, as my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) has done with my humble support? Will he also assure the House that he will publish in full all responses to the consultation before he publishes the White Paper?

Mr. Darling: On the latter point, no. The logic is that the White Paper should be published and, at the same time, the report on the consultation exercise will also be made available, as we made clear. That is what has happened before.

I have visited a large number of airport sites over the past few months. To repeat what I said earlier, it will not be long before the Government publish their conclusions, which will set out a framework for development over the next 30 years.


Written Answers to Questions
16th October 2003

MPs ASK - WHAT ABOUT WATER SUPPLIES?

South East Housing Growth (Water Supply)

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the effect of the projected housing numbers forecast for the South East on the level of water supply; and if he will make a statement.

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is committed to ensuring that projected growth in housing numbers across the South East has the necessary water and sewerage services. In the growth areas, proposals for increased housing are based on studies which assess infrastructure requirements including water, and as more specific locations for growth are defined in local studies and plans, the requirements can be considered in terms of specific capacity increases required.

Together with regional and local partners, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has held and will continue discussions with the respective water undertakers and environmental regulators over the level of water supplies needed to meet the projected housing growth across the South East.

Our Comment: Does this reassure YOU?

Pat Dale


23 October 2003

SOME COMMENTS FROM THE PRESS

Residents angry at night flight noise
VICTORIA FLETCHER The Evening Standard. 14th October 2003

FLIGHTS coming in to land at London's main airports are regularly breaking official noise limits, it has been revealed.

Millions of residents who live in the flight path of Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted are being subjected to deafening engine noise an average of once in every 24-hour period.

Heathrow has the worst problem with more than 260 night flights breaking noise limits in the last year alone.

Although airlines face a 500 fine, residents say the sum is nowhere near big enough to act as a deterrent.

John Stewart of campaign group Hacan, said he was appalled by the news. "BAA are allowing airlines to get away with it and only charging small fines. It is totally unacceptable. We need tougher controls and heavier fines."

Details of the infringements were provided by BAA, the airports operator, which monitors the decibel level produced by every incoming and outgoing flight at its airports.

But while in the last year noise regulations have become more stringent, fines have been halved from 1,000.

BAA statistics show that in the last year, 77 daytime flights coming into Heathrow have exceeded noise regulations compared to three at Gatwick and seven at Stansted. But night flights - between 11pm and 6am - are more likely to break limits. At Gatwick, 10 flights broke noise regulations with 26 cases at Stansted.

A spokesman for BAA said: "Airlines are encouraged to modernise fleets through discounts on landing charges for quieter aircraft and are fined when aircraft exceed noise limits."


BRITISH government ministers find it tortuously difficult to decide where to site new runways

Report in "The Business" (12th October) Ken Boyfield

BRITISH government ministers find it tortuously difficult to decide where to site new runways in south-east England. The reason for their hesitation is simple; many votes can be lost and few gained in reaching a decision. This autumn, however, ministers promise to decide. New runways are sorely needed; Heathrow and Gatwick are fully stretched. If ministers are wise, they should seize this opportunity to inject some much-needed competition into the airport industry. BAA, the privatised airport operator, enjoys a 93% share of terminal passengers in the south-east. Under any definition, that is a dominant monopoly and BAA faces a mounting chorus of criticism over its stranglehold, which has resulted in massive congestion.

Airline heads, notably Virgin's Sir Richard Branson, British Midland's Sir Michael Bishop and Ryanair's Michael O'Leary, are calling for the fragmentation of BAA. Their pleas are backed by a recent parliamentary transport select committee report, which concluded that the "dominant position of BAA means that the ownership structure of the UK's airports is deeply flawed".

But there is a real danger that BAA's grip on runway capacity could be strengthened if ministers give the go-ahead to new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted, while deferring a decision to encourage greater competition. BAA's monopoly power could be tackled if ministers recommended break-up, coupled with the encouragement of imaginative schemes such as a proposal to develop a feeder-reliever runway at Redhill in Surrey, in operation since the 1920s.

Unfortunately, a third runway at Heathrow is emerging as the civil servants' favoured option. Airlines are also strongly in favour of this option, since this is where most people want to fly from. But the proposal to construct a 2,000-metre runway north of the existing airport has some drawbacks. The Department of Transport admits that an additional runway could expose up to 35,000 people to excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide, the fumes from aircraft exhausts. Furthermore, it will probably take 12 years before the runway is ready for use; and, perhaps most significantly, it will cost a lot of money.

A third runway at Heathrow would require considerable construction work as well as a sixth passenger terminal. The bill for all this is likely to total at least £5bn (E7.15bn, $8.3bn) and more like £7bn, once financial compensation is paid to local residents and the cost of improving roads and public transport is taken into account.

BAA would want UK taxpayers to contribute to the cost since its own financial resources are stretched. Recently, the company's credit rating was downgraded to reflect the substantial sums it is borrowing from the capital markets. Over the next 11 years BAA plans to spend £8.4bn developing facilities at its three London airport locations. Significantly, this sum does not allow for new runway investment.

Development at Gatwick faces a major snag. There is a legal agreement banning a second runway before 2019. This could be overturned by parliament, but it would plunge planning law into turmoil.

Then there is Stansted, which BAA would like to develop. Unfortunately, Stansted is located in the wrong place. Most people wanting to fly live closer to Heathrow and Gatwick. Nor can Stansted be described as a hub airport. It offers no long-haul intercontinental services. Consequently, major international airlines stay away because there is no interlinking traffic to bolster their passenger yields.

If the Heathrow option is given the go-ahead, and it can be financed, ministers will still need to identify additional capacity. Regional services in the UK are suffering because of the shortage of runway slots at Heathrow and Gatwick. It is remarkable to note that Holland's Schiphol airport offers more flights to UK cities than Heathrow and Gatwick combined.

The current owners of Redhill, five miles north of Gatwick, propose developing a 2,000m feeder-reliever runway which would provide capacity for a further 20m passengers and allow an additional 15m people to use Gatwick's single runway. Relatively few people live close by and the owners of the airfield are prepared to compensate them for any disturbance caused.

Redhill is next to the M23 and connected by rail via Thameslink to Gatwick and central London. It would also be comparatively inexpensive to develop. Redhill's promoters reckon that total costs should amount to £1.2bn, compared with £5bn-£7bn for a Heathrow runway.

Passengers wanting to by-pass the south east's sclerotic road and rail network would also be able to fly in and out of Redhill to UK regional cities. Best of all, Redhill's developers reckon they could open a new runway by 2010 - at least five years ahead of any of the other options.

Keith Boyfield is editor of 'A Market In Airport Slots', published by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Our Comment: Still the assumption that a big expansion is required, though this article in painting all the difficulties of expanding in the South-East seems to be putting the case for Regional Airports to expand. We have suggested that environmental limits - after local consultation - should be laid down for all airports. Then the Minister would have had a much easier task!

Pat Dale


22 October 2003

EVENING STANDARD STANSTED STORY
22 October 2003

Stansted plan "could wipe out villages"
by Hugh Dougherty & Teresa Keane

Scores of villages face being "concreted over" if twin proposals to build thousands of homes and expand one of the South-East's airports are passed.

One of the most influential conservation groups has said that up to 35 square miles of parks and farmland could be lost if the Government allows the expansion of Stansted airport.

The CPRE is calling for the plans to develop the so-called M11 corridor from Harlow in Essex to Cambridge, to be abandoned. It is urging residents in the area – including Thaxted, Elsenham, Great Dunmow and Saffron Walden – to use an official consultation, closing this month, to oppose the plans.

