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 - January to March 2009

29 March 2009


ENDS Europe - 25 March 2009

The European parliament has approved agreements reached with EU governments on new laws to improve the performance and sustainability of Europe's aviation system and to strengthen the bloc's rules on ozone-depleting substances.

Voting in Strasbourg on Wednesday, MEPs endorsed a compromise deal with member states to revise the EU's Single European sky framework. The new rules will see current national air spaces combined into "functional airspace blocks" by 2012.

The new system is designed to reduce the environmental impact of aviation by allowing aircraft to fly more direct routes. The rules also require air traffic control operators to establish EU-wide environmental performance targets.

The European commission welcomed confirmation of the deal, saying the new system will reduce fuel consumption by up to 11 per cent and save airlines ?4bn a year by 2020.

The parliament also confirmed an agreement to revise rules on ozone-depleting substances (ODS). The deal will see EU bans introduced on the use of methyl bromide in "quarantine and pre-shipment" crop fumigation from March 2010 and on the production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) from 2020.

In a separate vote on Wednesday MEPs adopted a non-legislative resolution on measures to help the European car industry through the current economic crisis. They called on the commission and EU governments to "accelerate, simplify and increase" financial support to the industry.

All fiscal and financial support measures must encourage a switch to more environmentally friendly technology, the parliament added. The commission should also carry out "a thorough assessment of the impact of future EU legislation on motor vehicles", MEPs said .

29 March 2009


Whitehall met aviation chiefs over Heathrow third runway

Patrick Wintour and Dan Milmo - The Guardian - 27 March 2009

Department for Transport civil servants repeatedly met aviation industry chiefs in advance of the decision to back a third runway at Heathrow, even though they told environmental groups that there was a blanket ban on meetings with any external bodies.

The disclosure comes in documents the civil service was directed to release to Greenpeace by the information commissioner after nearly nine months of stonewalling by civil servants.

The documents, in the form of a risk register produced by the DfT last year, also disclose that the communications directorate at the department saw it as its job to "monitor protest groups continuously and brief staff and police accordingly".

The risk register is a document listing everything that could go wrong with the project, the likelihood of something going wrong and how much of a problem such an event would be. Ministers regarded losing the economic and environmental arguments as "high" impact and "medium" likelihood, combining to give a "high" exposure to risk for the government. The threat of disruption was seen as one of the highest risk threats to the third runway.

The documents also disclose that at one point the department thought it would only be able to meet the noise reduction demands by introducing a congestion charge for the area.

Civil servants also advised that they continue high-level and frequent engagement with industry stakeholders, including at ministerial level, as necessary to keep abreast of developments and strategies.

At the same time an environmental organisation was being emailed by transport department civil servants: "In advance of the meeting I would like to make clear that discussion of Heathrow expansion will not be possible. This is for reasons of propriety as the consultation has now closed and ministers are considering the submissions that have been made."

"This condition applies to all meetings that the secretary of state is holding with external groups. Wider issues around aviation and the environment may, of course, be discussed with the ministers."

The document also shows that civil servants thought it right to contact the Competition Commission so it did not create "uncertainty over BAA capacity/drive to take forward LHR expansion".

Meanwhile, the government has indicated that BAA cannot lodge a planning application for a third runway before the next general election - an admission that ensures a Conservative government could block a new landing strip at the airport.

According to a presentation by the DfT, seen by the Guardian, BAA is not expected to seek planning permission for a third runway until 2012. The last possible date for a general election is 3 June 2010. Executives at the airport group have conceded that it will be impossible to compile the plans and data necessary by that date.

29 March 2009


David Robertson, Business Correspondent - Times Business Online - 23 March 2009

BAA, the airports operator, could be pushed into bankruptcy or even be renationalised if its enforced disposal of Gatwick and Stansted becomes a fire sale.

The small print in BAA's debt financing contracts stipulates that no asset can be sold for less than 85 per cent of its regulated value. With the price of all assets collapsing and potential buyers struggling to raise financing, there is a concern that bids for BAA's airports will be much lower than the company had hoped. This could breach BAA's banking covenants and allow lenders to call in their debts, potentially pushing BAA into bankruptcy.

The Competition Commission said last week that BAA must sell Gatwick, Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh within the next two years. Gatwick is already for sale and BAA is confident that it will fetch at least 1.6 billion, which is the airport's regulated value.

However, the three remaining bidders for the airport are understood to be looking at considerably lower offers. If BAA were forced to accept an offer below 1.36 billion, which is 85 per cent of the regulated value, its banking covenants would be breached and lenders could force BAA to repay some of its 12 billion debts.

If this scenario were to occur, the Government might have to step in and renationalise BAA to prevent the company's remaining airports, including Heathrow, from going into administration. This is considered the "nuclear option" and several bankers have told The Times that they expect the commission to give BAA more time to sell its airports to prevent any covenant breach.

BAA and the commission are to meet this week to discuss how the disposal of assets should be handled and whether the company will appeal against the ruling. BAA said: "We expect the airports to sell for at least their regulated value so our covenants will not be an issue."

The regulated asset base (RAB) price of Stansted is 1.3 billion while both Edinburgh and Glasgow are valued by BAA at about 800 million, but potential bidders for the airports have said that they expect them to sell for considerably less.

A number of bankers have said that they expect the Scottish airport that is sold to fetch between 350 million and 500 million, which would be significantly below the 680 million that is needed to meet BAA's covenants. Stansted has been valued by potential bidders at 1 billion, 100 million below the covenant threshold.

Stansted is likely to be particularly hard to sell because bidders are wary of doing business with Michael O'Leary, chief executive of Ryanair. The low-cost carrier accounts for 60 per cent of flights from the airport. Mr O'Leary is notoriously combative in negotiations with airports over their charges.

The Civil Aviation Authority will reveal today that the economic downturn has been good for airline reliability, if not their profits. A decline in traffic at UK airports led to greater punctuality between October and December. On-time performance, defined as early to 15 minutes late, at Britain's ten biggest airports rose by eight percentage points to 77 per cent, against the same period in 2007. Heathrow's on-time performance rose 13 points to 73 per cent.

29 March 2009


Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent - Financial Times - 24 March 2009

Airline industry losses this year are expected to be nearly double the level forecast in December, as carriers are hit by steeply falling demand from premium passengers and by record falls in cargo traffic.

Giovanni Bisignani, director general of Iata, the airline industry trade association said on Tuesday: "The state of the airline industry today is grim. Demand has deteriorated much more rapidly with the economic slowdown than could have been anticipated even a few months ago."

Relief from lower fuel prices had been "overshadowed" by falling demand and plummeting revenues, he said. "The industry is in intensive care."

Net losses are forecast to reach $4.7bn this year, up from the $2.5bn forecast in December, as global economic conditions rapidly deteriorate.

Iata also revised its estimate for airline industry net losses for last year from $5bn to $8.5bn, as carriers were hit by the sudden and sharp fall in demand from lucrative premium passengers, where most network carriers generate the bulk of their profits, and from cargo.

Premium passenger numbers fell by almost 17 per cent in January year-on-year, while cargo traffic fell by 23 per cent. Airline passenger traffic volumes are forecast to fall this year by 5.7 per cent with cargo demand dropping by 13 per cent, as the aviation sector suffers a much bigger slump than forecast as recently as December.

Airlines are facing one of the biggest ever annual falls in revenues in 2009 with a drop of $62bn or 12 per cent to $467bn. By comparison, industry revenues fell by only 7 per cent in the two years after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

Mr Bisignani said the industry?s continuing deep losses combined with the airlines' total debt of $170bn meant that the pressure on their balance sheets was "extreme".

Consumers are benefiting from the plunge in demand for air travel, as airlines are forced to cut fares in order to try to stimulate traffic and to bring in cash. Iata said yields or average fare levels were expected to fall by 4.3 per cent this year.

The industry is shrinking in response to the slump in demand with capacity forecast to fall by 6 per cent this year, but actions to cut flights and ground aircraft are still not keeping pace with the fall in demand.

Iata said airlines in the US were the only region to have been able to shrink capacity in line with the fall in demand, and they were forecast to turn large 2008 losses into a small 2009 profit. However, airlines in all other regions would find the deep recession causing significant net losses, with Asia Pacific carriers the hardest hit with forecast net losses of $1.7bn.

Mr Bisignani said weak consumer and business confidence was expected to keep spending and demand for air transport low. "The prospects for airlines are dependent on economic recovery. There is little to indicate an early end to the downturn. It will be a grim 2009. And while prospects may improve towards the end of the year, expecting a significant recovery in 2010 would require more optimism than realism," he said.

As airlines are forced by the recession to defer and even cancel orders for new aircraft, the makers of commercial jets, Airbus and Boeing, would suffer a sharp drop in production, said Iata, with deliveries set to fall by around 30 per cent by 2011.

21 March 2009


Competition Commission breaks up airport operator
after two-year inquiry and switches priority to passengers

Dan Milmo, Transport Correspondent - The Guardian - 19 March 2009

The Competition Commission started the biggest shake-up in airport ownership in more than two decades this morning as it ordered BAA to sell three airports including Stansted and Gatwick and pledged that only radical action would improve air travel for long-suffering passengers.

The competition watchdog demanded the partial break-up of Britain's largest airport owner in a final report following a two-year inquiry. The wide-ranging conclusions include:

* The sale of Gatwick, which is already under way, Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airport

* The buyers of the divested airports must be approved by the commission and have the resources to be effective competitors

* Improved consultation with airlines at Heathrow, BAA's biggest airport

* From now on, the main priority for the industry regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, should be the consumer and not airlines.

The chairman of the BAA inquiry, Christopher Clarke, said the ruling would banish the negative publicity that has been heaped on British airports since the terror scare of 2006, when inadequate security regimes were overwhelmed by new anti-terror measures: "We are confident that the sale of these airports will bring substantial benefits to passengers and airlines. We expect that the new airport owners, with the operating capabilities and financial resources to develop them as effective competitors, will have a much greater incentive than BAA to be more responsive to their customers."

The commission also expects BAA to respond to the threat of increased competition from Gatwick, Stansted and a Scottish airport by rapidly improving facilities at its remaining airports.

Today's ruling is expected to raise concerns among green campaigners, however. A major strut in the commission's case, reiterated forcefully today, is that BAA has taken a go-slow approach to building new runways at its airports. The watchdog is determined that a break-up will ensure more rapid development of new runways at Stansted and Gatwick ? staunchly opposed by locals and environmental groups.

21 March 2009


David Robertson - The Times Online - 19 March 2009

Potential bidders for Stansted are emerging before a decision by the Competition Commission on Thursday that will lead to the break-up of BAA's airport monopoly. However, a hurdle has appeared at Stansted in the form of Ryanair, Europe's largest budget airline.

The commission is expected to say that BAA's control of Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen has been bad for passengers and airlines. It will demand that Gatwick, Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh are sold to restore competition.

Gatwick has already been put up for sale by BAA and possible bidders are eyeing Stansted and the Scottish airports ? but, in the case of Stansted, potential bidders have expressed concern about buying an airport where the leading customer is Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's notoriously antagonistic chief executive.

"We would be wary of dealing with O'Leary," one said. "I'm sure that will be reflected in the price eventually."

Ryanair is Stansted's largest customer, accounting for about 60 per cent of flights. Mr O'Leary is known among airport operators for demanding concessions and punishing those that put up charges by grounding aircraft.

Among the possible bidders for BAA's airports are Balfour Beatty; Manchester Airports Group; infrastructure funds, including that run by 3i, the private equity group; Lysander Group, a consortium that includes Citigroup; and Hochtief, the German infrastructure group. Mr O'Leary has jokingly suggested that Ryanair could buy Stansted.

The Competition Commission had indicated that it would expect BAA to dispose of its airports this year, but the operator may be given an extension in the difficult economic environment.

A lack of financing has hampered some bidders in their attempts to buy Gatwick and the commission may allow BAA to hold on to Stansted for two or three years. However, the sale of the Scottish airport could be agreed much more quickly as it is likely to fetch about 350 million compared with up to 1 billion for Stansted. BAA is widely expected to pick Glasgow to sell. "There will be many more players looking at Glasgow [rather than Edinburgh] because it is more affordable," a likely bidder said.

21 March 2009


Travel Flight News Online - 19 March 2009

The Stansted Airline Consultative Committee (ACC), which represents airlines at Stansted, today (Thursday 19 March 2009), welcomed the Competition Commission's decision to break up the BAA monopoly and looks forward to working with the new owners to develop traffic at Stansted.

ACC Chairman David O'Brien said today: "Passenger numbers at Stansted are in freefall, driven downwards by high airport charges and BAA monopoly indifference. The airlines can reverse this trend if new owners deliver what airlines and their passengers need - efficient facilities and lower costs."

"Under the discredited CAA regulatory regime of Dr Harry Bush, BAA produced unwanted and overpriced facilities with the inevitable consequences of collapsing traffic and loss of business. Prospective new owners should take note."

21 March 2009


The Economist - 19 March 2009

Three airports are up for sale in the midst of a brutal recession

IT WAS one of the biggest, and most heavily leaked, trust-busting decisions in British corporate history. On March 19th the Competition Commission confirmed its provisional decision that BAA, the firm that monopolises Britain's big airports, should be dismembered, selling off two airports near London as well as Edinburgh or Glasgow. Aware that the watchdog was planning such a move, BAA (which thinks the decision "flawed" and is pondering an appeal) had already put Gatwick airport (Britain's second biggest) on the market.

This week's news will come as a relief to passengers familiar with the ordeal of Heathrow, the world's busiest international airport - the delays and crowding that result when an airport designed to handle 45m people a year crams 67m through its doors. Heathrow's runways operate at virtually full capacity, so the smallest hitch causes a cascade of delays. The commission acknowledges that policy-making has been poor and the regulatory regime inadequate. But it lays much of the blame on BAA's near-monopoly on air travel in Britain. Ideally, an expanded Gatwick or, to a lesser extent, Stansted could relieve the pressure. But crowded Heathrow generates plenty of profit and Gatwick and Stansted are also owned by BAA, so reducing congestion is not the firm's top priority. Splitting ownership of the airports should encourage competition between them.

There will be less cheer at Ferrovial, the Spanish construction firm that bought BAA in a swashbuckling 10 billion debt-financed deal in 2006. The forced sale of assets offers the thin consolation of providing cash to pay down some of Ferrovial's 20 billion debt. But Gatwick and Stansted are going on the market at a time when prospective buyers will find it hard to get cash from credit-crunched markets. And aviation is in dire straits. In December Giovanni Bisignani, head of the International Air Transport Association, said his industry was facing "the toughest revenue environment in 50 years". On March 16th the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which regulates BAA, said passenger numbers at British airports had fallen by 1.9% in 2008, only the fourth decline since 1945. The fall was steepest in the final quarter of the year, and the CAA reckons that numbers will continue to drop throughout 2009.

All this means that BAA may struggle to get a good price (indeed, on March 13th it extended the bidding deadline for Gatwick by a month, ostensibly to allow more time for due diligence). Heathrow's size and its status as an international hub make it a formidable competitor. Gatwick's regulated assets alone are worth around 1.7 billion, according to the CAA, but many analysts doubt whether the final price will be much more than 1.8 billion (expansion there is forbidden before 2019).

Stansted will be even cheaper, says David Starkie, an aviation expert, who points out that its growth was fuelled for years by a cross-subsidy from Heathrow that was abolished in 2003. The government plans a big expansion, but locals are fiercely opposed and demand may not justify more capacity. Passenger numbers at Stansted fell by 6% last year, whereas numbers at Luton - a rival airport that is not owned by BAA - rose by 2.6%.

The Competition Commission takes a rosier view of future demand, and thinks that breaking up BAA is the best way to encourage new capacity to meet it. Last year ministers approved the building of a third runway at Heathrow (although few believe it will happen). But increasing concern about climate change may alter things. Air travel's share of planet-heating carbon emissions is expected to rise. And the European Union plans to include aviation in its emissions-trading scheme, which should raise ticket prices. More competition will encourage BAA to do better - but it will take a brave businessman to try his hand at it.