Proposals to site thousands of homes in the M11 corridor were put forward by Deputy PM John Prescott this year. It is one of four sites designated for 200,000 new properties, as part of the effort to meet predicted demand for 1.1million more homes in the South East by 2016.

Today the CPRE's head of planning, Henry Oliver, said "Growth on this scale could engulf many of our most beautiful and historic towns and villages." The Government claims essential workers will be priced out of the South East unless the homes are built.


19 October 2003

AIRCRAFT POLLUTION
The Minister commits the Government to Action on Climate Change
How Much and How Effective remains the Question
Will Good Intentions be wasted by too much Air Traffic Expansion?

Tony McNulty's speech at the BAA Conference on Climate Change
13th October 2003

Thank you Mike [Clasper] for inviting me here. We are focussing on climate change today. But I want to stress that our White Paper, which we are committed to publish by the end of this year, will be looking at the whole package. It will include issues like surface access, housing, and employment.

And air quality. New standards are set to apply from 2005 and 2010. The contribution of the aviation sector to meeting these standards, whether new capacity is provided or not, will be important - and it will not be easy.

Climate Change

But for today I would like to commend BAA on getting us all together to discuss the issue of aviation and climate change. This event is a sign in itself of how the aviation industry is facing up to the challenge of climate change. It underlines that if we are to tackle climate change, then the aviation industry has a very important role to play - working with us in Government to reduce green house gas emissions, now and in the long-term.

There is now strong scientific evidence that climate change is happening. It is a challenge for the whole world and it is clear that doing nothing is not an option. Fortunately, governments around the world are now beginning to face up to the problem.

UK Target Commitments

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and its Kyoto Protocol shows the importance of global agreement to act. And I'm pleased to say that the UK has taken a world lead. We've made a commitment under the Protocol that by 2012, UK greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced to 12½% below 1990 levels.

And we have said that we want to move towards a 20% reduction in UK carbon dioxide emissions below current levels by 2010. By 2050, as set out in our Energy White Paper, we want to move towards a 60% reduction below current levels.

We need to decide how to treat a growing international industry in the context of these domestic goals, and our leadership role in combating climate change.

Aviation's Contribution

However you cut it, the environment is central to the future development of the aviation industry. The industry's energy consumption is forecast to grow. Aviation's contribution to global warming is forecast to grow. Improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency won't be enough to stop the increases in carbon dioxide emissions.

By 2050, the International Panel on Climate Change believes that aviation will produce up to 15% of man made global warming. And as the Johannesburg Declaration says "the polluter should in principle bear the costs of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment." That is a heavy-weight message. We are responding to that message.

UK Emissions Trading Scheme

Last year, we introduced the world's first economy-wide greenhouse gas trading scheme. Larry Whitty spoke to you about it earlier this year. The latest news is it's going well. It's a voluntary scheme. One major airline - British Airways - and one major aerospace company - Rolls Royce - are taking part in it. All told, participants in the first year have reduced their emissions by the equivalent of over four and a half million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This alone is around six per cent of the UK's Kyoto target. The benefits of the UK emissions trading scheme go beyond the emission reductions secured.

The cost associated with emitting carbon dioxide appears on the balance sheet. This has been a powerful spur to finance directors and board members to buy into the climate change agenda!

The emissions trading scheme is an example of what can be achieved by Government and industry working in partnership. But there is a lot more we can both do.

International Action

For us in Government, a big challenge is securing a co-ordinated international approach to addressing aviation's contribution to climate change. We are working on two main fronts.

First, through ICAO, we are pressing for tougher international technical standards to reduce aircraft emissions and noise, as well as the development of market- based measures to encourage airlines to purchase cleaner aircraft. Options include emissions trading or charging and voluntary agreements. We are putting money up to help ICAO develop a credible open emission trading scheme, which many think is the best way forward. In fact senior officials from my Department are in discussions about this right now, at ICAO headquarters in Montreal.

European Action

Secondly, Europe offers us a potential interim step. The EU's own emissions trading scheme should start in 2005 - and could include aviation from 2008. Some EU member states and accession countries may need persuading that this is an economically and environmentally sound option.

I particularly welcome BAA's initiative in looking at the impact of adding aviation to the EU trading scheme. Your consultants' report is a useful contribution to the debate.

There are difficult design issues, since aviation is a very different industry to those such as energy production or the mineral industry that are covered by the first phase of the scheme.

There are other big issues - like the impact of emissions at high altitude, and how we allocate emissions from international aviation.

This last point is important for us in the UK - using some allocation models, around 90 per cent of UK aviation emissions would come from international flights, many of those operated by non-UK carriers. We need to study this further.

Industry Commitment

As a whole, the industry wants more capacity. And of course everyone is awaiting the outcome of our White Paper very eagerly.

But I would say - whatever the outcome - the industry must grasp the environmental agenda really firmly. Sustainable development principles need to be built into the base of all operations. I welcome Mike's announcement today that BAA is committed to reducing emissions at BAA airports by 15% by 2010, compared to 1990. It is an encouraging step.

The industry needs to demonstrate a continuing commitment to meeting environmental targets - whether that means stretching fuel efficiency, or offering passengers the opportunity to buy 'carbon offsets' for example. This is going to be an important year for aviation.

Our responsibility in government is great - to map out a framework that balances our environmental responsibilities with what the aviation industry needs to maximise its potential. One thing is certain - finding the right answers will not be easy. Thank you for listening to me today.

Our Comment: After such welcome remarks it may seem rather cynical to criticise. However - we must ask if it is really possible to balance the Government's environmental responsibilities with what the aviation NEEDS to maximise its potential. We would say yes, because the industry does not NEED to expand to the extent claimed in order to "maximise its potential". If, though, the Minister believes that expansion is necessary then we would disagree and say that it is not possible to achieve a balance in those circumstances - the environmental limits of the global climate have already been reached.


Mike Clasper puts BAA's views to the Conference

BAA demands urgent action on aviation and global warming

Mike Clasper, chief executive of leading international airport operator BAA plc, called on the UK Government and the aviation industry to unite behind a radical plan to address aviation's contribution to the problem of climate change. "We cannot afford to be seduced by those in our industry who say there is no need for action," he said. "United, we can deliver a solution to this global challenge. Fragmented, we will fail."

Clasper also called upon the UK Government and the European Commission to integrate aviation within the proposed EU emissions trading scheme from 2008, which would allow aviation to offset its own contribution to global warming by paying for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by other industries.

Addressing the second BAA aviation and climate change seminar, alongside UK Aviation Minister Tony McNulty MP and EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, Clasper said that climate change is the biggest single environmental challenge aviation faces and that business has a responsibility to respond seriously, creatively and imaginatively to solve the problem.

By partially integrating aviation into the EU emissions trading scheme, aviation will be able to pay for part of its climate change impact, alongside other industries. This should be complemented by a scientific research programme, funded by a moderate EU per passenger kilometre charge, to explore potential solutions to climate change within the aviation sector.

In the long term, BAA is calling for aviation to be fully included in an open, international emissions trading scheme where aviation would account for its total climate change impact.

Mike Clasper said; "Emissions trading should play a central role in addressing the issue of climate change, as it is a smart, environmentally effective way for aviation to pay its costs. The UK Government now needs to show strong, clear political leadership for an EU approach to emissions trading and should clearly express its support in the forthcoming 30 year Aviation White Paper. The European Commission should bring forward a proposal to partially integrate EU aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme from 2008. We propose that legally binding CO2 and NOx emissions reduction targets are set, with airlines required to improve their emissions performance or buy enough allowances from the EU emissions trading market, to deliver the target."

"This is a real solution to our future which, whilst meaning additional costs to our industry, will reduce the global impact of climate change, and is much better than the taxation politicians will feel obliged to impose, if our industry stands by and does nothing."

Our Comment: Fine words, let's hope BAA lives up to it! The undertaking reported by the Minister to reduce emissions at BAA Airports by 15% of 1990 levels by 2010 is a reasonable beginning target IF it includes aircraft emissions. We have to remember that vehicle emissions will have fallen considerably anyway, not because of action by BAA, but because of an EU Directive which has required vehicle engine improvements also by 2010. The Directive has been implemented through the improvements initiated by the motor industry. Can the aviation industry achieve similar improvements?


A WRITTEN ANSWER TO A QUESTION
FROM THE HOUSE OF LORDS

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they have any plans to improve aircraft technology so that relevant pollutants around Heathrow Airport will meet European Union limits in 2010.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Aircraft are one of many emissions sources contributing to local air pollution in the vicinity of Heathrow and elsewhere. The Government are determined that the aviation industry will play its part in reducing emissions at source, particularly NOx as NO2 is the pollutant under greatest pressure. The Government push hard within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for tighter NOx emissions standards and a decision on a new global NOx standard is expected in 2004. The Government are supporting UK industry work towards achieving European emissions technology goals that include, by 2020, an 80 per cent reduction in NOx emissions compared with technology levels in current service. A key vehicle for promoting industry action is the DTI aerospace innovation and growth team report launched in June this year. The Government are also considering scope to use economic instruments that will promote development and use of best available technology.

Our Comment: We need regulatory action, not just targets and "economic instruments".

Pat Dale


12 October 2003

REPORT FROM THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY CONFERENCE

James Drewer has sent a full report of the various statements and meerings about the future of Aviation.
Here follow the main parts of this Report - plus a few independent comments.

The Shadow Minister Sits on the Fence

Anne McIntosh, Shadow aviation Minister, told delegates at the Conservative Party conference that the 'tough political decision' on where to place new runways has been poorly researched and likely to be delayed until early next year.

She attacked the government's failure to ask the users of the aviation industry where they would prefer development to take place and revealed that her party had 'not yet taken a position', since it was 'not our consultation'.

In a fringe meeting organised by the Conservative Transport Group, Mrs McIntosh was joined by Mr David Frost, Director General for the British Chamber of Commerce and Steven Hardwick, Public Affairs Director of BAA.

Anne McIntosh began her contribution by pointing out that she was 'mindful of the role that aviation and airports play'. She stressed the task of the Conservative Party was to offer a balanced response to the government's White Paper, which she warned might not surface until as late as early next year.

Referring to the 'damning' comments on environmental damage made by the Commons Transport Select Committee, Mrs McIntosh emphasised that this aspect had to be fully taken into account.

This was especially the case, she said, given that political parties could remain envious of the RSPB membership, totalling over one million, which, she pointed out was more than all three of the main political parties put together.

She attacked the government's 'very regrettable' handling of the new airport project proposal for Cliffe, suggesting it was 'flawed from the outset'. Mrs McIntosh preferred that regional infrastructure was updated to make way for expansion to airports in the northeast, northwest and Scotland. The 'obsession with the SE is very depressing and quite frankly wrong', she claimed.

She paid tribute to the work of Manchester airport, pointing out it was a 'beacon' to other airports, following its work on improving travel links from areas such as North Yorkshire. She then regretted that roads only serviced Leeds/Bradford airport. It was 'incredible' that people were not pushing for greater transport links to this and other ports such as Teeside, Mrs McIntosh argued.

The Shadow Minister Minister's comments on cheap flights!

She then predicted low budget airline Ryanair's bubble was about to burst, noting that they had lost the Strasbourg journey and likely to lose Aarhus and Charleroi by next year. Raising doubts on the Ireland based firm's safety standards, Mrs McIntosh implied this kept down the costs of their flights.

Sitting on the fence again - BUT, we fully appreciate the reasons given.

She maintained her party's position as keeping an open mind on the aviation White Paper, whilst pointing out later during questions that the Tories had found difficulty in taking a firm position on the subject since it had not been their decision to embark on a journey of new runways.

BAA pushes the aviation industry's case.

Steven Hardwick from BAA had earlier opened the meeting, starting by pointing towards the constant rates of growth in the industry in recent years. With current growth levels standing at around 6% a year, he estimated that this might increase a further 4% in the lead up to 2030. In terms of passenger numbers, Mr Hardwick indicated that the current level of 180m could increase to up to 500m by 2030. He anticipated new runways in the southeast, midlands and Scotland during this period. Relating passenger growth to jobs, Mr Hardwick stated that the current workforce of 130,000 employed by the aviation industry could increase by 150,000 over the next thirty years.

He referred to a series of polls that had indicated increasing incidences of flying were not confined to the wealthier segments of society. 'Most of us can afford to fly and most of us want to', he claimed.

Turning to the environmental concerns, Mr Hardwick accepted that growth in the industry could not presently be achieved without lasting damage to the environment.

Noise from aircraft engines was of particular concerns to those living around the Heathrow area, he said. This has been reduced over recent years, he claimed, with only 300,000 people now having to endure noise reaching 57 decibels.

Mr Hardwick told delegates that the industry was slowly phasing out its noisier aircrafts and replacing them with quieter ones. Efforts were also being made to promote cleaner fuels in the industry, he said, accepting that greenhouse gases were 'a big problem', with the industry accounting for 3% of present emissions, a figure that could rise up to 15% in the next thirty years.

He offered a solution to this difficulty, exploring the possibility of emissions trading, where payment would be made to other industries to reduce CO2. The government and environmental groups alike supported this proposal, he said, before raising concerns that the US, who have yet to sign up to the Kyoto agreement, would not follow suit.

Mr Hardwick argued that the aviation industry was the least subsidised form of public transport in the UK, with the roads receiving £19.4bn, rail, £6.5bn and £5.6bn being spent on the bus industry. The aviation industry, however, paid £1bn a year in aviation tax and was a profitable industry so therefore had to additionally pay corporation tax, he added.

He called on the government to offer a level playing field with other modes of transport, claiming that people wanted to fly and would prefer Minister not to 'tax us out of existence'.

Offering to cut noise, pay for emissions and provide finance to update road and rail infrastructure, Mr Hardwick finally revealed his preference for the government's aviation White Paper to offer new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

Our Comments: The same old arguments. The industry has yet to produce even a design for a sustainable aircraft that produces less noise, less CO2 and less nitrogen dioxide. Contributing to an emissions trading scheme will help encourage airlines to order new models but it is not going to be enough to allow the kind of expansion that BAA wants to promote. Encouraging this kind of expansion in the hope that this new superplane will evolve is playing Russian roulette with our environment. Let's have the aircraft plans first, and then the allowable expansion levels can be more safely estimated.

More pressure from the British Chamber of Commerce.

Mr David Frost, Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce, began by outlining that his organisation served the interests of 135,000 mainly small, family owned businesses, typically employing around 10 to 75 people. He maintained 'a great interest in the aviation agenda', saying of the forthcoming White Paper, that it determined 'a crucial part of economic development within this country'.

Referring to the scale of the UK's tourist industry, Mr Frost said that of the 9.1 million visits to the country last year, £7.1bn was spent and 66% of travellers had arrived by plane. He said that the industry employed 550,000 people and accounted for £10bn of the country's GDP.

Mr Frost went on to attack 'the terrible state of service infrastructure' in the UK, contending that this affected the scope of expansion of regional airports. Although the southeast was of 'real national importance', Mr Frost accepted that the long-term solution did not lie solely in expanding Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. The international significance of Heathrow meant that it had to expand or risk losing business to Charles de Gaulle in Paris or Schipol in Amsterdam.