21 March 2009


PRNewswire - 19 March 2009

Unite the union today (Thursday) rejected the demand from the Competition Commission that BAA has to sell Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports, in addition to the already agreed sale of Gatwick airport.

According to Unite national secretary for aviation, Steve Turner: "The Commission has applied a narrow competition at all costs criterion to the complex operation of our airport operations which will not deliver and does not serve either the national transport infrastructure, the travelling public nor the thousands of airport workers across the country."

"The report creates further and unnecessary instability in a sector already in turmoil given the impact of the global economic downturn on aviation. Competition at every level of the UK aviation sector has delivered very little beyond the cheap fare, but at what price for workers and our environment?"

"The myth that this is in the public interest has to be debunked. Passengers will not benefit when the services they depend upon for a smooth journey are cut to the bone by new owners desperate to turn quick profits, and we will not accept any further attack on the terms and conditions of UK airport workers who are already experiencing some of the most aggressive competition for services in the EU and have seen their working life made much harder as a result."

"We will not sit back and watch the wholesale destruction of our industry in the name of competition and the ushering in of a certain 'race to the bottom' where there is no respect for workers' interests or the quality of services provided."

Unite national officer Brian Boyd added: "Today's Competition Commission report brings uncertainty for thousands of airport workers. Who their employer will be in the future is unclear. Unite will be challenging any aspect of the report which does not put the welfare of UK aviation workers first."

"The idea of either Gatwick or Stansted challenging Heathrow's status as an international hub airport is misconceived logistically. In these times of economic uncertainty, the UK aviation sector and its workforce need assurances that the future is secure. Now, more than ever, decisions made as a result of the report, need to be the right ones."

Unite has called for an urgent meeting with BAA on the impact of these proposals and will be developing a fuller response in the coming weeks.

21 March 2009


Airline chiefs will be punching the air with delight, but whether we
passengers should be popping the champagne corks is a moot point

David Millward, Transport Editor - Daily Telegraph - 19 March 2009

The Competition Commission's announcement has come less than a week after the Civil Aviation Authority announced plans to hit BAA hard for shoddy service at Stansted.

After all it is not BAA that has suddenly decided to charge for the clear plastic bags people need to carry liquids through security. It is Manchester Airport, whose owners have been tipped to bid for Gatwick or Stansted.

The irony of the Competition Commission's announcement is that it has come less than a week after the Civil Aviation Authority announced plans to hit BAA hard for shoddy service at Stansted.

In reality airports' customers are the airlines and the truth is that they will cheerfully pay a premium for slots at Heathrow - which of course will continue to be run by the much-criticised BAA.

Assuming Gatwick and Stansted find themselves in competition, there may be some shaving of landing fees. But that would not be worth more than a pound or so per passenger.

There could be some good news if, under new ownership, the airports are spruced up. Gatwick's railway station remains a disgrace and needs some serious cash thrown at it.

In many ways the Competition Commission report is a weak compromise. Many are disappointed that Heathrow was not broken up with terminals competing against each other for business. That worked at JFK in New York and it could well have worked here.

21 March 2009


Airline passengers should be charged more for travelling long haul,
according to an influential committee of MPs

Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent - Daily Telegraph - 17 March 2009

The Environment Audit Committee also called on the Treasury to tax flights within the UK to encourage more people to take the train.

In a damning report on the Government's financial stimulus package, the committee said not enough money is being spent on ensuring that any effort to pull the UK out for the recession also helps tackle climate change.

MPs are unimpressed by car tax increases. Most of the 535 million in the pre-Budget report stimulus package for green measures is being taken from funds already earmarked for environment projects in future years, according to the report, meaning it will be offset by spending cuts in future years.

Instead the committee called for more new money to go towards ensuring any stimulus package also helps the UK switch to a low carbon economy. This could be generated by making better use of "green taxes" to discourage the burning of fossil fuels and encourage the growth of low carbon alternatives.

Suggestions include introducing a fuel duty and VAT on tickets for domestic flights "to encourage people to switch to lower carbon rail" and charging more for long haul flights abroad.

The report said: "Air passenger duty to better reflect the emissions from longer intercontinental journeys is welcome but the amounts levied appear inadequate to influence people's decision to fly and should be increased."

Tim Yeo, Chairman of the Committee, said air passengers are not currently taxed enough to reflect the environmental impact. "We do need to reduce emissions from aviation and we believe higher rates of tax on long haul and higher rates on domestic flights are an essential part of the better reflecting the actual emissions in the price of the travel," he said.

Airline passengers already pay more in green taxes than is needed to cover the cost of environmental damage they cause, according to the Government's own assessment.

However environmentalists insist emissions from aviation need to be better controlled in order for the UK to reach strict climate change targets to cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050.

The numbers at UK airports are already dropping due to the recession with passenger numbers down 1.9 per cent last year to 235 million - the first fall since 1991.

21 March 2009


Peter Woodman, Press Association Air Correspondent - 17 March 2009

The Government today admitted making an error in one of its forecasts on the net benefit of new runways at Heathrow and Stansted Airports.

But Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon, who gave the go-ahead for expansion at Heathrow in January, said the mistake did "not materially affect" evidence presented on the impact of the expansion at the west London airport.

The mistake - relating to the predicted 2009 GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate - means the Government has now issued lower net benefit figures for this particular passenger demand forecast.

Mr Hoon said today that the GDP figure was given as plus 1% when it should have been minus 1%. This means the Stansted second runway and associated terminal capacity net benefit under the GDP sensitivity test comes down from 8.7 billion to 8.6 billion.

And, under the same criteria, the Heathrow third runway and sixth terminal net benefit comes down from 5.4 billion to 5.1 billion.

But Mr Hoon said the overall expansion cost benefit figure, known as the central case, remained unchanged for both airports - at 10.0 billion for Stansted and 5.5 billion for Heathrow.

He said the mistake was relevant to those preparing evidence for the public inquiry into the Stansted expansion and that participants were being alerted to the corrections so they could use them in forming evidence.

OUR COMMENT: This is not the only blunder made by those forecasting figures for the future of aviation!

Pat Dale

16 March 2009


BBC News - 13 March 2009

Campaigners said the action was not about winning or losing

Campaigners have lost their legal battle to block the decision to expand Stansted Airport in Essex.

Airport owner BAA wants to increase passenger numbers from 25 million to 35 million a year and flights leaving the airport from 241,000 to 264,000 a year. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) lawyers had argued the government did not give proper consideration to "adverse effects" when granting the expansion. High Court judge Sir Thayne Forbes dismissed the legal challenge.

The SSE accused the government of unlawfully "steamrollering these plans every step of the way".

Paul Stinchcombe, for SSE, told the judge there had been a failure to take proper account of the adverse effects on UK trade and the additional noise that would be suffered. He said these issues were disregarded, despite the government having acknowledged it was right to consider them when deciding whether to approve the expansion project.

The judge said the group's criticisms of the way the matter had been handled were "unjustified and without substance".

SSE campaign director Carol Barbone said: "This High Court action was never simply about winning or losing. "Our primary concern was to ensure that our main battle against a second Stansted runway was not prejudiced by the wording of the original decision. However, today's ruling seems to make matters even less clear than they were before. That is why we are seeking leave to appeal."

The judge refused permission to appeal, but SSE lawyers can still ask the Court of Appeal itself to hear their case. The group was ordered to pay the government's legal costs up to an agreed limit of 20,000.

Stansted commercial and development director Nick Barton said it was the "right decision" and one he expected. He said: "This is a very good day for the millions of people who need and want to fly to visit their friends and family, go on well-earned holidays or travel on business. It's also great news for the thousands of people who work at the airport, and the countless number of businesses that depend on Stansted right across the region, especially given the current economic conditions we are all facing."

OUR COMMENT: Nick Barton seems to be suggesting that Stansted was in danger of being forced to reduce services. The truth is that BAA already had permission to expand to 25 mppa and they still have some way to go to reach that figure, which takes no account of Cargo planes (the service that can legitimately claim to help the local businesses) and which is only operating at 50% of its permitted total of flights. How many people wanting to fly have failed to get a seat during past years? Why do the low cost carriers find it necessary to repeatedly advertise thousands of bargain price seats if the demand is so high that expansion is needed to satisfy their "need and want to fly"?

Pat Dale

16 March 2009


Evening Star (Ipswich) - 14 March 2009

CAMPAIGNERS are today planning to appeal after losing their battle to stop a 40 per cent increase in passengers using Stansted. High Court judge Sir Thayne Forbes decided government was right to approve plans to allow the airport's current runway to be used to its maximum.

Stop Stansted Expansion had appealed to the court to quash the permission for a further ten million passengers a year on an extra 63 flights a day - most of them coming over Suffolk, parts of which are already plagued by jet noise.

After the case SSE said the judgement was confusing and the group was now seeking leave to appeal.

SSE accused government ministers of not taking into account carbon emissions from the extra flights, the economic impact, and the noise from planes suffered by people living below flightpaths. Ministers said they had considered the issues but the urgent need for extra runway capacity outweighed them.

SSE campaign director Carol Barbone said: ?This High Court action was never simply about winning or losing. "Our primary concern was to ensure that our main battle against a second Stansted runway was not prejudiced by the wording of the original decision. However, today's ruling seems to make matters even less clear than they were before. That is why we are seeking leave to appeal."

Stansted airport commercial and development director Nick Barton said: "We are very pleased with today's decision; it's the right decision, and one we fully expected. The social and economic case for G1 (maximum use of the current runway) remains strong, and our plans were endorsed by a full and independent public inquiry and a recommendation for approval by the planning inspector."

"As a result, this is a very good day for the millions of people who need and want to fly to visit their friends and family, go on well-earned holidays or travel on business. It's also great news for the thousands of people who work at the airport, and the countless number of businesses that depend on Stansted right across the region, especially given the current economic conditions we are all facing."

Should Stansted be allowed to expand? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

OUR COMMENT: We also ask: Should the contribution to climate change made by flights from Stansted be part of the case against expansion?

Pat Dale

16 March 2009


ENDS Europe DAILY - 13 March 2009

The world is facing an increasing risk of "abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts", leading scientists warned this week at a conference on climate change held by the University of Copenhagen.

The three-day conference, which drew more than 2,500 delegates from about 80 countries, focused on developments since publication of the latest report of the Intergovernmental panel on climate change's (IPCC). The IPCC's bleakest predictions are being realised, the scientists said.

A declaration issued on Thursday will be handed over by Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to policy makers gathering in Copenhagen in December for the UN climate talks. Climate minister Connie Hedegaard said on Thursday that the "disturbing" findings would "increase awareness about the urgent need for decisive action". A full synthesis report will be published in June.

The risk of social disruption, particularly in poor nations and communities, is likely to increase, according to the declaration. The urgent need is for long-term strategies to minimise the "social and economic costs of both adaptation and mitigation" and to implement the necessary political and economic reforms, scientists added.

On Thursday, researchers from the University of Cambridge told delegates that, rather than increasing costs, strict emission reduction targets can provide benefits through improved innovation and increased tax revenues which are then spent to further support new technology and lower other taxes.

16 March 2009


Financial Times - 13 March 2009

Don't be misled by the recent cold winter in Europe and north America ? or by this week's conference of vocal climate change sceptics in New York. Pay attention instead to the larger gathering in Copenhagen, where mainstream scientists have issued a series of dire warnings that global warming is proceeding far faster than the scenarios published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change two years ago.

Many politicians who believe in global warming have taken some comfort from the IPCC consensus opinion that average temperatures will rise by about 2C this century, an increase to which the world could just about adapt. Unfortunately that view is out of date, according to recent evidence presented in Copenhagen and elsewhere ? ranging from the rapid thinning of Arctic ice to the unexpected vulnerability of the Amazon rainforests to drought and heat.

To reduce the real risk of a climate catastrophe, bringing untold social disruption later this century, politicians worldwide must bring a new sense of urgency to the battle against global warming. The new US president will help: Barack Obama believes personally in the need for action and his administration has a strong environmental team. As he has said, the fight against recession is no excuse to relax on the climate front.

Three main strategies are needed. The first is direct support for technologies to cut the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere; such "green investment" should be part of any economic stimulus plan. Second, judicious use of regulations can force companies and consumers to use energy more efficiently.

The third element is the most difficult: making it more expensive to emit greenhouse gases. Political constraints may rule out the most straightforward method ? raising carbon taxes substantially ? in some countries, including the US. If so, robust cap-and-trade schemes, imposing stringent limits on emissions, will serve well instead.

In December there will be an even bigger climate conference in Copenhagen ? to agree an international treaty to follow the flawed Kyoto protocol. Intensive international negotiations will be needed over the next nine months to draw up an action plan that the whole world can endorse then.

16 March 2009


Kevin Done and Gerrit Wiesmann in Frankfurt, Justine Lau in Hong Kong and John Murray-Brown in Dublin - Financial Times - 11 March 2009

Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, the two leading European airlines, announced further capacity reductions for the summer season on Wednesday in the face of the deepening world recession.

Airlines around the globe are being hit by the mounting crisis in the aviation sector. More are seeking to defer delivery of new aircraft, undermining the outlook for production at jetmakers Airbus and Boeing, and smaller producers such as Brazil's Embraer and Canada's Bombardier .

Cathay Pacific, the de facto Hong Kong flag carrier, reported its biggest annual loss in its 63-year history as it felt the impact of a sharp fall in demand for air travel and wrong-way bets on the hedging of its fuel purchases.

In Ireland Aer Lingus, which has fought off a second hostile takeover bid from Ryanair, announced it had fallen into loss last year and warned it was "unlikely" to report a pre-tax profit this year as passenger fares and cargo volumes fall sharply. Michael O'Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, which owns 29 per cent of Aer Lingus, accused the Aer Lingus board of "misleading" shareholders, and said he planned to submit formal complaints to the London and Irish stock exchanges, the take-over panel and the financial services regulator.

Cathay said 2009 would remain "extremely challenging" as the financial crisis curbed passenger and cargo traffic. It warned that high hedging losses would continue to hurt its bottom line, if fuel prices remained at their present level. "The aviation industry is in crisis," said Christopher Pratt, Cathay's chairman. "We cannot say how and when things may get better. Our assumption at this stage is that demand and yield will continue to slide in the coming months."

To counter the recession, Cathay has already cut capacity, grounded flights, delayed construction of a cargo terminal and offered unpaid leave to staff.

German carrier Lufthansa said it was cutting its dividend sharply and reducing planned capacity growth, as it reported a two-thirds fall in net profit in 2008 due in part to the impact of some troubled investments. But, with demand for air travel falling as the global recession bites, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, Lufthansa chief executive, said 2009 sales and operating profit would fall well below 2008 levels.

16 March 2009


Daily Mail - 11 March 2009

Ryanair has announced that it is to charge its passengers for the right to check-in. From May 1 the no-frills airline will levy a 5 fee on its currently free online check-in service, while the charge for registering at the airport will go up from 10 to 20.

It plans to scrap its airport check-in desks altogether from October, with all customers checking-in online. They print out their own boarding card at home and can go straight through security after leaving any hold luggage at one of Ryanair's airport 'drop desks'.

Anyone who fails to check-in online from 15 days to four hours before the scheduled flight departure time, or who buys a ticket at the airport, faces a last-minute charge that is likely to soar from 20 to persuade passengers to use the net.

Ryanair already charges for 'optional extras' including up to 19 for a bag in the hold, up to 38 for sports equipment or musical instruments, 2.85 for priority boarding and 52 to change a flight.

Boss Michael O'Leary recently suggested charging passengers 1 to use the toilet on the plane, though the idea was later retracted.

Ryanair justified scrapping check-in desks by pointing out that 75 per cent of its passengers already used its web check-in service. A spokesman said: "This move will allow all passengers, including those travelling with checked baggage, to check-in online, thereby avoiding time-wasting queues and delays at airport check-in desks."

Ryanair also announced yesterday that from October 1 children under the age of 16 will no longer be able to travel unaccompanied and that passports and national ID cards would be the only accepted forms of photo ID on Ryanair flights.

16 March 2009


Sandra Perry - Herts & Essex Observer - 13 March 2009

STANSTED Airport could face 10m fines in charges if it provides a poor service to passengers and airlines. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has stiffened performance targets in its announcement today, Friday March 13, of its economic regulation for the terminal for the five-year period of April 2009 - March 2014.

Poor standards of service for travellers for security queues, baggage systems, terminal facilities or for services delivered directly to airlines could put at risk up to 10m of BAA Stansted's revenue. That is equivalent to seven per cent of the Essex terminal's airport charges from passenger flights.

A similar scheme at Heathrow and Gatwick has seen BAA paying out nearly 9m in rebate payments across both airports to airlines so far in 2008-09.

The CAA is maintaining the price caps it put forward in December, which are lower than those recommended by the Competition Commission to reflect an adjustment to take account of airport revenues from cargo and other non-passenger flights.

The caps will remain at 6.53 per passenger for the first two years and will then rise to 6.85 by 2013-14. The increase is designed to ensure that regulation supports the development of competition, while enabling Stansted and other competing airports to bring forward "efficient" plans for expansion, said the CAA.

In its conclusions it said there was strong evidence that prices charged at Stansted have an impact on other airports, notably Luton. Setting the price caps too low would harm investment to meet passenger demand at both Stansted and other competing airports.

Against this, the CAA said it had weighed the risk that if the cap was too high, and Stansted were to develop and exploit more market power than is currently in prospect, the resulting levels of charges would penalise passengers and airlines.

"The CAA believes that its decision strikes the right balance in protecting passengers and airlines while allowing price caps to rise in coming years to enable investment."

Its group director of economic regulation, Harry Bush, said: "Stansted's price control is about ensuring that this airport, and those with the potential to compete with it, develop in a way that meets the needs of users. This is why we have brought in an incentive scheme to improve services for passengers and airlines."

"We will now be working on developing our approach to economic regulation to meet the challenges of a developing airport market and to ensure that the benefits of increased competition from the forthcoming sale of Gatwick, and from the potential sale of Stansted, are delivered to passengers and airlines."

A spokesman for BAA Stansted said: "We note the CAA settlement. We recognise the cost pressures facing the entire industry today, and have agreed realistic capital spending plans with airlines over the coming five years."

"Looking to the long term, the regulator should not discourage future important investment which it accepts is necessary and we are disappointed that a large element of the full cost of developing new capacity has been retrospectively disallowed."

16 March 2009


Daily Mail - 13 March 2009

London airports group BAA is set to slump deeper into crisis after a key Brussels ruling that could see airlines slash flights to avoid take-off and landing charges.

The European Commission this week suspended its 'use it or lose it' rule on airport take-off and landing slots throughout the European Union.

That rule has historically meant if an airline does not utilise its slots up to a level of 80 per cent, it would have to give them up. In recent months, airlines have been reducing services to stem losses but have avoided cutting back so far that it would mean losing slots - intangible assets that some regard as the most important value in some airlines.

Collins Stewart aviation analyst Andrew Fitchie says the ruling spells trouble for airports such as BAA's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. "We could see much more aggressive capacity flex [flightcutting] by many airlines which would eliminate unprofitable flying," he said. "This would clearly be negative for some of the major hub airports."

BAA is already in crisis, with passenger numbers in February down more than 12 per cent. The group charges airlines to use its airports and by taking money from passengers as they use terminal shops and restaurants. Falling passenger numbers are bad enough but lower airline charges would present huge problems for the debt-laden, Spanish-owned group.

OUR COMMENT: Anything that reduces unnecessary flights is to be welcomed.

Pat Dale

16 March 2009


RPS planners escape cuts

Planning - 13 March 2009

RPS's 141-strong planning team remains intact despite reductions in the consultancy's wider workforce prompted by the downturn.

The revelation comes as the group last week revealed a strong set of results for the year to 31 December 2008, with pre-tax profit up 28 per cent to 57.5 million. In its global planning and development division, fee income rose 19 per cent to 165.2 million with profit up 16 per cent to 30.3 million.

RPS said its ability to advise on the increasingly broad issues involved in large schemes, particularly infrastructure, remains attractive to clients. It is continuing its focus on securing permissions for energy and water projects (Planning, 8 August 2008, p8).

The company said it has had to make "timely" reductions in its workforce, particularly in the building design team, to maintain profitability. But director of planning and strategy Chris Simkins said the planning team is being sustained by public sector commissions.

"We are fortunate to have a significant amount of work with projects for the Atomic Weapons Agency and the Health Protection Agency, as well as BAA's instruction on Stansted Airport."

Simkins added that the firm is also working for a number of local authorities, including Wiltshire County Council on the Westbury bypass, and the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation at the Daventry housing proposals inquiry. "One of the advantages of being a big consultancy is that we are well positioned in the downturn," he said.

16 March 2009


NATS promises 10% flight emissions reductions by 2020

David Learmount - Flight International - 10 March 2009

UK air navigation service provider NATS has promised to reduce the emissions by aircraft it controls by 10% per flight by 2020.

The provider has just completed a research project to determine how much carbon dioxide is emitted by aircraft in UK airspace, and to determine what the potential savings are as planned service improvements are enabled over the next 11 years.

NATS researchers have calculated that 26 million tonnes of CO2 is emitted in UK airspace annually. It says this is its benchmark for the planned reductions, to be achieved through shorter routeings, greener airport approaches and departures and enabling optimum en-route flight levels.

Chief executive Paul Barron says: "This is a testing target in challenging times, but aviation is making strides to be more sustainable and air traffic control must play its part. What this research shows is that we can make a difference. Safety will always be our first priority, but environmental responsibility will become part of our day-to-day work. We are determined to take this big step to leave behind a smaller carbon footprint."

Barron adds that 70,000t of CO2 had already been saved over the past year through improved airspace management and design changes.

OUR COMMENT: If NATS can do it then so can the Government. No more airport expansion!

Pat Dale

16 March 2009


ENDS Europe DAILY - 11 March 2009

New legislation on airport charges will soon enter force following formal adoption in the European parliament on Wednesday. It will allow airports to vary the charges for use of their facilities according to airlines' environmental performance.

This means that an airline with good environmental performance could pay lower charges. The directive was rubber-stamped by EU energy ministers at the end of February.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transportation Association (Iata) told ENDS yesterday it expects a 4.5 per cent drop in aviation emissions this year as a result of more fuel efficient aircraft and flying practices.

9 March 2009


100 months to act on climate, warns Charles

Amanda Diamond - The Observer - 8 March 2009

The Prince of Wales is to issue a warning that the world has only "100 months to act" before the damage caused by global warming becomes irreversible.

As part of a tour of South America, his speech to business leaders in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday will echo predictions made by climate change experts who believe there are about eight years left to cut C02 emissions. He will warn that failure to act urgently could have catastrophic effects for the planet.

The speech will stress the importance of big business joining the fight against global warming. He will say that although the world is in recession, protecting the environment should remain a priority.

It is believed the speech will echo one that he gave in S?o Paulo at the start of the last recession in 1991, when he warned that it was important to continue to care for the welfare of the planet and that it should not become "a luxury". The prince's tour will help to put the environment at the top of the political agenda before leaders of the G20 nations meet in London next month.

The prince, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, will arrive in Chile tomorrow at the start of a 10-day tour before travelling to Brazil and Ecuador. The tour will end in the Galpagos Islands to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.

Prince Charles has been a long-term campaigner on environmental issues and set up his Rainforests Project in 2007.

9 March 2009


Rising sea levels pose a far bigger eco threat than previously thought.
This week's climate change conference in Copenhagen will sound an alarm over new floodings - enough to swamp Bangladesh, Florida, the Norfolk Broads and the Thames estuary

Robin McKie, Science Editor - The Observer - 8 March 2009

Scientists will warn this week that rising sea levels, triggered by global warming, pose a far greater danger to the planet than previously estimated. There is now a major risk that many coastal areas around the world will be inundated by the end of the century because Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are melting faster than previously estimated.

Low-lying areas including Bangladesh, Florida, the Maldives and the Netherlands face catastrophic flooding, while, in Britain, large areas of the Norfolk Broads and the Thames estuary are likely to disappear by 2100. In addition, cities including London, Hull and Portsmouth will need new flood defences.

"It is now clear that there are going to be massive flooding disasters around the globe," said Dr David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey. "Populations are shifting to the coast, which means that more and more people are going to be threatened by sea-level rises."

The issue is set to dominate the opening sessions of the international climate change conference in Copenhagen this week, when scientists will outline their latest findings on a host of issues concerning global warming. The meeting has been organised to set the agenda for this December's international climate talks (also to be held in Copenhagen), which will draw up a treaty to replace the current Kyoto protocol for limiting carbon dioxide emissions.

And key to these deliberations will be the issue of ice-sheet melting. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - when it presented its most up-to-date report on the likely impact of global warming in 2007 - concluded that sea-level rises of between 20 and 60 centimetres would occur by 2100. These figures were derived from estimates of how much the sea will increase in volume as it heats up, a process called thermal expansion, and from projected increases in run-off water from melting glaciers in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges.

But the report contained an important caveat: that its sea-level rise estimate contained very little input from melting ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. The IPCC forecast therefore tended to underestimate forthcoming changes.

"The IPCC felt the whole dynamics of polar ice-sheet melting were too poorly understood," added Vaughan. "However, we are now getting a much better idea of what is going on in Greenland and Antarctica and can make much more accurate forecasts about ice-sheet melting and its contribution to sea-level rises."

From studying satellite images, scientists have watched the sea ice that hugs the Greenland and Antarctic shores dwindle and disappear. Sea-ice melting on its own does not cause ocean levels to rise, but its disappearance has a major impact on land ice sheets. Without sea ice to prop them up, the land sheets tip into the water and disintegrate at increasing rates, a phenomenon that is now being studied in detail by researchers.

"It is becoming increasingly apparent from our studies of Greenland and Antarctica that changes to sea ice are being transmitted into the hearts of the land-ice sheets in a remarkably short time," added Vaughan. As a result, those land sheets are breaking up faster and far more melt water is being added to the oceans than was previously expected.

These revisions suggest sea-level rises could easily top a metre by 2100 - a figure that is backed by the US Geological Survey, which this year warned that they could reach as much as 1.5 metres.

In addition, in September, a team led by Tad Pfeffer at the University of Colorado at Boulder published calculations using conservative, medium and extreme glaciological assumptions for sea-level rise expected from Greenland, Antarctica and the world's smaller glaciers and ice caps. They concluded that the most plausible scenario, when factoring in thermal expansion due to warming waters, will lead to a total sea level rise of one to two metres by 2100.

Similarly, a commission of 20 international experts, called on by the Dutch government to help plan its coastal defences, recently gave a range of 55cm to 1.1 metres for sea-level rises by 2100. "Equally important, this commission has highlighted the fact that sea-level rise will not stop in the year 2100," said Professor Stefan Rahmstorf of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "By 2200, they estimate a rise of 1.5 to 3.5m unless we stop the warming. This would spell the end of many of our coastal cities."

This point was backed by Dr Jason Lowe of the Hadley Centre, the UK's foremost climate change research centre. "It is still not clear exactly how much the sea will rise by the end of this century, but it is certain that rises will continue for hundreds of years beyond that - even if we do manage to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions and halt the rise in atmospheric temperature. The sea will continue to heat up and expand. In addition, the Greenland ice sheets will continue to melt," he said.

This latter effect could, ultimately, have a particularly destructive impact. Scientists have calculated that if industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases eventually produce a global temperature increase of around 4C, there is a risk that Greenland's ice covering could melt completely. This could take several hundred years or it might require a couple of thousand. The end result is not in doubt, however. It would add around seven metres to the planet's sea levels. The consequence would be utter devastation.

Such a scenario is distant, but real, scientists insist. However, at present, the most important issue, they argue, is that of short-term sea-level rises: probably around one metre by 2100. When that occurs, the Maldives will be submerged, along with islands like the Sunderbans in the Bay of Bengal, and Kiribati and Tuvalu in the Pacific. The US - which has roughly 12,400 miles of coastline and more than 19,900 square miles of coastal wetlands - would face a bill of around $156bn to protect this land. Cities such as London would require massive investments to provide defences against the rising waters. Others, such as Alexandria, in Egypt, would simply be inundated.

Rising oceans will also contaminate both surface and underground fresh water supplies, worsening the world's existing fresh-water shortage. Underground water sources in Thailand, Israel, China and Vietnam are already experiencing salt-water contamination.

Coastal farmland will be wiped out, triggering massive displacements of men, women and children. It is estimated that a one-metre sea-level rise could flood 17% of Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries, reducing its rice-farming land by 50% and leaving tens of millions without homes.

Such destruction would not be caused merely by rising sea levels, however. Other effects of global warming will also worsen the mayhem that lies ahead: in particular, the increase in major storms. "When we talk about the dangers of future sea-level rises, we are not talking about a problem akin to pouring water into a bath," added Dr Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineering. "Climate-change research shows there will be significant increases in storms as global temperatures rise. These will produce more intense gales and hurricanes and these, in turn, will produce massive storm surges as they pass over the sea."

The result will be the appearance of the super-surge, a climatic double whammy that will savage low-lying regions that include Britain's south-eastern coastline, in particular East Anglia and the Thames Estuary, along with cities such as London, Portsmouth and Hull, which are rated as being particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise.

In addition to these hotspots, the country will also face massive disruption to its transport and energy systems unless it acts swiftly, according to a report - Climate Change, Adapting to the Inevitable - published last month by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Many rail lines run along river valleys that will be flooded with increased regularity while bridges carrying trains and lorries often cross shipping lanes and may have to be redesigned to accommodate rising water levels.

"Power supplies will also be affected," added Brown. "The Sizewell B nuclear plant has been built on the Suffolk coast, a site that has been earmarked for the construction of several more nuclear plants. However, Sizewell will certainly be affected by rising sea levels. Engineers say they can build concrete walls that will keep out the water throughout the working lives of these new plants. But that is not enough. Nuclear plants may operate for 50 years, but it could take hundreds of years to decommission them. By that time, who knows what sea-level rises and what kinds of inundations the country will be experiencing?"

Most scientists believe Britain remains relatively well placed to combat sea-level rises. "The government has been fairly far-sighted over this issue, with projects such as Thames Estuary 2100 being set up to prepare flooding defence projects," said Professor Robert Nicholls, of Southampton University.

This does not stop the controversy, however. In its report, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers warned that many areas would have to be abandoned because they are simply too expensive to protect. In particular, large areas of the Norfolk coastline would be left to be inundated, a massive loss of human habitat.

But this approach represents an abrogation of national duty to many people - particularly those whose homes will be destroyed, individuals such as Martin George, former chairman of the Broads Society. "A country that has the technological know-how to extract oil and coal from below the North Sea should surely be capable of finding a way to protect a concrete sea wall against the effects of climate change. We should do our damnedest to safeguard our heritage," he said.

Additional research by Lisa Kjellsson

Why the sea is rising

* Thermal expansion. All bodies expand when they are heated, and that is true for the water that covers 70 per cent of the planet. The oceans are expanding - upwards. It is estimated this increase in volume will raise levels by 10-40 cms.

* Melting glaciers and mountain ice caps - outside Greenland and Antarctica - are also adding water to rivers that flow to the oceans. However, these remain a modest source of sea-level rise. Possibly around 10 cms.

* The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets represent vast reserves of frozen fresh water. The former would add 7m to sea levels if melted completely; the latter would bring a further 60m rise to the levels of the world's oceans.

9 March 2009


Frances Williams in Geneva - Financial Times - 4 March 2009

Ahmed Shaheed, foreign minister of the Maldives, is calling on the world to make global warming a human rights issue and prevent his homeland from disappearing beneath the waves by the end of the century.

"If nothing is done, it is the nightmare ? no Maldives. But if there are no Maldives there may be no Bangladesh, no Pakistan, no others. So we are optimistic about the possibility of change. Saving the Maldives is about saving the world as well."

While destruction wrought by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 was the most dramatic signal of the dangers of global warming, the 1,000-island archipelago is already suffering other damaging effects from coastal erosion, growing water salinity, encroachment of tropical diseases such as malaria, and loss of coralian ecosystems that support the country's fishing industry.