He went on to attack the planning system, arguing that delays in development decisions had to be addressed to ensure the long-term survival of the industry. 'The government and industry have to work in partnership to ensure sustainable growth', Mr Frost concluded.

Questions from the floor offered Mr Hardwick the opportunity to reject a charge from the audience that his company was driving the government's decision making on the new runways. He maintained that BAA had a legitimate responsibility to respond to the consultation, though was not responsible for determining national policy.

Mr Frost, meanwhile, rose 'grave concerns' that the environmental arguments would triumph over the dire need for the industry to expand capacity in the southeast. Mr Hardwick also pointed out that nine out of ten passengers in the southeast either lived in the area or were specifically visiting that area.

Anne McIntosh forwarded the case for improving fast rail links to offer competition to internal flights. She found it 'bizarre' that whilst subsidies increased, services worsened.

She also maintained the rights of planning authorities to decide whether an application for a new airport or runway should be approved, strenuously denying it was the job for MPs or that they could quicken the process in any way. On compulsory purchase, she remained hopeful that businesses would put a suitable amount of money into the pot and adequately compensates landowners. She saw no viable alternative in a country that lacks the landmass of France or Germany.


The RSPB Meeting - Flying into Trouble

Shadow Transport Secretary Tim Collins presented the Conservative Party as taking the middle ground on airport expansion. He attacked the government's policy of 'unlimited expansion' and the Liberal Democrats' desire to abolish the aviation industry. Instead, he pitched the Tories as the only option for accepting the social and environmental arguments, whilst safeguarding the industry's future.

In a fringe meeting organised by the RSPB and the Conservative Association of Councillors, Mr Collins was joined by Dr Mark Avery, RSPB Director of Conservation and Councillor Gordon Keymer, Chair of the Conservatives Association of Councillors. Theresa Villiers MEP chaired the meeting.

Tim Collins opened by pointing out his mother had travelled up to Blackpool for the conference, only to pay 50p for her flight. This, he argued, was 'not remotely close to the environmental impacts' her journey would incur.

With the Liberal Democrats going for an approach advocating no more aviation industry and the Labour government opting for a policy of 'unlimited expansion', Mr Collins argued that it was up to the Tories to pitch in a balanced approach. The aviation industry cannot be segmented from other modes of transport in relation to the taxation and environmental regime, said Mr Collins. Referring to the proposal for a regional airport in Cliffe, Kent, the Shadow Transport Secretary told delegates that unlike his opposite number Alistair Darling, he had visited the area and discussed the proposal with local residents.

He called for a 'sensible, balanced conclusion' to the government's consultation ahead of the Aviation White Paper, which, he revealed, might not even surface until the early part of next year.

Mr Collins finally preferred that high speed, quality rail links were developed and promoted as an alternative to the more environmentally costly internal flights.

Dr Avery of the RSPB began his contribution by revealing his organisation's membership as numbering over one million, taking in a large revenue to add onto 184 nature reserves, amounting to a land mass similar to that of Bedfordshire.

Turning to the case for an airport in the West Kent Marshes site near Cliffe, Dr Avery said the proposal was 'ridiculous', particularly given that it had been identified as a site of special scientific interest of international importance to wildlife. He told delegates of his intent to 'fight that proposal all the way'.

During the consultation process for the impending White Paper, Dr Avery stressed that of the 300,000 that responded, 150,000 were members of the RSPB and opposed to the Cliffe development. He went on to raise doubts on the government's 'predict and provide' approach to aviation, contending that current projections stating a monumental increase in demand were misconceived. The Cliffe project would require around 11,000 houses to be demolished, he said, whilst having irreversible effects on the environment through increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

With aviation being the fastest area of growth in relation to CO2s, Dr Avery warned that the current statistics suggesting the industry accounted for 3.5% of total emissions would increase to up to 15% in the next few years.

Dr Avery argued that the costs to the local environment were not being suitably taken into account each time the government sought to build a new airport. He called for a series of fiscal measures to curb growth, with possibilities around VAT on flights and taxes on aviation fuel. In addition, charging for take off and landing slots in airports should also be explored, Dr Avery advised.

Councillor Gordon Keymer opened his speech by outlining the strength of the UK aviation industry, contending it was 'one of the most competitive in the world'.

Expertise in components and support services meant that around 280,000 workers depended on the industry as a source of employment, he said. Contributing £10bn a year to the country's overall GDP, Councillor Keymer predicted that current growth could see the sector grow to supply a further 100,000 jobs within the next ten years. This would have a significant impact on any government's ability to tackle social exclusion, he argued.

Acknowledging that both the social and environmental impacts should be taken into account, the Councillor stressed that environmental arguments alone could not justify inaction on behalf of the government. He went on to promote the virtues of consultation, remarking that the government's White Paper, expected later in the year, would be vital to the UK's prosperity and environment.

With this in mind, he called for a new decision making process, taking into account the duty and responsibilities of local government to engage the public in the debate. He preferred that the public and industry worked together to promote a consensus rather than the 'winner takes all' mentality that currently exists. The Councillor finally called for the Cliffe proposal to be dismissed and the existing regional airports to be expanded to their maximum capacities.

Questions from the floor offered Dr Avery the chance to accept that expanding regional airports may provide a suitable solution to the capacity issue. This was especially the case given that half of all flights to Heathrow were internal.

Responding to a question regarding building on wetlands, Dr Avery argued that this had left the Civil Aviation Authority 'twitchy' and demonstrated a clear 'lack of joint up thinking' on behalf of the government.

Tim Collins later renewed his attacks on the government, contending that under current policy the DfT would preside over a new Heathrow being built on an annual basis.

He also questioned why there was a ten-year plan on all other aspects of transport when aviation merited planning over 30 years. He speculated this was because the Secretary of State viewed the siting of new railway stations to be dependant on new runways.

Mr Collins revealed that his speech to the main conference would state serious concerns on the impact of developments overheating the south-east economy. He argued that the government had in fact appeared to have abandoned regional government, before outlining that the overall benefit of low-budget airlines to the UK economy was in fact small.

In the audience, the public affairs director of BAA attacked delegates, revealing he was 'astonished to find members of the Conservative party talking like members of Friends of the Earth'.

Mr Collins, along with Dr Avery, rejected the charge and pointed out that any strategy needed to take account of the wider social and environmental impacts that expansion of the aviation industry might incur.

Dr Avery hit back at BAA, arguing, 'your environmental credentials remain rather low'.

Meanwhile, Tim Collins accepted the fact that any decision would not please everyone. He took issue at the approach of the Prime Minister Tony Blair, who, he said thought 'if you smile at everybody you can please everybody'.

Pat Dale


12 October 2003

THE LATEST PRONOUNCEMENT FROM THE GOVERNMENT

NEW FROM DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT ( 9th October)
Tony McNulty Speech to Royal Aeronautical Society

With regard to planning the future of aviation, there will always be conflicting interests and priorities. Even at a very personal level.

As a Government Minister, my focus is on economic prosperity for the UK and the country's prosperity is very dependent upon the success of the aviation industry.

Equally, I am concerned about the impact of aviation on the local and global environments.

Yet, I'm also a consumer who wishes to fly.

These are dilemmas that are true for many of us.

Balancing these needs and concerns is not easy - but that's no reason for not trying! A key aim of the recent consultation process has been to ask all parties to examine the wide range of issues concerning the future of aviation - rather than focus on their specific interests, specialisations and concerns.

So today, one thing I need to stress is balance. We need to balance maximising economic and social benefits of air transport with minimising its environmental impacts.

In essence, we are approaching some very difficult decisions about the future of air travel. But they need to be tackled. Too often long-term decisions about transport have been put off.