And shortly after winning the country's first truly democratic elections last October, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed announced plans to create a sovereign wealth fund financed from tourism, the main industry, that could be used to buy a new homeland in India, Sri Lanka or even Australia for the 300,000 inhabitants of the Indian Ocean paradise.

Kiribati in the Pacific, another cluster of tiny tropical islands in even more imminent danger of submergence, has already asked Australia and New Zealand to accept its citizens as permanent refugees.

But Mr Shaheed said the Maldives government would do its utmost to avoid such a fate, with adaptation measures at home and a vigorous lobbying effort for strong international action to limit global warming.

Part of that lobbying effort was a push to have climate change treated as a human rights issue. "There's a tendency to think in economic terms and we need to shift the focus to the moral case for tackling global warming," Mr Shaheed said.

9 March 2009


Blears delays Stansted runway inquiry

Graham Dines - EADT Online - 2 March 2009

THE start date of the public inquiry into a second runway at Stansted airport has been put back, which could be the death knell for the controversial project.

The inquiry was to have started on April 15 but notice of a postponement - until mid-summer - was issued today by Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears.

She said she was putting the inquiry back due to the imminent publication of the Competition Commission's final report into BAA's ownership of airports. The commission's interim reports propose that BAA should give up operating Gatwick and Stansted airports.

In a letter today, Ms Blears said: "I am certain that we should neither be seen to second-guess the contents of the final Competition Commission report, nor the response of the airport operator until after it has had time to consider its findings and implications."

She added that she would make an announcement on the new start date for the inquiry within four weeks of the publication of the commission's final report, which is due no later than March 28.

Ms Blears said she was also prepared to commit now to ensuring that there would be a minimum of eight weeks notice between her announcement and the start of the inquiry.

The inquiry is expected to last a year, which would mean it will be sitting during campaigning for the next General Election. The Conservative have pledged to scrap the proposal if they win that election.

A spokesman for BAA said: "We note the decision by Government to temporarily defer the start of the Stansted G2 planning inquiry. As the Competition Commission's market investigation concludes in March, we recognise that the Secretary of State has decided that deferring the inquiry may be the best way of preventing long term damage to the process of delivering this important infrastructure development project."

2 March 2009


BAA backs down over forced sale of Stansted

Benedict Moore-Bridger - This is London - 23 February 2009

BAA is to agree to sell Stansted airport rather than take legal action to prevent the move, it emerged today.

The move will bring to an end the operator's dominance of London's airports since it was created 40 years ago as a government agency. The airports group, majority-owned by Spanish company Ferrovial, has fought to keep hold of Stansted despite being told by the Competition Commission it had to relinquish it.

Senior BAA executives have pledged to go through the courts to prevent the sale of the Essex airport, however the Spanish infrastructure group is understood now to be prepared to drop its objections.

The final decision on airport ownership will be made by the Commission next month, and is expected to order BAA to give up Gatwick, which it is already selling, Stansted and one of its two Scottish airports.

Industry insiders said they had expected a climbdown ever since the Government decided to support the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. An airline executive said: "There was no point in [BAA] going on fighting the Competition Commission. It has won on the bigger point of expanding Heathrow,"

Reader Views

Having flogged it off to Ferrovial, how much compensation do we have to pay to dig BAA out of the hole that they have created?
Michael Murphy, Brightlingsea, England

Does this mean that people will see sense and stop the plan to build a second runway on prime farming and woodland at Stansted, not to mention the enforced bulldozing of several listed buildings of antiquity? Without the BAA, who develop airports as giant shopping malls as well as for flying from, perhaps the Stansted development will be seen in a more realistic light - a commercial and environmental non-starter.
Jon Kent, Hertford, UK

2 March 2009


Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent - Financial Times - 22 February 2009

BAA is softening its opposition towards a forced sale of Stansted airport, as the long-running investigation by the competition watchdog into the UK airports group reaches a climax.

The Competition Commission, in its final report due early in March, is expected to call for BAA to be broken up, with the sale of three of its seven UK airports: Gatwick, Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

BAA has already pre-empted the findings of the two-year probe by announcing the sale of Gatwick, the second-largest UK airport. The process is well advanced and BAA has called for final, binding offers for Gatwick from a short-list of three rival consortia by March 30, with the aim of completing the sale by late May.

BAA and its majority owner, Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial, indicated in January that they could be headed for a courtroom showdown with competition investigators over the calls for the additional sale of Stansted and Edinburgh airports, after claiming the Commission's plans would breach human rights law and European laws against property seizure.

The issue is delicately poised, however, and Ferrovial is anxious to avoid creating more controversy than is necessary with UK authorities, particularly as it has recently won government backing for its plan to build a third runway at Heathrow airport, by far its most important UK asset.

Ferrovial has been co-operating closely with the Commission over the Gatwick sale, even though the watchdog has no formal jurisdiction over the disposal, and the group is keen to examine the final details of the Commission's report before starting a potentially damaging appeal.

It is still hopeful of winning some flexibility over the timing of the sale of Stansted, as well as over its own freedom to choose which of Edinburgh or Glasgow airports it should sell.

A planning inquiry is due to begin this spring into BAA's application to build a second runway at Stansted, and there is concern this process could be jeopardised by the demand for the airport to be sold, as the new owner will have to reconsider the capital spending plans.

In its provisional remedies published in December, the Commission said it would seek views on the timing of the sale of Stansted given the forthcoming inquiry. The watchdog has already indicated that a second runway at Stansted may not be needed until 2017 rather than 2015.

Traffic at Stansted, the most important airport for low-cost airlines in Europe, is being hit hard by the recession and in particular by the reduction of capacity during the winter months by its biggest customer, Ireland's Ryanair . Volumes have been falling year-on-year for 15 months in succession, undermining the timing of BAA's plans. The number of passengers in January fell by 11.2 per cent year-on-year to 1.29m, representing a 19 per cent decline in two years from 1.6m in January 2007.

2 March 2009


Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent - Financial Times - 25 February 2009

The timing of the expansion of Stansted airport was thrown into doubt yesterday as opponents went to the high court to seek to overturn the government's recent backing for raising the limit on flights.

Airlines operating at the airport, led by Ryanair and EasyJet, as well as local campaigners, have also written to ministers seeking to postpone by up to a year the opening of the planning inquiry into BAA's plans to build a second runway and terminal at Stansted.

BAA won government approval last October to raise the limit on passenger capacity for the existing single runway by 40 per cent from 25m to 35m a year.

The Stop Stansted Expansion campaign began a three-day hearing in the high court yesterday to overturn the decision. It is claiming the government breached the law by failing to take full account of the environmental and economic impact.

The public inquiry into the second runway and terminal, due to open in mid-April, is being threatened chiefly by the change of ownership of Stansted that is expected to be forced by the long-running investigation into BAA by the Competition Commission.

The competition watchdog is expected to call in its final report, due early next month, for the airports operator to be broken up, with the sale of three of its seven UK airports - Gatwick, Stansted and one of either Edinburgh or Glasgow. BAA has already pre-empted the findings of the two-year probe by launching the sale of Gatwick, the second largest UK airport.

The process is well advanced and BAA has called for final, binding offers for Gatwick from a shortlist of three rival consortia by March 30 with the aim of completing the sale by late May.

At Stansted the ownership issue is overshadowing the plan to expand capacity, which the government has supported since the publication of the air transport white paper in December 2003.

The Stansted airlines consultative committee has written to Hazel Blears, communities and local government secretary, urging the postponement of the public inquiry by at least 12 months.

2 March 2009


Bo Wilson - This is London - 27 February 2009

PASSENGERS flying with Ryanair may be forced to pay 1 to use the lavatory.

The budget airline's chief executive Michael O'Leary said today he was considering the charge on all flights.

With the company offering some flights for 1, it means spending a penny could cost as much as your ticket. Mr O'Leary said: "One thing we have looked at in the past and are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny."

He said this would not inconvenience passengers travelling without cash. "I don't think there is anybody in history that has got on board a Ryanair aircraft with less than a pound," he added. "We're all about finding ways of raising discretionary revenue so we can keep lowering the cost of air travel."

Mr O'Leary has a reputation as a cost cutter, expanding Ryanair by offering low headline fares and charging extra for items such as additional luggage.

The move has been criticised by air passenger groups. James Freemantle, industry affairs manager at the Air Transport Users Council, said while they supported some charges to drive down ticket prices, a lavatory fee was a "step too far". He said: "There's a limit on these extra charges and they shouldn't be putting them everywhere."

Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said: "While this has been discussed internally, there are no immediate plans to introduce it. Passengers using train and bus stations are already accustomed to paying to use the toilet, so why not on airplanes?"

2 March 2009


Mandelson in new 'favours' row: The minister, his PR pal
and six meetings before Heathrow go-ahead

Ian Drury - Daily Mail - 28 February 2009

Peter Mandelson is at the centre of a 'favours for friends' row over the controversial proposals to expand Heathrow.

Details emerged of the extraordinary access the Business Secretary's close acquaintance Roland Rudd - who represents airport operator BAA - had to the top tiers of Government.

Mr Rudd, the City's most powerful PR, or his company Finsbury Ltd met with ministers at least five times in ten days in the run-up to Labour's unpopular decision to go ahead with plans for a third runway, and once a few months earlier.

It provoked angry allegations that Lord Mandelson used his political influence to help his friend persuade ministers to push through the 9billion project. Mr Rudd, who is rumoured to be worth 50million, has had a long friendship with Lord Mandelson, who is godfather to his son.

MPs have demanded Gordon Brown orders a top-level investigation amid concern that BAA was able to crush the green lobby opposing airport expansion by exploiting an intricate network of contacts within the Government.

Ministers caused fury last month when they approved the plan for Britain's busiest airport. Outraged opponents have called it the 'dodgiest decision since Iraq'. Plans to build the runway had fuelled fierce Cabinet infighting between ministers convinced it was crucial to boosting British business, investment and jobs, and those concerned at the environmental damage of an extra 225,000 take-off and landings each year.

Lord Mandelson - brought back into Cabinet by Gordon Brown after twice being forced to quit in disgrace - 'strongly' backed the business case for expansion.

He is credited with winning over rebel ministers at the last minute by offering concessions to curb pollution, which he described as the "greening of Heathrow". At one Cabinet meeting, he 'banged his head' on a table in frustration at anti-runway ministers.

Today the Daily Mail can reveal the extraordinary access Mr Rudd and his firm, which lists BAA as one of its biggest corporate clients, was given to people at the levers of power. Mr Rudd was also involved in last summer's 'Yachtgate' affair involving Lord Mandelson.

The Trade Secretary was in Corfu, staying on the yacht of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska - who is a client of Finsbury through Basic Elements, the holding group for his investments. Another guest was Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, who was later suspected of leaking unfavourable remarks made by Lord Mandelson about the Prime Minister.

That upset a third guest, millionaire business heir Nat Rothschild - who is also represented by Mr Rudd and who, on the advice of Mr Rudd, launched a damaging media offensive against Mr Osborne.

The intriguing details of the ministerial access granted to Mr Rudd were uncovered by Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker from Parliamentary questions.

The timetable of events was:

October 17 last year: Lord Mandelson holds meeting with Roland Rudd, whose PR firm Finsbury represents airport operator BAA.
December 4: Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon postpones decision on building third runway at Heathrow until January.
December 8: Rudd, representing Business for New Europe, and Business Minister Shriti Vadera attend the Global Europe Business Summit.
December 10: Rudd attends breakfast meeting with Lord Mandelson.
December 12: Representative of Finsbury meets Transport Minister Lord Adonis.
December 16: Representative of Finsbury meets Lord Adonis again.
December 17: Rudd attends a second breakfast meeting with Lord Mandelson.
January 15 2009: Government sparks uproar by dismissing fierce opposition by approving Heathrow expansion.

Both Lord Adonis and Mr Rudd are former employees of the Financial Times newspaper - where they were colleagues of BBC Business Editor Robert Peston who, coincidentally, has broken major stories about Finsbury's banking clients.

Mr Baker said: "These revelations provide, at the very least, evidence that Peter Mandelson has been doing favours for friends. Again, his position as a Cabinet minister is compromised by his shadowy personal contacts."

"It is astonishing that Roland Rudd, who has enjoyed lavish hospitality with Oleg Deripaska at the same time as Peter Mandelson, was granted so many meetings with ministers over such a short period of time."

"We know Mr Rudd's firm represents BAA, so now we need to know how he came to be granted such favourable access at the time Lord Mandelson was lobbying so hard in the Cabinet for the third runway."

"It is not surprising that people jump to the conclusion that there is an old pals act going on here to try to influence Government policy. We need an investigation to be carried out to see if there have been breaches of the ministerial code. It is in the public interest."

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "There have been rumours of a secret Heathrow deal between the Government and BAA, and these revelations will only add to people's justifiable suspicions. The questions now are, what did Mandelson and his friend Rudd discuss, were minutes taken, who offered what to whom and what was agreed? The same questions need to be answered about the meetings between Rudd and Lord Adonis."

Critics have already expressed concern about a 'revolving door' policy between Downing Street, Whitehall and BAA. Tom Kelly, formerly the official spokesman for Tony Blair when he was prime minister, is now BAA's communications director, while Joe Irvin, former head of corporate affairs at BAA, is now a key adviser to Gordon Brown.

BAA said: "It is entirely appropriate that BAA holds discussions with government, as we do with politicians of all parties, in the interest of Britain's airports. Government and government alone makes the critical judgments that affect airport growth."

Finsbury said last night that Mr Rudd had "categorically never" discussed Heathrow expansion with Lord Mandelson. It also said its representatives met Lord Adonis on December 12 and 16 to discuss "high-speed rail". But BAA believes a high-speed rail link to Heathrow is vital to complement a third runway.

Sources close to Lord Mandelson said he had "never spoken to Mr Rudd about the third runway". They insisted the Business Secretary had not helped set up meetings for Finsbury with transport ministers.

2 March 2009


Nina Rossi - The Hounslow Chronicle - 27 February 2009

Airport chiefs at BAA have issued an apology to their long-suffering Bedfont neighbours after inflicting a dreadful pong on them for more than two weeks.

The alarming aroma, described by residents as 'acrid and oniony', descended on the area around West View a fortnight ago and has left many in the community complaining of coughs and headaches.

"It's disgusting," said resident Derek Nardone, who has lived in West View for 27 years. "I don't normally have a problem with the airport but this smell is just awful. It makes you want to retch and once it gets into your home there's no getting rid of it."

The almighty pong is still affecting around a square mile of west Bedfont, forcing residents to keep their doors and windows closed. It arrived soon after the heavy snowfall and anxious residents quickly tracked the source to nearby reed beds used to treat runoff from the runway.

As the stink continues they are growing increasingly concerned about the affect the chemicals may be having on their health.

"Everyone's coughing and getting dreadful headaches," said Mr Nardone. "The whole street is complaining about feeling poorly - it can't be good for people, especially the kids."

A spokesman for BAA has admitted the pungent smell is a result of high levels of the aircraft de-icant glycol running off the runways and moving through their water filtering system at Mayfield Farm.

But he insisted the pong was merely unpleasant and not unsafe for nearby residents. "We have been working closely with environmental and health agencies and do not believe that there is a risk to public health," he added.

"We sincerely apologise for the impact this is having locally, and offer assurance that we are working very hard to resolve the issue as quickly as possible."

21 February 2009


Global warming nearing 'critical threshold'

Clive Cookson in Chicago - Financial Times - 16 February 2009

The world is warming far more quickly than scientists forecast just two years ago when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its last reports, according to a series of assessments presented over the weekend.

Chris Field of Stanford University, a senior member of the IPCC, told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that the unexpectedly rapid increase in the burning of fossil fuels, especially coal, since 2000 would have dire consequences because of "feedback loops" in the global -climate.

"We are looking now at a future climate that's beyond anything we've considered seriously in climate model simulations," Prof Field said.