Later this year, we will publish an air transport White Paper. The paper will provide a policy framework for aviation over the next 30 years or so. In particular, it will give a clear steer on the Government's preferred locations for any major airport development. It will provide the background for any future planning applications from airport operators.

And perhaps the real challenge of the White Paper will be to make air travel sustainable.

But let me start by putting this in context. Just as it has done in the past, transport has a very direct effect on the day-to-day reality of people's lives. It's played a critical part in social and economic change - it will continue to do so.

For example, the Victorians created the railway system that enabled people to travel distances that weren't possible before.

The railways couldn't have happened without the industrial revolution - but equally, without developments in how people travelled there couldn't have been such a massive change in the way people lived and worked.

Something very similar is happening now. Developments in transport, communications and information technologies are together transforming our life.

People in the remotest of locations can order a wider range of goods now than at any time in the past thanks to the Internet.

But they couldn't get these products without the changes in transport, which can bring items large and small from all over the world to our homes in a matter of hours. It is air travel that's opening up such possibilities.

We're one of the largest economies in the world. And not only does aviation make a major contribution to our economy, but it's also is a big UK success story.

The UK has had one of the most successful aviation industries in the world. Strong competition has created an industry that focuses on the needs of its customers and competes successfully internationally.

We have the largest charter sector in Europe. Our no frills carriers are making airlines across Europe more competitive and responsive to customer needs.

And at Heathrow we have a world class hub airport. More international passengers transfer through this airport than through any other airport in the world. To put that in perspective one in six of the world's international passengers start or finish their journey at an airport in the South East of England.

We're part of an increasingly global economy. Britain's economy depends fundamentally on international trade. And today's international trade depends heavily on aviation.

Britain's economic strengths are in people-based businesses and knowledge-based businesses. These are precisely the businesses that depend heavily on air travel.

We want to get our business executives, as well as our goods to markets across the world, and quickly. In 2001, 6.3 million business trips from the UK were made by air.

The more we become prosperous, the more we want choices to travel - in this country and across the globe. And demand for air travel is expected to grow.

It's increased sixfold in since 1970. Half the population flew at least once in 2001. And, in terms of financial value, air takes a third of the goods we export - that's £60 billion a year.

But the increasing air travel - as with other transport - affects the environment. It affects noise, air quality and road traffic. All of these are serious concerns for people who live and work near airports.

And across the globe, planes discharge green-house gases and particles into the atmosphere. So, air travel affects climate change.

We have to ask ourselves how we can plan for the needs of generations to come. How can we make the most of the benefits air travel can bring and to limit the harm it can do?

Of course we can't fully anticipate how our lives will change over the long term. But the Government is clear about what our objectives should be.

Aviation should be entirely consistent with our environmental and social objectives. And as we look ahead we must keep these twin objectives in the forefront of our minds. Good quality of life in the future depends not just on a strong economy but on a good living environment too.

Of course there are tensions between these objectives. Over the coming months we will reconcile these and reach decisions. Whatever we decide, there will be no shortage of critics. But doing nothing would help no-one and be the worst possible option.

This is not [as some critics would have it] about 'predict and provide' - predicting the potential demand and then providing the capacity to meet that demand. But we do need to plan ahead to provide people and businesses with certainty so that they can take informed decisions. And we need to create a sustainable framework within which air travel can develop.

Some people, particularly in the South East of England seem to think that because we consulted on a number of options we are seriously considering building all of them. That has never been our intention. We consulted on a wide range of options, one of which assumed no further capacity in the SouthEast.

Our intention has been to offer a range of alternative options, both on how much capacity should be provided, and on alternative locations for capacity development.

Remember, there were three main questions in our consultation.

The first was how much capacity, if any, is needed. The second question was where any capacity should best be located. And the third question was about how to control the environmental impacts of aviation.

As technology develops planes have become more fuel-efficient and emissions and noise from individual planes has reduced significantly.

Take noise. New technology, and measures that constrain aircraft, has meant that noise at many of our major airports has reduced significantly in recent years.

At Heathrow, for example the number of people experiencing significant noise nuisance is less than a fifth of what it was in the 1970s.

With the right encouragement, technology can make more improvements. We're doing this already with cars. We're providing the right financial incentives and encouragement for industry to develop ultra fuel-efficient cars. The same can happen for aviation.

For example, European aerospace industry leaders have set themselves a research target of a 50% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

I'm in no doubt that air travel must meet all its environmental and social costs. The polluter should pay - and pay in full.

The issue for us now, as the Chancellor set out last November, is what's the most appropriate set of economic incentives to make sure there's an efficient environmental outcome.

Air passenger duty already raises around £900 million. But it's not structured to encourage positive outcomes for the environment. The amount of duty paid does not reflect the environmental consequences of a particular flight.

Controls are already imposed by my Department; for example departure noise limits, are set for the designated airports. And other airports have comparable controls of their own.

There are noise preferential routes to avoid overflight of built-up areas wherever possible. And a new Code of Practice published last year promotes Continuous Descent Approaches to help minimise the inevitable noise impact.

At the local level there are a number of further things we could do. Indeed, we've made some proposals in the consultation documents. These are of course in addition to the existing statutory entitlements.

We've invited views on whether airport noise insulation schemes should be extended to cover other buildings such as schools and hospitals; whether there should be schemes for purchasing homes or helping with relocation expenses when noise is a significant problem; and for compensating people not legally entitled to noise insulation.

We'll also be very interested to see what additional measures emerge from the consultation.

In some cases, parallel action at specific sites - for example to minimise loss of habitats, or the introduction of employment and training packages - could help to strike an acceptable balance between the benefits and disbenefits of further growth.

We also have to strike a balance between different needs in different parts of the UK. Local economies depend on good air links both for domestic travel and to reach destinations further afield.

Connections to a major hub airport will remain essential. But there's clearly scope for major regional airports like Manchester and Edinburgh to develop more direct services. Improvements we're making to rail travel will make a difference, particularly with the West Coast Main Line, the Midland Main Line and the CTRL.

Rail carries nearly 6 million passengers a year between London and the North East and North West. But rail's main strength is in city centre to city centre journeys, The domestic air market is different. It caters for many people who either want to connect onto another flight, or to get to somewhere very close to the airport.

The numbers are striking. There are _ million air passengers from Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle to London. Only a tenth of those --a mere 77,000 passengers - were making city centre to city centre journeys.

Growth in the aviation industry is unlikely to be acceptable without strategies to tackle the global impacts, including climate change. And we need to control and mitigate the local effects on communities living and working near airports.

I don't see this as a fight between the aviation industry and the environment.

Truth is, there are millions of potential winners if aviation is able to grow sustainably - because many more people would be able to fly. That is the challenge we now face in devising policies for the next 30 years in the White Paper.

Our Comments: The Government is still transfixed by the apparent miracle of air travel. We can order goods on the internet wherever we live, we can also order just as quickly on the telephone, and speak to a human being! However, do we always need those goods to be transported by air immediately? Medicines and urgent spare parts, yes, but not all the goods we might wish for. The Minister , like BAA, appears to believe that the new sustainable aicraft is just round the corner! Todays cars are much less polluting, and future cleaner designs are already on sale. This has taken years of pressure and design development and an EU Directive has been needed to enforce it. Where is the will and policy to implement similar action for aircraft?

Pat Dale


2 October 2003

MORE NEWS FROM THE LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE

James Drewer Reports:

Labour Fringe - Jobs, the economy and aviation

Wednesday, 01 October 2003

Tony McNulty has said that the government is 'wedded' to a mid-December launch of the long-awaited aviation White Paper, which will deal with the range of proposals for additional airport capacity for Britain.

At a fringe event hosted jointly by the Airport Operators Association and the Freedom to Fly coalition, the Minister refused to make any site-specific comments but said that work on the document was by no means complete.

He was joined on the panel of speakers by coalition chair Baroness Dean, BAA's Mike Clasper and the GMB's Charles King. Keith Jowett of the AOA chaired the lively proceedings, which were entitled 'Jobs, the economy and aviation.'

Baroness Dean opened her speech by noting the 'strange bedfellows' that made up the Freedom to Fly coalition - employers, trade unions and users. All had in common their support for expanded airport capacity and welcomed the government's movements toward the White Paper.

The coalition wanted to see recognition given to increasing demand and the need to increase capacity to meet that demand, she said, denying that this was 'predict and provide.' Britain, as an island, needed transport links and aviation was no longer a luxury - 'people want to fly.'

She stressed the importance of aviation to regional economies, questioning whether Manchester would have won the 2002 Commonwealth Games if it had not had its international airport. To this end, meeting demand was about maximising airport use in the regions as well as in the south-east of England.

Growth had to be sustainable, she continued, taking in air and noise pollution and surface access. The solution was not to cap demand, which would merely put prices up and by as much as £100 a ticket, she suggested.

As for using tax to address this issue, she said she wanted to 'kill stone dead' the idea that aviation was subsidised because there was no aviation fuel tax. Apart from that tax being ruled out by international agreements, air passenger duty ensured that each passenger paid added to tax receipts.

'This is about wealth creation,' she maintained. One thousand jobs were created for every additional million passengers. It was a question of Britain's economic future and its place internationally.

She looked forward to the government getting rid of recent uncertainty, she concluded.

Mike Clasper began his contribution by underlining that, were the aviation industry to grow in line with forecasts, one additional runway would be needed in the midlands, one in Scotland and three in the south-east. That was 'a lot of development,' he said.

This development would be driven by the importance of aviation economically and socially. He warned that the 'high tech, high paid jobs of the future… can go anywhere in the world,' questioning why a firm would locate its HQ in London if it could get better air links in Amsterdam or Paris.

Socially, he pointed out that a quarter of all travel classed as 'leisure' was people visiting family and friends abroad, reinforcing Britain's multiculturalism. These were 'powerful reasons,' he said. But there were environmental challenges, with a need to internalise external costs.

On air quality, he said that the issue could be solved rather than just tolerated. On noise, he said that aircraft were getting quieter and that the industry would work on insulation for residents and address compensation issues. And on surface access, he stressed that aviation 'will pay its fair share' of new rail links needed for development in the south-east.

As for others' proposals on internalisation, he told the audience that aviation did not receive subsidies. Indeed, it was the 'only form' of public transport that paid for its infrastructure and where travel was taxed.

In the White Paper, it was important to ensure that the policy frameworks were right. There needed to be emissions-trading for the UK, then for the EU and ultimately internationally, he said. There also had to be clear decisions on a first new runway in the south-east, with the sites for the second and third safeguarded, and a clear planning framework to ensure that all parties were fully engaged.

Charles King began his speech by asserting that aviation was 'very important' to the GMB and to the country. He welcomed that the government had taken the issue of airport capacity out of the 'too difficult box.' Aviation created jobs across sectors, he said, highlighting the 'good jobs' created in airports.

For the UK, he said that at least one hub airport should remain and that this should be at Heathrow, building on the strong base there. Gatwick too should be expanded but he was but he was not convinced that the area around Stansted could provide the necessary labour for a bigger airport there. GMB did not favour any of the proposed new sites, least of Cliffe.

But the environmental arguments should not be ignored, he went on, noting the importance of air quality to airport staff. This was, however, an issue of building better facilities and cutting surface transport emissions, he said. Later, this point was backed by a T&G delegate, who made a speech from the floor.

A further point was the need for security staff to work shorter hours for better pay so that they could do their jobs properly. He welcomed BAA's movement on this issue.

Tony McNulty's remarks started with the caveat that he could not say anything site-specific. The government was 'wedded' to a mid-December launch for the White Paper. He agreed that everyone wanted consistency and clarity on the issue.

He said he was 'pleased' to hear full understanding from the industry on environmental issues and added that the Treasury would conclude its consideration of associated economic instruments in December as well.

He reminded the audience that the White Paper represented a strategy and not planning permission. It would come as a package aimed at addressing all concerns and would hopefully put sequential growth into a timeframe, he said.

The White Paper had to be seen in the context of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, currently before the Commons and set to become law next sessions, and in the wider context of what was being done in transport, not least the west coast mainline modernisation and the construction of the Channel Tunnel rail link.

Finally, before he had to leave the meeting, the Minister told delegates that work on the White Paper was not yet complete and that there were still 'huge processes' to be gone through. He had no illusions about the response he could expect in December. He would 'publish and duck.'

In questions from the floor, an Ealing councillor asked what freedoms people living around Heathrow had. He also raised the prospect of providing rail alternatives. Carol Barbone of Stop Stansted Expansion asked about the comparative taxation of aviation fuel and petrol, referring to the raise in fuel tax for motoring that took effect today.

A further question from a member of the LGA's strategic aviation group sought to put the case for a new airport at Cliffe. The argument forwarded was that the noise and pollution impact would be less than expansion.

Mike Clasper said that he had no doubt that the noise impact for people living near Heathrow was 'significant' but argued that the development of a new airport would cost in the range of £20-40billion. It was a question for the government whether it wanted to spend money on such a project or on schools and hospitals because the industry could not bear the cost itself.

Pressed on the issue, he was adamant that a new hub could not succeed without the closure of Heathrow, he cited the experience of Milan and Montreal and dismissed the observation from the floor that Orly had succeeded alongside Charles de Gaulle. It was not a hub airport, he maintained. His stance was backed by a representative from Flybe, also speaking from the floor.

On fuel tax, he said it was 'crazy' to think of aviation as comparable to private road transport. It was part of the national infrastructure. In that context, its fuel costs would be cut if it received a subsidy comparable to other modes of public transport.

On rail, he said that there was backing for high speed rail links to airports but that people had to 'get real' on the idea that such services could be alternatives to flying. If travellers switched to trains for all flights of less that about two hours this would cut between two and four per cent of Heathrow's passengers. That was similar to a year's growth.

Charles King said of noise at Heathrow that restrictions to the newer types of aircraft could address this issue. He pointed out that anyone younger than him who lived near the airport had moved there while it was in operation.

Baroness Dean warned against nimbyism. Heathrow was a hub and a new airport might threaten that, she said. Noting that west coast main line modernisation would cost £9billion alone, she added that there was nothing in the SRA's plan that would allow for substitution.

Further questions raised air quality. Mike Clasper said that the worst air quality on the BAA estate was outside the front door of its offices in central London. He agreed there needed to be low emission aircraft but this had to apply to road vehicles too - 85 per cent of traffic road Heathrow was not going to or from the airport. Air pollution and related health issues could not be solved by shutting down aviation, he said.

Finally, a councillor from Luton asked about the prospects for its airport and about potential challenges to BAA's dominance in the south-east. Mike Clasper's response - 'I love competition' - was to agree that all capacity needed to be optimised and backed the Flybe representative's stress on the potential for growth at regional airports such as Southampton.

Most of all, he said, BAA wanted to talk to local communities and work with them to minimise the impact of aviation.  


Labour conference - Sustainable communities, better transport

Wednesday, 01 October 2003

Alistair Darling today answered delegates' questions on transport.

Topics raised included congestion charging, expansion of airports, bus services, and alternative fuels.

Mr Darling started the session by addressing the 'bigger picture' in transport.