The IPCC?s fourth assessment in 2007 concluded that the average global temperature would increase by between 1.1C and 6.4C by 2100, depending how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were released into the atmosphere over the coming decades. Prof Field said that seriously underestimated the potential severity of global warming, based on the new evidence.

Prof Field warned that there were early signs of melting in the Arctic tundra and increased fires in tropical forests ? over and above deliberate deforestation ? that could add billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

"There is a real risk that human-caused climate change will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide from forest and tundra ecosystems, which have been storing a lot of carbon for thousands of years," Prof Field said. "We don't want to cross a critical threshold where this massive release of carbon starts to run on autopilot."

Al Gore, the former US vice-president turned climate change campaigner, responded with a passionate plea to an audience of 1,600 scientists, urging them to become more politically active in the fight against global warming. "Scientists can no longer in good conscience accept this division between the work you do and the civilisation in which you live. This is a historic struggle."

Mr Gore focused particularly on the accelerating loss of Arctic ice and the global increase in coal burning. However there was optimism at the AAAS meeting ? based on the professed determination of the new US administration to promote effective action, both in its domestic energy policies and in taking a lead in international climate change negotiations.

James McCarthy, a climate change expert at Harvard University and this year's AAAS president, said: "The scientific talent President [Barack] Obama has recruited is of extraordinary calibre. He could not have found anyone better to look after energy and the environment."

21 February 2009


Danny Brierly - Evening Standard - 19 February 2009

THE OPENING of a second runway at Stansted airport is likely to be delayed by a further two years to 2017, it was revealed today.

Protest group Stop Stansted Expansion was given the later date in a letter from solicitors acting for airport operator BAA.

Protesters said the project had been "a farce from the start" and should be scrapped but BAA insisted the runway's completion date depended on a "number of factors". The Government's aviation White Paper envisaged a second runway in 2011/12. However that date was put back to 2013 then 2015.

Stop Stansted's economics adviser Brian Ross said: "It is wholly unacceptable for BAA to try to keep its options open by continuing to postpone the threat of a second runway. It should remove the threat once and for all."

A BAA spokesman said: "What has not changed is the need for a new runway, given the shortage of airport capacity in south-east England."

21 February 2009


Stansted campaigners say 6% fall in passenger numbers
undermines BAA's case for a second runway

Dan Milmo - The Guardian - 19 February 2009

BAA has admitted that the opening of a second runway at Stansted airport will be delayed by two years because there are not enough passengers to meet demand. Amid warnings from green campaigners that the admission undermines the case for expansion, Britain's third largest airport will instead open a new runway in 2017 if it secures planning permission at a public inquiry due to start in April.

The airport's owner, BAA, said the economic downturn had affected passenger demand and made it less likely that expansion will be needed by the original opening date of 2015.

The extra runway would allow annual passenger numbers at the Essex airport to increase from 22.3 million to 35 million. However, fewer travellers are using Stansted, as Ryanair and easyJet, the airport's largest customers, scale back operations.

"We will not be hitting the 35 million in 2015 that we had expected. That is due to the downturn in the economy that is affecting aviation," said a BAA spokesman. However, BAA added that it still expected long-term demand to reach 68 million passengers - on a par with Heathrow - by 2030.

The short-term trend is in the other direction, with passenger numbers dropping 6% last year, one year after demand grew by just 0.3%.

Anti-expansion campaigners said the postponement underlined the paucity of BAA's case for building a second runway, which was sanctioned by ministers in 2003.

"The case is weakening because demand continues to fall at Stansted. None of us believe BAA forecasts any more, and the likelihood of the second runway being built is diminishing further and further," said Carol Barbone, campaign director at the Stop Stansted Expansion group. The 2003 government white paper that underpinned the case for a new runway stated that the second landing strip should be launched by 2012. However, that deadline has slipped steadily in the face of concerted local opposition and forecast revisions.

The Conservatives have pledged to block a second runway at Stansted runway and are exploring legal options to overturn planning permission if it is awarded by the inquiry. The Conservatives have warned contractors not to sign any deals to start construction work on the site.

However, legal experts have warned that overturning a positive inquiry verdict could saddle a Tory government with a multibillion-pound compensation bill, because it would have to reimburse BAA for lost profits.

Next week campaigners from Stop Stansted Expansion will launch a high court challenge against the government's recent decision to approve BAA's application for an additional 10 million passengers a year at the airport.

OUR COMMENT: The article suggests in para 4 that a second runway is necessary to achieve a total of 35mppa - this is not so. Permission has recently been given to expand from 25 to 35mppa on the existing runway, below its maximum capacity of 40 - 45mppa. A second runway would allow up to 90mppa, totally destroying the surrounding countryside and the life of the surrounding community. The application is for 68mppa - doubling the numbers allowed - but history has shown us that BAA soon wants more! The airport has already reached the limits of sustainable development both locally and in terms of its effects on climate change. It should be left to continue to provide an adequate and varied regional service to travellers and business and employment to local people and abandon plans to desecrate the countryside and the communities who live nearby.

Pat Dale

21 February 2009


Stansted campaigners say 6% fall in passenger numbers
undermines BAA's case for a second runway

Richard Cornwall - Evening Star - 20 February 2009

A TWO-year delay in the construction of a second runway for Stansted is today good news for Suffolk's peace and tranquillity - but the bad news is that BAA still wants to build it.

There are likely to be 20,000 fewer planes fly over the county this year because of less people flying due to the recession. However, once recovery starts, Stansted's owners BAA expect people to start flying again and confidently predict twice as many planes to be criss-crossing Suffolk by 2030 when 68 million people a year are expected to use the airport.

It is the fourth time the second runway has been delayed - and protesters say it is time it was dropped once and for all.

The massive expansion - which will send tens of thousands of extra planes across Suffolk every year - was originally due to be up and running in two years' time. It will now be 2017 before it is built.

While the delay is good news for Suffolk people plagued by noise from passenger jets destroying the county's tranquillity, the battle to curb flying will still go on because BAA is determined to press ahead with the runway in the long-term and new flightpaths and holding stacks are still on the horizon.

Stop Stansted Expansion economics adviser Brian Ross said: "It is wholly unacceptable for BAA to try to keep its options open by continuing to postpone the threat of a second runway. It should remove the threat once and for all. BAA should face up to realities and do the decent thing."

BAA expected permitted expansion of its current runway to 35 million passengers a year to be reached by 2015.

A letter from Alistair Watson, senior associate with the planning team at CMS Cameron McKenna, acting for BAA, said figures had been revised in the light of the downturn in the economy and other factors affecting the air industry and there was expected to be a drop in passenger numbers in the short term. By 2015, BAA now expects Stansted to handle 31.6m passengers.

"The precise date of completion of a second runway will depend on a number of factors," said a Stansted spokesman. "What hasn't changed, however, is the need for a new runway at Stansted given the shortage of capacity in the south-east of England."

Should a second runway be built at Stansted? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

21 February 2009


Aime Turner - Flight International - 17 February 2009

More than a quarter of the world's airlines will effectively be bankrolling the UK's effort to tackle climate change according to a list published by Brussels of aircraft operators to be regulated once aviation is rolled into the world's largest carbon market.

The European Commission has now published a list of aircraft operators to be included in the European Union emissions trading scheme (ETS) from 2012 and which forms a crucial part of the implementation of the rules to include aircraft operators.

All commercial aviation activities arriving at and departing from EU airports will be included from that time in the EU scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the EU.

Importantly, each aircraft operator will be supervised by a single EU member state, which will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new rules. They will be responsible either for airlines to which they have issued an operating licence or to those whose 2006 emissions were mostly attributable to that EU nation.

While 25% of airlines on the combined list are from the USA - which has questioned the legality of the European action, saying it contravenes international aviation rules under the Chicago Convention - an examination of the preliminary list of administering states based on Eurocontrol data shows that the UK, France and Germany will administer half the operators flying into Europe.

A closer look reveals that 780 operators will be allocated to the UK. That number includes most of the large US carriers such as American Airlines, Continental Airlines and United Airlines, Middle East airlines such as Emirates and Etihad and Asian airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines, as well as Air New Zealand, Qantas and South African Airways.

Europe has only recommended that revenue raised from the auctioning process of the ETS "should" go towards funding clean aircraft research and development. Member states - as tax collectors - could therefore express their green fiscal munificence by funding anti-deforestation measures in the developing world and general climate change alleviation projects - ignoring both aviation research and development completely and a dedicated tax targeted at speeding up the retirement of old, less efficient aircraft.

The publication of the list will no doubt put pressure on aviation's standard setting body the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which represents 190 signatory states. ICAO has been criticised for not acting swiftly or decisively to harness the impact of aviation's climate change, since emissions were not included in the original Kyoto Protocol commitments and are not currently managed under any international climate change treaty.

ICAO's specially formed 15-member Group on International Aviation and Climate Change was tasked with formulating recommendations by mid-year on an agreed strategy to reduce aviation emissions that ICAO can put forward at the United Nations climate summit where world leaders will meet in December.

The EU and its member states says they remain in contact with third parties during the implementation of these rules and will encourage third countries to take equivalent measures. "If a third country adopts measures, which have at least the equivalent environmental effect as this directive, for reducing the climate impact of flights to the community, the Commission should consider the options available to provide for optimal interaction between the community scheme and that country's measures, after consulting that country," says Member of the European Parliament Peter Liese, who steered the new rules through the European Parliament.

The EC will update the list each year by 1 February - and invites feedback from member states and other relevant stakeholders by 31 March and says it will publish a revised list if necessary.

OUR COMMENT: The question is, will it be effective in controlling CO2 emissions? Will too many permits be bought from developing countries through the Clean Development Mechanism which allow a continued rise in CO2? Won't this prejudice the sustainable development of developing countries?

Pat Dale

16 February 2009


UK airport passenger numbers drop 6.3%

Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent - Financial Times - 11 February 2009

The number of passengers using UK airports fell sharply in January, as demand for air travel continued to fall and airlines cut capacity and removed some unprofitable routes.

The sharp traffic decline along with the problems for potential bidders of raising debt finance are making the sale of BAA airports, led by the disposal of Gatwick, a fraught process for the UK group and Ferrovial of Spain, its majority owner.

BAA, which operates seven UK airports, said it handled 9.4m passengers in January, a 6.3 per cent decline from the same month in 2008 and the tenth successive year-on-year decline in monthly passenger numbers. The number of flights to and from the seven airports, which include Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, fell 7.5 per cent year-on-year in January.

The decline in air traffic is hitting BAA at a very difficult time, as it seeks to find a buyer for Gatwick, the second busiest airport in the UK, and shortly before the Competition Commission is expected to demand that it should also sell Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports. The competition watchdog, which is expected to publish the final report on its investigation into BAA within weeks, believes that the group?s monopoly of the leading airports in London and Scotland should be broken up in order to foster more competition in the airports market.

The BAA traffic figures released on Tuesday showed that both Gatwick and Stansted were being hit hard by falling passenger and flight volumes.

At Gatwick, the number of passengers handled last month fell 10.8 per cent year-on-year as the grip of recession tightened. By comparison passenger volumes in the 12 months to January at 33.9m were 3.6 per cent lower than a year earlier. Traffic at Gatwick has been falling steeply year-on-year since September.

The airport has been affected by the transfer of a large number of its US long-haul services to Heathrow as a result of the US-European Union "open skies" treaty, which opened Heathrow to full competition for all US and European carriers for the first time in March last year. Some of its carriers also collapsed into bankruptcy last year. Both American Airlines and Continental Airlines have closed their Gatwick bases, and British Airways has transferred several US long-haul services from Gatwick to Heathrow and is shrinking its short-haul operations.

Gatwick is proving increasingly attractive for the low-cost carriers, however, with EasyJet adding new routes from the airport and Aer Lingus setting up its first operating base outside the island of Ireland at the airport.

Traffic at Stansted airport, the most important airport for low-cost airlines in Europe, is also being hit hard, particularly by the reduction of capacity at Ireland's Ryanair during the winter months.

Volumes have been falling at Stansted for 15 months in succession, also undermining the timing of BAA's plans to build a second runway there. The group said passenger numbers at Stansted fell 11.2 per cent year-on year to 1.29m in January, representing a 19 per cent decline in two years.

16 February 2009


Pete Harrison - The Guardian - 6 February 2009

This year will be an "annus horribilis" for European airports after passenger traffic dropped 7.7 percent year-on-year in December and freight plunged more than 21 percent, the head of airports body ACI Europe said.

"Talking to our members I get the feeling that January is going to be worse than December, and even November, which was down 8.2 percent," ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec told Reuters on Friday.

"We have members with even a double-digit decrease," Jankovec said, adding that "2009 will be an annus horribilis traffic-wise. There will be job losses."

ACI Europe represents about 440 airports in 45 European countries, which together handle 90 percent of Europe's commercial air traffic. Jankovec said he was particularly worried about freight traffic, which fell 21.4 percent year-on-year in December and is an indicator of the strength of international trade.

"The freight figures are an indication of how the economy is affecting aviation and will translate into further declines in passenger traffic in the months to come," he said. "I'm not saying we'll see a 20 percent decrease in passengers, but there's still room for further declines."

The warning came after analysts predicted British Airways would post a record loss for the fourth quarter of 2008.

"On a gut feeling, we'll see a decline of 5 percent in 2009 for the whole European airport industry, but there's a lot of uncertainty about the depth and length of the crisis," Jankovec said.


The news comes against a backdrop of contrasting fortunes for European airlines. Air France-KLM issued a profit warning last month, but Lufthansa surprised the market earlier in the week by raising its 2008 profit forecast.

Low-cost carriers easyJet and Ryanair have also raised recent forecasts, saying travellers are trading downwards during the recession. "Eastern Europe held pretty firm until November, but then we've seen that affected, and in western Europe, the UK and Spain have been affected in particular," Jankovec said.

Prague traffic fell 13 percent in December, Warsaw was down 14 percent and Barcelona was down 16 percent. Leisure airports, like London's Gatwick, have been hit harder than long-haul airports and hubs like Heathrow. December traffic was down 13 percent at Gatwick, but only fell 2.2 percent at Heathrow, which specialises in transatlantic flights and business passengers.

Jankovec said that amid the crisis the industry was not pleading for bailouts, but for governments to help foot the bill for security, which represent up to 35 percent of airports' operating costs. "This is an enormous burden," Jankovec said. "Terrorist attacks are against society and therefore it should be a state responsibility."

16 February 2009


Labour failing to meet key manifesto pledge
Overall reduction set to beat Kyoto requirement

Juliette Jowit - The Guardian - 4 February 2009

Labour looks almost certain to fail on its key environmental pledge to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the most significant of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The latest government figures show greenhouse gas emissions overall fell in 2007 and that the UK is on course to reduce the national total by double the target set by the international Kyoto agreement.

However, although emissions of carbon dioxide also fell, its total decline since the baseline year of 1990 was 8.5%, substantially short of Labour's manifesto pledge of 20% by 2010. The decline by 2007 increases to 12.8% if it includes carbon credits bought from emission reduction programmes overseas.

"They could say 'we're beating our Kyoto target and few countries are'; that's true, but they have fought three general elections on 20% by 2010, so we're entitled to regard it as a reasonable yardstick of Labour's success or failure," said Stephen Hale, director of the Green Alliance, a coalition of environmental campaign groups.

Last night the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) all but conceded it had abandoned the target, saying in a statement: "We are making definite progress towards the challenging 2010 domestic CO2 goal. However, we cannot be complacent and must continue to do more. As part of the Climate Change Act, we will be setting carbon budgets and putting into place a clear strategy to bring about real change, plotting a course to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050."

While the government's calculations are in accordance with international rules, critics point out that they ignore emissions linked to goods imported for UK consumers, and emissions from international aviation and shipping.

Based on the goods and energy used in the UK, instead of only produced here, and including all travel, a report by Dieter Helm at Oxford University and two other experts calculated that UK emissions rose by 19% between 1990 and 2003. "What's important is the UK's impact on global warming [and] that includes other issues like aviation and consumption," said Hale.