He said that transport affects 'just about everyone, from the moment that we step outside our front door to the moment that we come home.' He said that the situation was worsened for him as even if transport runs well day to day it is the bad things that you remember.

But he pointed out: 'Whatever the difficulties things are improving.'

He said the problems in transport rested with decades of under-investment and 'stop-go' funding. Transport needs consistency - and this was why Labour produced its ten year plan. Mr Darling said that if you go abroad and wonder why the transport of other countries worked - it was because they had had years of consistent investment.

He pointed to developments in the rail network - like the completion of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) and the investment in the west coast mainline - and to investment in roads. He said that these too had suffered from a lack of investment.

Most people travel locally most of the time, the Minister said, and because of this the Government has given money to local authorities and invested in local transport. Added to this, and despite increased car ownership, Mr Darling said that the Labour party has reversed the decline in bus travel.

Later this year the Government will publish the transport white paper on the future of air travel for the next thirty years.

The challenge, the transport secretary said, was that as the economy grows and people want to travel more the Government enables them to do so in a way consistent with their environmental policy.

Following his speech, Mr Darling took questions from the floor.

Asked if he was relived that the tube was now Ken Livingstone's responsibility, the Minister replied that it always should have been Mr Livingstone's. Mr Darling viewed the problems with the tube as the same as elsewhere in the transport system - under-investment. Now nearly £1 billion is going into the tube for each of next 15 years and beyond.

Mr Darling pointed to the investment in alternative fuels, and a reduction in fuel duty for bio-fuels, as evidence of Labour's commitment to alternative fuels

Mr Darling told Jill Ellis that she was right in saying that Felixstowe needed better transport links to compete with other European ports and said that the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) is looking at the situation. However there has been a increase in the proportion of freight travelling on rail already - and this industry is described as a success story.

Mr Darling - responding to concerns about the possible expansion of Heathrow airport, said that he 'wholeheartedly' agreed that he would rather see people take the train than fly, with investment in the West coast main line and the CTRL providing attractive solutions to flying. But, he said, Heathrow mainly deals with international flights - with the majority of these not even European. There are 'big issues to consider' with regards to airport expansion he said - these include local and national environmental impacts.

Traffic claming is an issue that people had 'deeply seated views on,' the Minister said in reply to a question by Susan Lowdan. But decisions on these measures are taken by local councils not by central government. However, he said that there is evidence that these measures have improved safety and the environment.

Mr Darling said he is not critical of parents who 'for a variety of good reasons' drive their children to school, but said that there are examples of when walking to school a better option. There are also areas with 'American style' yellow school busses.

Most people have 'very strongly held views' on the issue of cars, said Mr Darling, and that these were 'often irreconcilable'.

On the subject of free travel for pensioners in Scotland and Wales the Transport Secretary said that one of the consequences of devolution is that regional assemblies are free to spend money differently. In England, he said, we have to choose how to spend money between a variety of causes..

Mike Rawston of Coventry West CLP asked about Royal Mail's decision to move their freight contract form rail to road. Mr Darling responded that while the Government wants to encourage the movement of freight in the other direction 'it will only work if the sums add up.' He pointed out that Royal Mail was losing £1 billion a year at one point and they had to reduce costs.

The Transport Secretary said that the success of the London congestion charge was partly due to the situation in London where 85 per cent of travellers already use public transport to get to the centre. 'No where else in the UK has anything approaching this,' he pointed out.

That said it was up to the local authorities to institute the charge. He said that Edinburgh is considering it, but that it is the only local authority to be so doing.


2 October 2003

NEWS FROM THE LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE

James Drewer Reports:

RSPB Fringe: Flying into Trouble
No clues on airports White Paper

Monday, 29 September 2003

Transport Minister Tony McNulty refused to be drawn on the likely content of the government's forthcoming aviation White Paper but has told delegates that all the options in the recent consultation remained on the table.

At a fringe event hosted by the RSPB, the Minister said that the proposals would be accompanied by 'substantial analyses' to justify decisions made but there would be no 'nods and winks' prior to publication, which he confirmed would take place before the end of the year.

He was joined on the panel of speakers by RSPB's Graham Wynne, Keith Jowett of the Airport Operators Association and Tony Grayling of IPPR. The meeting, entitled 'Flying into trouble', was chaired by SERA's Alison Cairns.

Graham Wynne opened proceedings by asserting that RSPB had given a strong welcome to the government's strategic approach, which meant an end to policy made by the aggregation of local planning inquiry decisions. It was a 'coherent overall approach,' he said.

But RSPB had been disappointed, first by the inclusion of the Cliffe option, which, were it to go ahead would be the 'single largest act of environmental vandalism in history,' delegates heard.

Similarly, RSPB stressed the need for full account to be taken of greenhouse gas emissions, noise and air pollution and land-take. RSPB had been 'extremely taken aback' that the consultation had taken 'predict and provide' as its starting point - assuming a trebling of demand for air travel by 2030.

Given that enormous climate change problems already existed, this was akin to 'pretending' that the UK was like the Wild West of the 19th century, he said, pointing out that no read-across approach was taken for other modes of transport.

RSPB was not 'wedded' to any set means of addressing these issues, he continued. Rather, it backed a pragmatic mix of measures to include tax on aviation fuel, either domestically or within the EU, VAT on flights, as in most other EU member-states, slot-auctioning and the rational solution of emissions-trading, starting in 2008 with an intra-EU system.

'However naively desirable' it was not to, demand had to be managed and the prospect of simply not meeting projected demand had to be entertained. The White Paper would be a 'true test' of the government's commitment both to sustainable development and to addressing climate change.

Tony Grayling said that the future of aviation was a question of reconciling freedom of choice with the common good, as defined by health damage, noise nuisance, climate change and ecological impacts. To this end, aviation costs had to be brought into the sustainable development framework, he argued. This meant growth within environmental and health limits and embracing the polluter pays principle.

He wanted aviation emissions included in future international climate change agreements as well as emissions-trading and emissions-charging, the inclusion of airports in the national air quality strategy under the oversight of the Environment Agency and action to combat noise pollution. Similarly existing capacity had to be maximised and alternatives, such as high-speed rail, had to be developed.

There was, he continued, 'no simple link' between transport provision and economic growth, given that most travel was for pleasure and the widening tourism trade deficit. Moreover, flying was 'hugely biased' towards the rich, with the poor priced out of the market already.

He rejected calls for airports for prosperity and for the freedom to fly. Rather, he wanted freedom with responsibility.

Keith Jowett began by noting common ground between airport operators and environmentalists - a 'no' to new airports such as Cliffe and Rugby, support for maximising existing capacity, for a national approach and for emissions-trading on which BAA was leading. Concern at climate change and the need to make aviation sustainable was also shared, he said.

But it was 'unfair' to call what was happening 'predict and provide,' he argued, as demand was already outstripping delivery in the south-east of England. Stressing the social and economic benefits of aviation, he said that demand management merely meant 'pricing people out of flying.'

There had to be a better solution, he continued, adding that 'too often' environmentalists failed to face up to the development aspect of sustainable development, missing the national importance of delivering the benefits of air links. The aviation industry was 'grabbing the nettle,' he maintained, asserting that it was 'ready to put [its] money where [its] mouth is' and internalise all its internal costs.

Finally, he stressed that airports were routed in their local communities. The 'bottom line' was that, without a clear decision from government, local jobs and businesses in every region would be at risk if demand were not met.

The Minister took the opportunity to place the consultation and White Paper process into context. A national strategic framework was 'absolutely essential for the future of aviation,' he said, adding that the process was taking place alongside the energy White Paper and the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, currently before the Commons and set to carry over to next Session.