The DECC said total emissions for the six key greenhouse gases in 2007 were 636.6m tonnes, down 1.7% from 647.9m in 2006. This included a reduction in carbon dioxide - which makes up 85% of the UK's greenhouse emissions - to 542.6m tonnes, down 1.5%. Emissions from transport and industrial processes rose, and those from energy supply, homes and business fell.

The new figures show overall greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 18.4% since 1990, or 21.7% if the impact of carbon credit trading is taken into account. This compares to the Kyoto target of a 12.5% cut between 1990 and 2008-2012.

7 February 2009


Ian Drury - Daily Mail - 6 February 2009

Lord Turner wants the Government to restrict the number of flights individuals can take each year

Millions of families could be barred from taking holidays abroad under a proposal to ration flights. Gordon Brown's 'environment tsar' is calling for limits on how many plane journeys travellers can take each year. Lord Turner suggested that Britons might have to cut back on their overseas breaks.

He said the Government should urgently consider imposing individual restrictions to help reduce pollution caused by planes. Lord Turner, chairman of Parliament's climate change committee, said: 'We will have to constrain demand in an absolute sense, with people not allowed to make as many journeys as they could in an unconstrained manner.'

His remarks will anger business and tourism groups, as well as infuriating those who make regular trips abroad. The airline industry is also fiercely opposed to limits on flights. But Lord Turner insists that the Prime Minister must take action to cut aviation pollution.

His committee is drawing up a report into whether the airline industry can meet a target of limiting its emissions to below their 2005 levels by 2050. His call to ration flights is at odds with the Government's ambition of building a third runway at Heathrow.

Under Lord Turner's plan, the extra runway - part of a 9billion expansion of the airport - would work at only half of its capacity in order to curb emissions. Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, has promised that the runway will be capped at 125,000 annual flights - fewer than the originally planned 220,000 - until 2020.

Families could be barred from taking holidays abroad if Lord Turner's suggestion is taken up by Gordon Brown

The Government has already doubled air passenger duty to 10 for short-haul flights and 80 for long-haul journeys, a move which costs travellers 1billion a year. The aim was to make flying less attractive.

Tim Yeo, the Tory chairman of the Commons environment audit committee, came under fire two years ago when he said flights within the UK could not be justified and should be taxed almost out of existence. Last year, the Government floated the idea of 'personal carbon trading', a green scheme for compulsory fuel and air ticket rationing.

The idea, recommended by an all-party committee of MPs, was that every adult would be given an annual carbon allowance and a 'carbon ration card' to use each time they buy petrol, oil, gas, electricity and flights. Anyone who exceeded these rations would have to pay to top up a 'carbon bank'.

Officials estimated the start-up cost at up to 2billion, with a further 1billion to 2billion in annual running costs to pay for the 45 million ration cards which would have to be produced and for the vast database to store the information.

OUR COMMENT: It has been estimated that 50% of the population do not take even one flight per year. How many take more than one, just for recreation? Even more to the point, how many flights are on routes that are served by a train service?

Pat Dale

7 February 2009


The Spanish infrastructure company is hoping for a quick sale of Gatwick
and may sell a stake in BAA to reduce its debt

David Robertson - The Times - 4 February 2009

The chief executive of Ferrovial, the Spanish infrastructure group, yesterday for the first time raised the possibility of his company selling a stake in BAA, the British airports operator, which it owns.

Joaquin Ayuso said in an interview that he would consider selling part of BAA in order to reduce Ferrovial's huge debt burden. Mr Ayuso also said that BAA might need to issue a bond to pay for investment projects, such as the replacement of Terminals 1 and 2 at Heathrow.

Difficulty in raising sufficient funds for the Heathrow East project could throw into doubt BAA's ability to complete the work in time for the 2012 London Olympics.

Ferrovial acquired BAA, which owns Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, less than three years ago for 10billion. However, the Spanish group is now struggling with debt of ?28.6billion (25.8billion) and a domestic construction market that has collapsed.

Mr Ayuso's comments raise the possibility that the Ferrovial would be open to offers from infrastructure funds or a sovereign wealth fund that wanted to buy a stake in some of the busiest airports in the world.

A spokesman for Ferrovial subsequently said that the company was not actively planning to sell a stake in BAA but would consider a deal that would benefit shareholders were to emerge.

Mr Ayuso has made reduction of Ferrovial's debt a priority. "We will impose criteria to move to a less leveraged financial structure," he told Reuters. Ferrovial will use proceeds from the sale of Gatwick, which BAA put up for sale last year, to reduce debt. The airport is expected to fetch about 1.8billion.

Mr Ayuso said that he hoped that a Gatwick deal could be completed within the next three months. "Although we do not have a definite date, we are talking about something we would like to close by the end of March or the beginning of April," he said.

The Competition Commission said in a draft report published last year that it considered BAA's monopoly control of London's airports to be bad for passengers and airlines. The commission is expected to say in its final report that both Gatwick and Stansted should be sold. The commission is also suggesting that BAA should sell either Edinburgh airport or Glasgow airport. In total, these divestments could raise about 4 billion for Ferrovial.

Mr Ayuso also raised the possibility of issuing a bond to pay for capital expenditure at BAA's remaining airports. This could cover work on Heathrow East and possibly also the third runway at Heathrow, which the Government backed last month.

He said: "The huge capex, which one of these airports needs, makes it obvious that it can't be financed with bank debt. It will be financed with bond issues once the market has calmed down."

BAA yesterday said that passenger numbers fell at its airports last year because of the economic slowdown. They were down 1 per cent at Heathrow, 2.8 per cent at Gatwick and 6 per cent at Stansted. However, the decline became steeper towards the end of the year, with passengers down 13per cent at Stansted and Gatwick in December.

7 February 2009


Johnson airport plans could threaten legal challenge to Heathrow runway

Local authorities' spokesman says mayor of London's proposals could undermine court case based on environmental argument

Hlne Mulholland - The Guardian - 4 February 2009

Boris Johnson's plans to build a new airport in the Thames estuary could weaken a legal challenge against expansion of Heathrow he is helping to fund, it was claimed today.

Stephen Knight, a representative from the 2M coalition of 22 local authorities opposed to a third runway at Heathrow, said a legal challenge based on the detrimental environmental impact could be undermined moves to increase flight capacity elsewhere in the south-east.

Johnson has already pledged 15,000 of Londoners' money to help the 2M group challenge the government's Heathrow decision in the courts. The mayor is nevertheless keen to build another airport on the Thames estuary in the the belief that there is an economic case for increasing capacity in the London area.

Knight said the best way to argue against the expansion of Heathrow on environmental grounds was to propose alternative modes of transport, such as a rail hub around Heathrow and high-speed rail links to northern England, rather than suggest creating extra capacity elsewhere.

Knight told the committee: "One of the biggest elements of our case against expansion is the environmental impact of extra air travel. If we are going to be successful in making that case then obviously we are not going to propose putting it somewhere. It is our belief that the world as a whole cannot accept an extra three million tonnes of C02 being emitted... A lot of our efforts is looking at alternatives to air travel."

"We clearly welcome the mayor joining us in opposing the third runway but we cannot accept there is a need for extra airport capacity elsewhere."

Asked about expansion at other airports, such as Gatwick or Stansted, Knight made clear to the committee that talk of increasing flight capacity would undermine the environmental case. He said: "One of the biggest elements of our case against expansion is the environmental impact of extra air travel. If we are going to be successful in making the case then obviously we are not going to propose putting it somewhere else."

"It is our belief that the world as a whole cannot accept an extra 3m tonnes of C02 being emitted... A lot of our efforts is looking at alternatives to air travel. We clearly welcome the mayor joining us in opposing the third runway but we cannot accept there is a need for extra airport capacity elsewhere."

Johnson's director for transport, Kulveer Ranger, said that the "background music" of high-speed rail links to supplant short-haul flights would not address a growing demand for international flights. He said: "The French realised that when they built their high-speed rail that there was still a need for flights. We need to be realistic."

Ranger told the assembly panel that the mayor was "mortified" when the government gave the go-ahead to Heathrow expansion last month, given the strength of opposition over environmental concerns for London and quality of life issues for local residents. A third runway would be a "ticking time bomb" for noise, traffic and air pollution for Londoners, he said.

But he defended the mayor's plans for a new airport that would allow flights to take off over water. "It is the job of the mayor to propose what is best for London," he said.

John Stewart of Hacan ClearSkies, a campaign group opposed to airport expansion, told the assembly he did not believe Heathrow expansion was a "done deal" anyway. He said it would take 18 months to two years for BAA to draw up its application for expansion, "which is critical because it will be the next government who will give permission or otherwise to BAA".

Stewart told the panel that Hacan were looking to employ someone for the next 18 months whose job would be to lobby the city and put across that the expansion of Heathrow was not essential to economic growth.

1 February 2009


Jim Pickard and Fiona Harvey - Financial Times - 26 January 2009

The head of Britain's environmental watchdog has branded the third runway at Heathrow airport a "mistake", saying it is unlikely to be built because of the huge political uncertainty surrounding the project.

Lord Smith of Finsbury, chairman of the Environment Agency, said there was "a very big chance" that the project would stall given the threat of legal action from campaigners and resistance from the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

"I think they are making a mistake for a number of reasons," he said. "It [the opposition] will evidently make it much more difficult for BAA [the airports operator] to make the decision to proceed with extensive planning and design work," he said.

Geoff Hoon, transport secretary, gave the go-ahead for the third runway earlier this month against the wishes of Labour backbenchers, environmentalists and both opposition parties.

An internal cabinet wrangle forced several last-minute concessions, including the promise that the Environment Agency and Civil Aviation Authority could block the opening of the runway if it was likely to breach noise and air pollution guidelines.

Lord Smith, a former Labour cabinet minister, told the Financial Times that the agency would be "rigorous" in monitoring these standards, some of which were already in potential breach.

"We already know that the levels of nitrogen oxide, for example, in some locations around Heathrow, on present numbers of flights, break the limits which will shortly become statutory limits," he said.

The 8bn development is likely to add 350 flights a day at Heathrow, increasing annual passenger numbers from 66m to about 82m. The government has predicted that aircraft will become more efficient and green by the time the runway is built ? in about 10 years' time ? and will therefore remain within European environmental standards.

Lord Smith said he was sceptical. "I think the likelihood is that engines will get cleaner; whether they will get cleaner as rapidly as the government projects I have my doubts."

As a result there was a high likelihood that the Environment Agency might have to curb flights at the airport.

"However more efficient you make airlines, adding another 125,000 flights a year and expanding when limits have already been breached seems to me to defy logic," Lord Smith said.

The EA chairman criticised ministers for making the Heathrow announcement the only firm promise in a wider package, which included other greener transport measures.

Proposals for new high-speed rail links from London to the north were not concrete, he suggested.

1 February 2009


Politicians must offset damage from man-made pollution, the report says

BBC News - 27 January 2009

A team of environmental researchers in the US has warned many effects of climate change are irreversible.

The scientists concluded global temperatures could remain high for 1,000 years, even if carbon emissions can somehow be halted.

Their report was sponsored by the US Department of Energy and comes as President Obama announces a review of vehicle emission standards. It appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists have been researching global warming and the consequences for policymakers.

"People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide the climate would go back to normal in 100 years, 200 year - that's not true" - Susan Solomon. Lead author

The team warned that, if carbon levels in the atmosphere continued to rise, there would be less rainfall in already dry areas of southern Europe, North America, parts of Africa and Australia.

The scientists say the oceans are currently slowing down global warming by absorbing heat, but they will eventually release that heat back into the air. They say politicians must now offset environmental damage already done by man-made pollution.

"People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide the climate would go back to normal in 100 years, 200 year - that's not true," said researcher Susan Solomon, the lead author of the report, quoted by AP news agency.

Their conclusions come as President Obama ordered the US Environmental Protection Agency to review rules on carbon emissions from passenger vehicles.

1 February 2009


Chris Caulfield - This is Local London - 25 January 2009

A leaked email has described the "difficult decision" BAA bosses faced over Heathrow expansion.

The chief executive of BAA said in an internal email to staff rather than celebrating Heathrow's expansion announcement, the airport's owners now faced a "heavy" responsibility to passengers, residents and shareholders.

The email was sent by Colin Matthews to all BAA employees last Friday, the day after Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon gave permission to effectively increase the airport's capacity by 50 per cent.

It read: "Thursday was a big day. BAA people who have worked for years on developing new airport capacity may have found it hard to believe a Government decision has been taken on Heathrow's third runway. All of us have probably discussed the pros and cons with family and friends and so there were mixed emotions. The decision was difficult but needed to be confronted. The case to reduce congestion and allow growth to compete with other European hubs is strong."

"The impact on residents and the environment are also important and evidently the Government's decision was carefully considered and sought to balance these issues. The announcement gives us clarity on what we need to do. As mixed mode has been excluded, which would have allowed existing runways to be used for both arrivals and take offs, we need to prioritise extra runway capacity for reliability."

"Thereafter, and as compliance with environmental limits is proven, we will be able to use capacity for more passengers. There is a huge amount of hard work to be done on the detail. Rather than celebrating a decision which is unwelcome for many, I feel conscious of our heavy responsibility to do the best job we possibly can for passengers, local communities and shareholders."

"I hope that in doing so we will persuade more people that approving a third runway was the right decision. Meanwhile, providing great service today remains the basis of our credibility, so every single BAA person has an important contribution to make. Thank you for all you are doing to improve our company."

OUR COMMENT: It's a pity that he did not give some consideration to the need to curb climate change.

Pat Dale

1 February 2009


Chris Gourlay - Times Online - 25 January 2009

The mayor wants a new hub on two Thames islands as an alternative to expansion

BORIS JOHNSON, the London mayor, has unveiled detailed proposals for a 40 billion airport spanning the Thames estuary in a move aimed at presenting a credible alternative to the government's plans for expanding Heathrow.

Early findings from a study by the engineer behind Hong Kong's island airport suggest that a four-runway airport is both technically feasible and would serve Britain better. It could be built in eight years, he said.

The bold scheme entails splitting the airport in two, with runways placed on two separate islands in the mouth of the Thames.

Passengers would shuttle between the islands in a tunnel below the river bed, running from Essex on the north bank, to Kent on the south. Douglas Oakervee, who masterminded the engineering of Hong Kong's international island airport in the 1990s, said that splitting the airport in two would reduce disruption to local wildlife. It would also enable the airport to connect to high-speed rail routes to the Continent.

Underwater turbines, built into ducts running through the body of the islands, would generate nearly all the airport's electricity needs by harnessing the tide.

The scheme would be "simpler to build than Hong Kong", Oakervee, the study's lead engineer and chairman of Crossrail, said on a boat trip to inspect the site. "The engineering aspect of it would be relatively simple. In Hong Kong we had to flatten two islands and the sea was very deep. Here it's just 15 metres or so."

Johnson has chosen to make public his vision for an alternative "hub" airport for the capital as MPs prepare to debate the future of Heathrow in the Commons this week - two weeks after the government approved a third runway. Speaking to The Sunday Times aboard a dredger, Johnson vowed to continue to oppose the expansion of Heathrow. He also confirmed that he aims to mount a legal challenge against the government's decision within weeks.

Lawyers representing the 2M Group of residents in west London, whose legal costs are being part-funded by city hall, are now studying the decision to see if there is a case for a judicial review.

Although Johnson has described Heathrow as "a planning error of the 1960s", his advisers believe it could continue to work with two runways even if the new hub is built.

The two estuary terminals would be served by road and rail links. The larger terminal, in Kent, would be connected to Crossrail and the high-speed Channel tunnel rail link, whisking passengers to central London in about 35 minutes. The rail connections to Europe would cut out the need for many short-haul flights.

Because flights would take off and land over water, they would cause relatively little disturbance to the nearby towns of Sheerness and Southend-on-Sea. According to Oakervee, the location in the estuary, rather than on the mud flats, means the risk of bird strikes would be low.

Johnson said he felt "reassured" that the scheme was practical. "Coming here has put paid to talk of a fantasy island. You get a sense of just how far the airport would be from the shore. I'm convinced that this is an option we should look at seriously and the government's decision on Heathrow makes it all the more urgent that we came up with alternatives."