He agreed that the government had to provide clarity to all sides and confirmed that this would come, in the form of the White Paper, by the end of 2003. But, he reminded delegates, this was only the strategic framework and not the granting of permissions to build.

The government too sought sustainability in aviation. That was why its decisions in the White Paper would be backed by 'substantial analyses' but he would not be drawn on the actual content of the document - all the consultation options remained in contention.

While he suspected that the White Paper would not 'please everybody,' it would provide a sense of direction and of balance for the future of aviation in the UK, he said.

In questions from the floor, a representative of the Environment Agency asked about the climate change impacts of aviation and why the sector was treated differently from others. The Minister said that a Treasury review of economic instruments was taking place alongside the White Paper process and that he was 'keen on' BAA's work towards emissions-trading.

Keith Jowett agreed the industry got different treatment - it paid more tax, it sought to internalise its external costs and paid for its entire infrastructure. Other modes of transport did not.

A questioner from Transport 2000 asked about the use of existing capacity, noting that it could already deal with the projected growth in business travel. Airport growth was almost entirely designed to cater for the richest passengers travelling more often, it was suggested.

The Minister denied that the only issue at stake was the extent to which the rich went on holiday, while Keith Jowett added that capping supply would merely push prices up and hit UK plc.

A questioner from the LGA's strategic aviation group asked about proposals for a new airport on land in the Thames estuary. The Minister said that such ideas were 'in the pot', while Graham Wynne explained that RSPB's opposition to such a site was based in the bird exclusion zone it implied and serious concerns at the loss of internationally important habitat.

A questioner from Hounslow asked if the industry would pay for costs such as additional noise insulation for homes and the rebuilding of schools to allow for DFES acoustic standards. And Carol Barbone of Stop Stansted Expansion quizzed the minister over the form of words used in the consultation, that she suggested bore out the DfT's pro growth at any cost position.

Keith Jowett said that the costs of a new runway at Heathrow would be met in full and this would include additional impacts on communities. West London was 'enormously wealthy' because of the airport, he reminded delegates, while the Minister said that the scales would not be weighted against the environment.

A further questioner from Luton asked about the future of BAA's monopoly in the south-east. The Minister said that the activities of BAA were a matter for it alone.


Labour Fringe - 'Flying Out Of Control? Is There An Alternative To Aviation Growth?'
Airport Watch and GNER

Monday, 29 September 2003

Addressing the meeting were transport commentator Christian Wolmar, John Stewart, Clare Field of GNER and Scarborough MP Lawrie Quinn - standing in for Environment Minister Lord Whitty, who was unable to attend. The meeting was chaired by Andy King, MP for Rugby.

Mr King began by expressing concern about the assumptions being made about the need for new airports and their desirability. He outlined his own leadership of a campaign to prevent plans for a new airport being built in Warwickshire - an area already well served by Birmingham Airport. Mr King declared that there is a real need for a debate within Labour about the relative merits of aviation versus rail.

He handed over to Mr Wolmar, who began by warning that if rail is to win this debate, it must raise its game - because at present, it is on the defensive. Indeed, he suggested, unless rail can convince, it may lose its vital subsidies and be forced to close services in the current round of transport cuts.

The quality of services offered to business users by rail companies cannot compare with those offered by airlines, he declared, outlining in great detail the poor service he claimed to receive at the hands of Virgin Trains in travelling from Liverpool to Bournemouth. He acknowledged that GNER is better, but noted that even with very high prices, food is an extra. If rail hopes to compete with aviation, it must compete on the same basis: at present, Mr Wolmar warned, 'it's just not good enough', adding that Ministers are 'on the warpath' to cut costs. Rail cannot blame everything and 'whinge' about aviation's tax breaks, he declared - it must aim to compete.

Low cost airlines, at the other end of the scale, are effective because they employ excellent marketing and are easy to use - he contrasted this unfavourably with Virgin Trains' website. Rail seems to be stuck in the past as well, he went on, noting that Eurostar has no provision for taking guide dogs on its trains.

In the first instance, Mr Wolmar stated, rail must compete by delivering on basic services - 80 per cent punctuality is not good enough and it is unacceptable that clearing a blocked line after an incident can take days. He warned that rail has an increasingly difficult public relations job on its hands, pointing to BAA's recent highlighting of the Bank Holiday rail 'chaos' in an attack on Stop Stansted expansion's submission to SERAS.

Aviation has a lot to answer for, Mr Wolmar acknowledged, and he suggested that the consultation papers probably aim to cater to a demand that will not emerge, but rail must do its part - or people will begin to choose flight as the preferred means of getting to Cornwall.

John Stewart took over from Mr Wolmar, declaring that Airport Watch has often been dismissed as 'environmentalist'. Suggesting that the environmental case against aviation expansion is in fact largely 'accepted',Joht declared that he would focus on the other aspects of the debate - which in fact are not so heavily stacked in aviation's favour as many believe.

It is argued that aviation benefits the economy: John pointed to research by one Professor John Whitelegg, which suggests that investment in business and surface transport in the north west equivalent to that planned for the Liverpool and Manchester airports would actually do more to improve the regional economy. Furthermore, only 24 per cent of air travel is business travel, and this is only predicted to rise to 30 per cent by 2030, he noted.

On employment, he questioned the validity of the work done by Oxford Economic Forecasting in preparation for the consultation papers - which made much of the employment benefits of expansion - by pointing out that OEF's work was 90 per cent funded by the aviation industry. In fact, research by the Government Committee SATRA suggests that transport infrastructure has little impact on regeneration if a range of other factors are not already in place - Mr Stewart pointed to the ring of motorways around Liverpool in the 1980s as an example.

Finally, he turned to the question of equity - and the accusation that Airport Watch and its allies would deny poorer people the chance to travel by air. The figures, he argued, do not bear this accusation out: firstly, the poorest people are already excluded from air travel; in fact, he claimed, those who would be most affected by the additional costs associated with not expanding the UK's aviation infrastructure would be those who can afford to fly overseas once or twice a year - whom he identified as swing voters, casting aspersions on the Government's intentions. Those who would benefit most from airport expansion are in fact the richest people - whose leisure travel constitutes the bulk of air movements - Mr Stewart alleged. Indeed, he argued that the £9 billion public subsidy paid to aviation in tax exemptions actually costs people on average wages of £25,000 pa over £500 pa each - which is largely subsidising the travel of the wealthy. 'That is a regressive tax', he declared.

Clare Field from GNER was the next speaker. She acknowledged Mr Wolmar's point about value for money, but insisted that GNER is improving and that there is 'a lot of misinformation'.

GNER gets no public subsidy, she pointed out - in fact the company repays £35 million a year to the Government. However, she admitted that the firm is different to most other rail operators insofar as all its services are long-distance, and therefore most of its passengers actually choose to use it. She pointed to comments by Yorkshire Forward estimating the economic benefits of GNER's services on the East Coast Main Line as around £100 million a year to the region.

GNER competes with domestic airlines, and therefore has an interest in the airport expansion debate, Ms Field stated. Rail can play a role in relieving the burden on domestic flights, she argued, expressing her hope that this possibility had been taken into account in the preparation of the consultation papers.

UK rail can and does compete, Ms Field went on, complaining that the different reporting regimes between rail and air blur the comparison - airline punctuality is measured differently, it is measured less frequently, and its results receive less media attention. Furthermore, she declared, low cost airlines' advertising gives the wrong message about the cost of rail - which is consistently cheaper when fairly compared.

The final speaker was Lawrie Quinn - himself a railway engineer for 19 years and a 'big fan of GNER' whose services he uses twice a week. He chided Mr Wolmar's cynicism, declaring 'GNER is literally a lifeline to many areas I represent' - suggesting that YF's figure cited earlier is probably too low.


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