The 40 billion price tag would include the cost of extending the high-speed rail network, widening and extending the nearby M2 and extending Crossrail to the Kent terminal from southeast London. It compares with a 13 billion estimate for the Heathrow option.

The true strength of opposition to the third runway emerged last week after the Department for Transport revealed details of responses to its consultation document. Out of nearly 70,000 comments, just 11% supported expansion.

OUR COMMENT: Is Boris too ignoring climate change? Or is this a replacement for Heathrow and Stansted G2? And, what about the birds?

Pat Dale

1 February 2009


Michael Peel and Jim Pickard - Financial Times - 15 January 2009

The plan for a third Heathrow runway is almost certain to face a courtroom challenge, both critics and supporters agreed on Thursday.

Geoff Hoon, transport secretary, said the government expected legal action from some or all of the environmental groups, councils and other opponents of the project who spent Thursday poring through Department for Transport documents detailing the proposal. Lawyers said any legal challenge could focus on a wide range of issues from noise to failures in the planning process.

Mr Hoon told the Financial Times that, although he was confident the government had "done it in the right way", he expected a challenge. "We expected judicial reviews frankly whichever way the decision went, those unhappy with the decision were always likely to resort to the law."

Boris Johnson, London's mayor, an outspoken opponent, came out as an early potential supporter of court action. "I am deeply concerned that the proper processes of coming to this decision may not have been followed, and will support a legal challenge, should this prove to be the case," he said.

His remarks echo those of some environmental activists and independent legal observers, who see a challenge to the decision-making process as a main plank of any lawsuit. In 2007, Greenpeace successfully torpedoed the government's first attempt to replace Britain's ageing nuclear capacity by arguing in the High Court that ministers had failed to hold a proper consultation on the plan.

1 February 2009


Evening Standard - 30 January 2009

THE UK has twice as many commercial runways as Japan but only half its population. Both are island trading nations, so why should we need so much more runway capacity?

The answer is that 80 per cent of UK flights are leisure trips and these are mostly taken by UK residents going abroad, rather than foreign tourists coming to spend their money here.

Japan, despite having so much less runway capacity, remains the world's second biggest economy whereas we'll be lucky to be in the top 10 by the time the recession has run its course.

Brian Ross
Economics Adviser, Stop Stansted Expansion

24 January 2009


Comment - Herts & Essex Observer - 22 January 2009

BAA's invocation of human rights legislation to prevent the compulsory sale of Stansted Airport will have left a sour taste in the mouth of many local people.

Its bid to hang on to its 2bn asset ? so it can press ahead with plans for a second runway ? now seem to hinge on persuading the Competition Commission that its basic property ownership rights would be compromised by a forced auction.

While it is hardly comparable to a tortured political prisoner or an abused child slave, that argument might elicit more sympathy if Stansted expansion did not rely in large part, on the compulsory purchase of 73 homes. Uttlesford will also loose 13 listed buildings, and although BAA has promised to dismantle and rebuild 10, these historic properties will never be the same.

If BAA is prepared to put aside the property rights of others in such a way, it can hardly protest about the Competition Commission's "violation".

24 January 2009


Michael Peel, Legal Correspondent - Financial Times - 15 January 2009

BAA, the embattled airports operator, could be headed for a courtroom showdown with competition investigators after it claimed that plans to break it up would breach human rights law.

The company, which owns seven airports in the UK, said Competition Commission proposals to make it sell Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh airports to smash its market dominance broke European laws against property seizure.

BAA's challenge, contained in evidence published yesterday in the commission's airports probe, could evolve into a key test of the watchdog's authority and could buy the company time as it tries to avoid a fire sale of key assets.

BAA said the commission's proposed break-up would be a "serious interference" with its property rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The company, which was making its formal response to commission plans floated last month, said the watchdog had failed to do any proper analysis of the proportionality of its plan, particularly over the sale of Stansted.

The claims open a new front in BAA's long-running and increasingly bitter battle with the commission, which has been probing the company for almost two years and is due to issue its final orders against it by March.

The property seizure allegation could pave the way for BAA to bring a novel action in the High Court in London, which this week began hearing a case brought on similar grounds by shareholders in the failed bank Northern Rock.

BAA's stinging 44-page response to the commission says the company will fight the results of an investigation it calls "fundamentally flawed", particularly over the conclusion that the company is unacceptably dominant in the south-east of England and Scotland.

BAA, which has started an auction for Gatwick, says the commission would be acting outside its powers by trying to dictate who the airports' new owners should be and how they should manage the assets.

The watchdog stood firm last month on an earlier plan to make BAA - a subsidiary of Ferrovial, the Spanish construction and infrastructure group - sell Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh because its nearmonopoly in those regions was harming airline and passenger interests. The company enjoys 84 per cent of passenger traffic in Scotland and 90 per cent in the south-east of England, according to the commission.

The possible High Court challenge suggested by BAA's latest warning could be a way for the company to win some legal breathing space, by temporarily bypassing the special tribunal that judges appeals against the competition watchdog's rulings. Lawyers say the tribunal is an uncertain place for companies to bring appeals, as it has never overturned a verdict against a leading multinational.

Many legal observers see the break-up of BAA as inevitable, given the high level of dominance of the airports industry it has enjoyed since privatisation.

The commission declined to comment on BAA's submission.

24 January 2009


Sinead Holland - Herts & Esex Observer - 19 January 2009

ANTI airport activists from across Hertfordshire, Essex and Suffolk sent a clear message to second runway inspector Andrew Phillipson this morning, Monday January 19.

About 100 opponents of Stansted's plans for 68m passengers a year by 2030 braved rain and freezing temperatures to tell him: "Fair and thorough, not quick and dirty".

They want the inspector to delay the April 15 public inquiry start date - against BAA's wishes - and guarantee he will not hear evidence at concurrent sessions.

They gathered outside Stansted Hilton Hotel brandishing placards to voice their fears about climate change and damage to the local way of life that a second runway will bring.

Chairman of Uttlesford District Council, Conservative Cllr Jim Ketteridge said: "I hope that the inspector will already have taken on board our concerns about concurrent sessions. I am fairly confident that this second runway will never happen if there's a change of government."

OUR COMMENT: During the course of the 8 hour pre-inquiry meeting there were few signs that the date for the start of the inquiry would be delayed and the Inspector was quick to remind those attending that this inquiry has been ordered by the Secretary of State, and that his role is to advise, not to rule, and, regrettably, decisions on the dates and format of the inquiry may not be known until March. However, the practical difficulties of conducting concurrent sessions became clear in the course of the discussions, so these proposals may be very limited. It is now the end of January, and objectors are still waiting for vital statistics and decisions that could radically affect both the inquiry and the future ownership and so policies of the Airport.

Pat Dale

24 January 2009


Alistair Osborne - Sunday Telegraph - 18 January 2009

Amid the mace-wielding MPs, lachrymose luvvies and protests from floppy-fringed Mayors, one thing seems to have been forgotten: someone's got to finance the 9bn third runway at Heathrow.

It hardly inspires confidence that the someone in question is Ferrovial, those Spanish conquistadores who paid 16bn, including debts, for BAA at the height of the credit boom.

Ferrovial stuffed so much debt into BAA that it's no surprise that no one can move at Heathrow, given all the bankers discussing their loan terms. The upshot is that the company with 56pc of BAA is now valued at 2.8bn - yet has a jumbo-load of net debts, totalling 26bn. Ferrovial may well argue that nine-tenths of these debts are non-recourse to the parent, but they still have to be serviced.

Among them is the pressing requirement to refinance 1.55bn of BAA subordinated debt by May 2011 and also part of the 2.25bn loan Ferrovial took out to pay for its equity in the airports group. That's right, the equity was borrowed too.

Against this, the third runway is on the horizon. The Government wants it built as soon after 2015 as possible and, who knows, Ferrovial could be in better shape by then. But building it still requires the regulator to double landing charges to around 20 per passenger.

There's another twist. In a sop to the green lobby, this week's Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, has promised to limit runway three to 125,000 flights a year until aircraft become all eco-friendly, if they ever can. That's equivalent to half a runway. On that basis landing charges might have to quadruple to pay for it - which will test airlines' enthusiasm for the project.

With Swampy & Co ready to dig themselves in on the site, David Cameron's Tories ranged in oppo and all these financing hurdles, take-off could, as usual, be severely delayed. Celeb opponents, like Emma Thompson, may have to look elsewhere for their next Oscar performance.

24 January 2009


Tyler Brl - Financial Times - 17 January 2009

Change of a slightly different kind came to London at the end of this week and for a brief moment even managed to knock all the Washington pre-inauguration change chatter out of the headlines. On Thursday Gordon Brown announced he would push ahead with plans to build a third runway at London's Heathrow and also introduce a host of other infrastructure changes to bolster London's position as a serious finance/service/transport hub for the future and send out a confident message that the UK is on the move again.

For residents of cities that already have airports with three or more runways, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about but you need only engage Heathrow's most frequent users in conversation to know that it's great news for the capital and to talk to hard-core environmental campaigners to know that the third runway will be the biggest eco-crime of the century. Both sides need to get real and the government needs to join them.

There's little question that if the UK's going to stay in the global game it needs to make it easier for its residents and visitors not only to enter and exit the country but also to move around within its borders. Across the continent, established airports such as Munich and Paris continue to add capacity and attract not only new carriers but also regional investment that helps bolster both the local economy and raise their profiles on the international stage.

In the Gulf, aggressive carriers in the form of Emirates and Etihad are working hard to unseat the status of legacy carriers such as British Airways. And to the south, Barcelona is entering the fray with airport expansion projects that will make it a direct challenger to traditional hubs such as Heathrow and Frankfurt. While it was high time the Labour government got off the pot and approved the runway, it needs to go even further than allowing for an extra terminal and some new transport links to accompany the runway.

Depending on whom you talk to, the new runway (should it even go ahead: the Conservatives say they'll block it if they get voted in at the next general election) could still be 11 years from completion. I don't know about you, dear readers, but by 2020 I imagine I'll be able to fly around the world Mary Poppins style with little more than an umbrella and a fancy bicycle so there may not even be a need for a runway.

If the UK's leadership is serious about remaining remotely relevant it needs to mobilise serious muscle and get the bloody runway built, and fast.

The environmental lobby needs to pipe down because the fantasy-land concept of building a super airport in the Thames estuary is not going to be some green elixir that will make things any better - emissions will still be the same, the noise will still find some foes and I doubt all those crabs, snails and various bottom-dwellers on the seabed will like being dredged up to form the foundation of a new duty-free mall.

Equally, the Heathrow booster club must lean on operator BAA to deliver a better experience. They need to demand that airport management stops creating retail mazes that oblige travellers to parade past every retailer before they get to lounge or gate and more importantly they need to abandon their absurd "clear security 35 minutes before the flight departs" rule as well.

If the current government wants to get re-elected, it should seize the opportunity to go all the way and quit looking for compromises and doing things on the cheap. If it's serious about the environment, it should think about giving Hitachi and partners the contract to build a shinkansen, or high-speed railway line, from London to St Ives and London to Aberdeen. Clapped-out old stations should be ripped down and replaced by gleaming, efficient, mixed-use ones. This will not only produce tens of thousands of jobs but it will free-up air space and also boost national pride because the UK might again have a rail network other nation's envy.

To the south and east, Gatwick, City and Stansted should all be upgraded and also given extra runways if traffic projections suggest there's a need for more capacity. Back at Heathrow, a complete redevelopment of the surrounding area should also be part of the plan. They could start by tearing down all those dreadful hotels that ring the airport and rethink the housing while they're at it. I'm quite sure some proper German or Danish windows framed by solid walls would deal a blow to some of the issues of noise pollution. Indeed, a well-planned urban environment to host large-scale conventions, trade fairs and also daily life for residents and workers would do wonders to win over protesters and sceptics.

The UK is already on shaky ground when it comes to national infrastructure and it needs not only to get the Olympics right but must keep the momentum going if it's even to rank as a qualifier for the second half of this century.

Tyler Brl is editor-in-chief of Monocle.

24 January 2009


Here was a test of both courage and political nous.
Brown has flunked it, and given the Tories an undeserved boost.

Polly Toynbee - The Guardian - 17 January 2009

Whatever happened to the party's political compass? How can it have made so crass an error? The Heathrow runway decision has just gifted David Cameron exactly what he needed. His wilting green oak tree is suddenly bursting with acorns as he trumpets his "environmental and energy" revolution, perfectly timed for Heathrow week. He wears the green halo, and nothing the government does between now and the election is likely to reclaim it.

The substance may be more complicated, but the political symbolism is all-important. This really was totemic. Whenever Labour tries to say or do anything green, the groundswell of protesters will shout back "Heathrow!". End of argument. From standup comics to people who don't care much one way or another, everyone will laugh at any future green pretensions from Labour.

What a pointless waste of the green capital Labour was building, with Ed Miliband in his new Department of Energy and Climate Change setting a remarkable legally binding target to cut carbon emissions drastically.

Stay with the bizarre politics of this situation. There was no reason why this decision had to be made before the election. Even the government's own figures show the vanishingly minute sum of 47m a year was the only additional growth created. By 2015, when the first sod is cut on the runway, Gordon Brown will be no more than a pub quiz question. Plunging towards depression with air travel slumping, what was the rush? No jobs will be created now. Brown by nature, the green agenda was always his lowest priority.

So why? Because he has become neurotically sensitive to Cameron's charge that he is a "ditherer". This was the hardheaded, pro-business decision that a real leader should be seen to make. Ask ministers why now, and they simply shrug: it was political, not practical. It was about being seen to be decisive. Cleverer politics would bring the calculation that being seen to be green was a better electoral bet.

Cabinet ministers opposed to the runway thought they would win: only this month, one assured me: "There will be no runway" - confident that resistance by both Milibands, Harriet Harman, Hilary Benn, Douglas Alexander and less vocal others would win the day. The political argument was a no-brainer. Why sabotage their own green credibility? Cameron need do little when Labour knifes itself so well.

So much for bungled politics and the leader's pointless gesture-making. Serious economists of climate change complain angrily that there has been no proper study of the long-term transport options. That leaves a false dichotomy between two untrue propositions - green versus growth. It is not necessarily true that we will all fry if a third runway is built - if, that is, it were part of a complete and coherent transport plan set far into the future. Nor is it true that future growth depends on the additional runway at Heathrow. Of course it doesn't. Why was this debate not taken to Europe when the argument was that Schiphol or Frankfurt would seize the business? The EU needs to agree air-traffic decisions.

This decision matters most because of its monumental symbolism. Planes will not take off from the third runway until 2020, a great increase in flying on the very date by which greenhouse gases should have been cut by 20%. On the present trajectory, having cut just 6.4% of CO2, that looks fanciful. Why? Because the country still needs so much persuading to make the smallest changes. Some 43% of people tell Ipsos Mori that scientists still argue about climate change. Even the modest inconvenience of changing from incandescent light bulbs has made the Daily Mail incandescent, offering free old bulbs in a campaign against the wicked Brussels edict. This despite the Mail's own admission that more expensive, energy-saving bulbs, using far less electricity, save the average household 60 a year. Between 10% and 15% of electricity use is for lighting.

Politicians have been extraordinarily craven, failing in the leadership it will take to make real change. Look how bravely Barack Obama has confronted his climate-denying nation - and won, through courage and determination. The Heathrow decision was an opportunity to tell it like it is: we have to change. It need not all be hairshirt sacrifice - but it can't be done without some discomfort either. The message Brown and Geoff Hoon sent out was that it doesn't matter, that there are no hard choices.

Cameron's "revolution" is also pain-free. Like much of Labour's greenery, it is strong on fantasy technology that doesn't yet exist: carbon capture will solve the dirty coal problem, there will be street plugs for electric cars everywhere. Every home will be entitled to be fitted with up to 6,500 of wall and roof insulation, paid for with loans from energy companies. Labour plans something similar. But how green is Cameron really? Only this week he opposed the compulsory switchover to new light bulbs. Few think that once in power the Conservatives will cancel the runway: Boris Johnson plans one of his own, in the Thames estuary.

If politicians never dare tell us that we will have to fly less, we are probably doomed. Of course other cuts could be made instead - but if they dare not signal any lifestyle change, we may all be done for.

Odd how the class argument is used: well-off greens are called hypocritical for stopping lower earners from flying, by raising the price of air travel. However, most fliers are in the top half of earners. Inequality has become the trump card of those who would rather do nothing: don't harm pensioners and the poor by raising energy prices, despite the fact that higher fixed prices are the only way to make renewable energy a safe economic investment.

But they are partly right: the hardest truth about climate change is that it can't be stopped unless the consequences are shared more fairly. The only way to do that is to give everyone the same quota of carbon to spend, whether on petrol, flying or heating. Are we ready for that kind of fairness? Otherwise the politicians are offering technological dreams of clean flying, driving and coal-burning which may or may not be realised in time before we roast.

16 January 2009


Department for Transport Press Release - 15 January 2009

Hoon outlines air, road and rail improvements to boost economy and jobs

Britain will benefit from major air, rail and road improvements as Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon today outlined radical new plans for the UK's transport infrastructure, designed to support the economy and secure jobs in the long term.

Mr Hoon confirmed Government support for a third runway at Heathrow airport but not for "mixed mode" which would have seen the two existing runways used more intensively. Alongside this, he outlined measures to help protect jobs and put Britain on a footing to recover from the global economic downturn, including:

* Details of where up to 6bn to increase capacity on some of the nation's busiest roads will be spent - providing an extra 520 lane miles of road by widening and opening up the hard shoulder - as well as new plans to roll-out hard shoulder running across the core motorway network.

* The creation of a new company - High Speed 2 - to help consider the case for new high speed rail services between London and Scotland and tasked initially with developing a proposal for an entirely new line between London and the West Midlands which could link to Heathrow and Crossrail through a new international interchange station.

* Further work to consider the case for electrifying two of Britain busiest railway lines - Great Western and Midland Mainline - with decisions to be announced later in the year.

Alongside this the Transport Secretary announced new measures to protect the environment and help ensure that Britain meets its climate change commitments, including:

* Bringing international pressure for international aviation to be part of global deal on climate change, building on aviation's inclusion in the European Emissions Trading Scheme.

* New work to promote international agreement on progressively stricter limits on carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft, similar to those already in place for new cars within the EU.

* The intention to set a new target of reducing UK aviation emissions below 2005 levels by 2050.

* A limit on initial use of the third runway so that the total increase in flights does not exceed 125,000 a year - almost half the additional capacity which the Government originally proposed.

* Only allowing capacity increases beyond that to be approved by the Government after a review in 2020 by the Climate Change Committee.

* Allowing new capacity to only be released only once strict air quality and noise conditions are shown to be met and on the basis of independent assessment.

* The intention to bring in incentives for new capacity to be given to cleaner, quieter aircraft.

* 250m to get more ultra low-carbon vehicles on Britain's roads, helping motorists to go green by stimulating consumer uptake and helping to reduce emissions from road transport and improve local air quality.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon said:

"Transport is the lifeblood of Britain's economy. In spite of record levels of investment over the last decade, increasing demand means that in many places our transport infrastructure is operating at, or very near, capacity. It is essential we take the right decisions now: for the economy, to drive down greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; and to support British jobs.

"Heathrow is vital to our economy. It connects us to the growth markets of the future - essential for every great trading nation. But for too long it has operated at full capacity, losing ground to international hub airports in other countries and with relatively minor problems causing severe delays to passengers.

"This third runway will help secure jobs now and in the future and ensure that Britain remains a place where the world can come to do business."

Geoff Hoon added:

"However, we need to do more than just improve Heathrow to ensure that Britain's economy can cope with the transport demands of the 21st century.

"A new rail line between London and the West Midlands approaching London via a Heathrow International interchange would enable faster journeys to the North and Scotland and could link the airport with rail destinations throughout the UK. This would unlock Heathrow for the rest of the country, making it a truly national asset. I expect to receive advice from High Speed 2 by the end of the year on a credible plan for a new line with financing proposals.

"We also need to look at ways of making the railway more efficient and greener. The case for electrification on the Great Western and the Midland Mainline routes appears strong as electric trains are quicker, quieter and they emit less CO2.

"It is clear that many of our major roads also need more capacity and we are committing up to 6bn to improve the national road network - including extending hard shoulder running to some of the busiest parts of M1, M25, M6, M62, M3 and M4, providing much-needed relief from congestion."

Mr Hoon confirmed the Government's support for a third runway and additional terminal facilities at Heathrow after confirming that the strict environmental criteria it had placed as a condition to expansion would be met.

He also announced that as he had rejected mixed mode - he would expect the airport operator to bring forward a planning application for the third runway so that it could be built as soon as possible in the period 2015 - 2020 so as to reduce delays to for existing passengers and improve resilience.

In order to give further assurance that environmental limits will be met, Mr Hoon also announced that new capacity at Heathrow would be released only once strict air quality and noise conditions are shown to be met and on the basis of independent assessment and enforcement. He also confirmed the intention to introduce incentives for new capacity to be given to cleaner, quieter aircraft and that the first call on new capacity should ensure that journeys are more reliable for existing passengers.

Geoff Hoon said:

"Things have improved greatly for those living near the airport over the past 30 years. Improved aircraft technology means that, while in 1974 some 2 million people around Heathrow were affected by average levels of noise at or above 57 decibels, by 2002 that number had dropped to 258,000 people.

"People who live around the airport clearly value runway alternation and that is why I have rejected more intensive use of the existing runways through mixed mode.

"But we need to do more. The additional measures I am putting in place - on slot priority for cleaner, quieter aircraft and the release of new capacity only once environmental conditions are shown to be met - also demonstrate my determination to mitigate the effects of the airport on those who live nearby."

Today's announcements follow the 'Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport' consultation which began in November 2007 and attracted over 70,000 responses.

When the Government gave support to further development at Heathrow in its 2003 Air Transport White Paper in 2003 it made this support conditional on strict local noise and air quality limits and on an improvement in public transport access to the airport.

The 'Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport' consultation set out the grounds on which the Government believed those conditions could be met.

Notes to Editors


1. The 2003 White Paper 'The Future of Air Transport' made clear that given the economic benefits to the UK, the Government supports the further development of Heathrow by adding a third runway and exploring the scope for making greater use of the existing runways, subject to meeting strict local conditions on air quality and noise and improving public transport access.

2. In full, the local conditions which must be met to permit expansion of Heathrow are:

* There should be no net increase in the total area of the 57dBA noise contour. This would be measured at 127sq.km which was the size of the contour in the summer of 2002.

* Government would need to be confident that levels of nitrogen dioxide (the critical pollutant) would be contained within EU limits, which will apply from 2010 or 2015 where the European Commission agrees the case for extension.

* There must be improvements to public transport access to the airport.

3. In November 2007, the Department published a consultation on the future expansion of Heathrow airport which invited views on:

* A proposal for a third runway and associated passenger terminal facilities, and the Government's assessment of how the strict local environmental conditions mentioned above could be met;

* A proposal to introduce 'mixed mode' on Heathrow's existing two runways as an interim measure and the Government's assessment of how the same strict local environmental conditions could be met. In considering the 'mixed mode' options the consultation looked at the position with or without additional air traffic movements;

* The results of a review of operational procedures on the existing runways - 'westerly preference' (the preferred direction of operation) and the 'Cranford agreement' (which generally prohibits easterly departures off the northern runway) - irrespective of any further changes; and

* An assessment of the effects of night-time rotation between westerly and easterly preference, and of the current trial of runway alternation in the 0600 to 0700 period.

4. Today's announcement confirms support for a third runway and associated passenger terminal facilities, while rejecting the case for mixed mode. Westerly preference is retained, but the Cranford agreement is ended. Night time rotation and early morning runway alternation are both confirmed.

5. Allowing 'mixed mode' to go ahead on the two existing runways would have seen them used simultaneously for both arrivals and take-offs. This would have ended the current system of runway alternation which gives local residents respite from overhead aircraft noise for at least 8 hours each day.

6. Ending the Cranford agreement, which generally prohibits easterly take-offs from the northern runway, will spread noise more fairly around affected communities and extends the benefits of runway alternation to the residents of Windsor and others to the west of the airport, and Hatton and North Feltham to the east.

7. These decisions are set out in Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport.

16 January 2009


Concerns grow over how Britain will reach its aim of an 80% reduction
in greenhouse gases by 2050 if aviation is encouraged

John Vidal, Environment Editor - Guardian.co.uk - 15 January 2009

The government decision to approve plans for a third runway at Heathrow will be opposed by one of the broadest coalitions ever formed in Britain, ranging from government advisers to those threatening direct action, and including environment and development groups, local government, scientists and celebrities.

The largest organisation to oppose the scheme was the National Trust, with 3.5m members. It has several properties at risk of increased noise pollution, including Osterley Park which would expect a plane flying over it every 90 seconds. "The decision is a direct threat to the tranquility and possibility of escape from an increasingly hectic and urbanised environment that millions of people seek. More flights will significantly damage their quality of life," said Fiona Reynolds, director of the trust.

Major green groups, including RSPB, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF, with a combined membership of more than 2.5m people, attacked the plan on climate change grounds. "Expanding Heathrow is a hammer blow for UK climate targets that will shatter Gordon Brown's reputation on the environment. This terrible decision will intensify opposition to the government's aviation strategy," said Andy Atkins, director of Friends of the Earth.

Oxfam, one of many international charities concerned with the effects of climate change on the world's poorest people, said it gave the wrong signal to the rest of the world about how serious the British government is about tackling climate change, in the year when a global deal must be struck in Copenhagen. "The third runway threatens to completely undermine the UK's attempts to position itself as a global leader in tackling climate change," said climate policy adviser Rob Bailey. "Millions of poor people around the world will question how serious the UK is in combating the problem."

The decision also drew criticism from some of the government's own advisers. Lord Chris Smith, chair of the government's pollution watchdog group, the Environment Agency, said he was "deeply concerned".

"Air quality in the area is already at breaking point. We will make sure that limits [introduced yesterday by the government] are strongly and rigorously enforced."

While the UK is the only nation with a legally binding target for greenhouse gas emissions, Smith said: "Serious questions must be asked about how the aim of reaching an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 can still be achieved in light of this decision."

Jonathon Porritt, chair of the government's Sustainable Development Commission, said he was "horrified". "This is very regrettable decision ignoring the fact that government does not have the data about the economic benefits and has not done a proper assessment of the impacts and on its climate change targets. It does not add up."

Strong local concerns were also expressed. London mayor Boris Johnson said: "This is a devastating blow for millions of Londoners. I will support a legal challenge should this prove to be the case." He was backed by more than 20 London local authorities, representing more than 2 million people, which said the decision would bring "mayhem" to areas near the airport.

Climate change activists from Plane Stupid and the Oxford-based Seeds for Change training collective have advised local residents on how to work in groups, what kind of direct action to take and how to handle police and security guards. "Many were quite elderly people who ? said they could take the risk of being arrested," said Kathryn Tulip, one of the trainers.

"We will stop this runway using every peaceful means at our disposal," said Plane Stupid's Elizabeth Baines, one of 56 people who helped shut down Stansted airport last year.

Thousands more people yesterday signed up to become joint owners with Greenpeace and celebrities of an acre of land at the heart of the proposed runway development. Actor Emma Thompson, one of the owners said: "It's a real slap in the face to every citizen in this country who has been doing their best to cut back on their own emissions."

16 January 2009


David Robertson, Business Correspondent - The Times - 15 January 2009

The owner of London City airport is to join the list of bidders for Gatwick when submissions are made on Monday.

Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a $5.6 billion (3.8 billion) fund part-owned by Credit Suisse and General Electric, is understood to have formed a consortium that will bid 2 billion for Gatwick.

Other bidders will include Hochtief AirPort, a division of the German engineering company, and Citigate Infrastructure, which includes Citigroup, Vancouver Airports and John Hancock, the American financial institution.

Indicative bids are due on January 19 after a decision last year by BAA, the airports operator, to put Gatwick up for sale. BAA is disposing of Gatwick to pre-empt an order from the Competition Commission to break up its monopoly of airports around London.

Sources close to BAA, which is owned by Ferrovial, the Spanish infrastructure group, said that the sale price would be significantly more than the regulator's 2.1 billion valuation of Gatwick. However, a number of bidders have told The Times that the price was unlikely to be much above 2 billion.

In a draft report published last year, the Competition Commission said that BAA's ownership of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted in South East England was bad for passengers and airlines. It has proposed that BAA sell both Gatwick and Stansted, but BAA is fighting to retain Stansted.

The commission's final report is due by the end of March and bidders have indicated that they do not expect the sale of Gatwick to progress significantly until then.

However, bidders have also expressed concern that regulatory and political obstacles in the bidding process could damage attempts to improve the airport in time for the 2012 Olympic Games. One said: ?If the sale is not completed by the end of this year, it is hard to see how the new operator would have time to invest and improve operation at Gatwick before the Olympics.?

Grant Thornton, the accounting firm, has been appointed as a shadow monitoring trustee to ensure that the sale is conducted fairly. Bidders and the commission were concerned that BAA would seek a buyer that would be less of a threat to its other airports. Grant Thornton's role is to ensure that bids are both fair value and are committed to the commission's insistence that standards improve at the airport.

Another likely bidder is Gatwick Future Partnership, a consortium led by Babcock & Brown's European infrastructure fund and Deutsche Bank's infrastructure fund. The Ontario Teachers pension fund and Canada Pension Plan are also expected to bid, but the status of Manchester airport's proposed consortium with Borealis, a Canadian infrastructure fund, is uncertain.

16 January 2009


Carl Mortished - Times Online - 14 January 2009

A scorched-earth policy adopted by budget carriers, including easyJet and Ryanair, is hurting Stansted, according to falling passenger figures published by BAA, the airport company.

The group, which is owned by Ferrovial, of Spain, today revealed a double-digit drop in passenger numbers at Stansted and Gatwick, while Heathrow suffered a modest decline of 2 per cent.

The fall in the pound has taken a heavy toll on European charter traffic, a big business for Gatwick and a potential challenge for a buyer of the airport. Passenger numbers on charter flights from BAA airports to European destinations fell by 22 per cent last month, as Britons reckoned that the allure of ski slopes was not enough to justify the expense.

Overall, traffic at Stansted and Gatwick fell 13 per cent in December, and over the past year the Essex airport's performance was grim, with a fall of 6 per cent in passengers numbers compared with only 1 per cent at Heathrow and 2.8 per cent at Gatwick. Only Glasgow airport suffered a worse annual decline, with 6.8 per cent fewer passengers passing through the terminal.

The evidence of heavy passenger attrition comes at a difficult time for BAA which has been ordered to sell both Gatwick and Stansted by the Competition Commission.

BAA blamed the severe Stansted contraction on the cuts in capacity adopted by Ryanair and easyJet, both of which are big customers of Stansted.

Gatwick's losses include the decision by US carriers, including Delta and Continental, to move their flights from Gatwick to Heathrow to take advantage of the Open Skies agreement between Britain and the United States. The agreement ended the oligopoly on Heathrow-US flights enjoyed by BA, Virgin, American and United Airlines.

A BAA spokesman said that the company did not expect the poor traffic figures to affect any sale of the airports.

He said: "We have had traffic reductions in the past. Anybody buying an airport looks at the long-term market opportunity." However, he said that Heathrow's relatively strong performance provided further argument for the need to build a third runway.

In the face of vocal protest from local residents and environmental groups, the Government this week deferred its decision on whether to support BAA's application to build another runway at Heathrow.

Heathrow's bias towards long-haul traffic to America and Asia has helped the airport in the recent downturn. According to the BAA statistics, European and domestic routes have been worst affected by the attrition in passenger numbers.

Traffic to UK and Irish destinations declined by almost 9 per cent in December while European traffic fell by 6.5 per cent. North Atlantic flights were also hit, down 6.7 per cent, but other long-haul routes, which includes the Asian destinations, fell by only 2.8 per cent last month

Don't forget Stansted!
No more expansion into the countryside!
Our Inquiry has already started.

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