| CAMPAIGN UPDATE - AT A GLANCE
A summary of current events in SSE's campaign against expansion of Stansted Airport
and other recent news related to the expansion of airports and aviation - 26 February 2016
Aircraft noise is bad for your health
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has welcomed a new report into the impact of aircraft noise on public health, produced by the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF). As long ago as 1999 the World Health Organisation (WHO) Charter on Transport, the Environment and Health, recommended that community wellbeing be put first in transport and infrastructure policies. The WHO Charter was ratified by the UK Government but scant attention has been paid to its recommendations despite an estimated 600,000 people in the UK being affected by night-time aircraft noise. The report provides clear evidence that detrimental effects on health already exist in the vicinity of all major airports and under their flight paths. Inevitably, an increase in the number of flights at Stansted would exacerbate these adverse effects for local residents, particularly the vulnerable including the elderly and school children.
There is now considerable evidence that adults disturbed by aircraft noise suffer sleep loss, fatigue and accidents from concentration failure; that primary school children living in the vicinity of airports suffer from impaired cognitive development; and that constant exposure to aircraft noise may adversely affect the cardiovascular system. The AEF report recommends that independent health impact assessments are carried out ahead of airport development. SSE's advisor on aviation health issues, Professor Jangu Banatvala CBE, commented: "This new report highlights the importance of health impacts in aviation planning but it is essential that the Departments of Transport, Environment and Education all have an input. The Department of Health should also be playing a key role but as yet its voice has scarcely been heard." Here is the AEF statement and the SSE response.
Earthquake shelters to protect children from Heathrow noise
More than 20 primary schools in West London will get earthquake shelters in their playgrounds in an attempt to protect children from noise from Heathrow airport. At least seven primary schools under the flight path will receive funding for new "adobe" shelters this year, and seven already have them. Within the next four years they will be built in the playgrounds of a total of 21 schools. The adobe-style domes were originally designed for disaster zones in Asia and Africa and will enable children to play at break times and take part in outdoor education lessons with less disruption from over-flying aircraft. See the Evening Standard report.
We remain vigilant, says SSE
While the pace of campaigning has slowed over the past year or so, we are likely to see significant developments in Government airports policy in 2016 that will need addressing, says Peter Sanders, SSE chairman, in his review of 2015. He reported that SSE had made eleven separate evidence submissions to the Airports Commission and that this major effort was rewarded when Stansted was omitted from the Commission's shortlist, leaving Heathrow and Gatwick to compete for the right to build a new runway. The Commission's final report - which recommended a third runway at Heathrow - was followed by a series of delays by the Government, postponing the decision until after the London Mayor election in May, and it could be much later before a final decision is taken. Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin has promised only "to make progress" by the summer after giving further consideration to the environmental impacts. Word from the party conferences, which SSE attended, was that airports policy was too London-centric, with regional airports virtually being ignored. While the answer seems a choice between Heathrow and Gatwick, Government policy can change in the blinking of an eye, so Stansted is not off the hook, says Peter Sanders.
The 2015 annual review also reports that SSE crossed swords with NATS and the CAA over flight paths and it continued to press the owners of Stansted Airport on night flights and on returning airport-owned homes to private ownership. Peter Sanders also commented that in 2016 Stansted was likely to exceed its previous (2007) peak of 24m passengers but with higher load factors and therefore fewer flights. He said that, technically, Stansted could handle more than the present planning limit of 35m passengers but "whether that would be environmentally acceptable is quite another matter". See the 2015 SSE Annual Review.
Public "left in the dark" by Commission
Andrew Tyrie, chair of the influential Commons Treasury Select Committee, has criticised the Airports Commission for leaving Parliament and the public "partly in the dark" on the case for a new runway for Heathrow. He said the Commission's case was "opaque in a number of important respects" and that "a good deal more information is required" if the Government's final decision is to be properly scrutinised. He has written to Chancellor George Osborne calling for more details of the calculations that led to the Commission recommending the highly controversial addition to the country's biggest airport. See The Guardian report. Meanwhile, business leaders including Sir Martin Sorrell, the CBI, London First and others hit back at Mr Tyrie's request for more economic analysis of airport options. Sir Howard Davies, who led the Airports Commission and now chairs Royal Bank of Scotland, said that whilst it would be possible to carry out the extra analysis, "there would be little value added" by doing so, and the Commission's ultimate recommendation "would not be changed". See the City A.M. report.
Stansted closes gap to planning limit
The growth in Stansted Airport's traffic over the past two years has closed the gap between its actual throughput and its planning limits. However, passenger numbers still have permission to grow 55% from their present level to 35 million passengers per annum (mppa) and flights have permission to grow 68% to 264,000. SSE's analysis of the latest statistics shows that Stansted handled 22.6m passengers in 2015, an increase of 13.0% over the previous year. The number of flights in 2015 was 157,248, 9.6% up on the previous year. Stansted's cargo throughput in 2015 was 237,009 tonnes, up 4.7% on 2014. See the MAG report.
Arguments begin about paying for airport expansion
Airlines say it is unfair that they should be forced to pay the cost of airport expansion long before the extra capacity is delivered. Carolyn McCall, chief executive of easyJet, says airlines should not have to pre-fund airport expansion. She also opposes a new runway at Gatwick, where easyJet is the main carrier, because of the impact this would have on airport charges. Meanwhile, Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways' parent company IAG, has described the cost of Heathrow expansion as "outrageous" and insisted "we wouldn't be prepared to pay for or to support the development". British Airways is by far Heathrow's biggest customer, accounting for more than half the slots. The Airports Commission estimated that a third runway at Heathrow would cost £18.6 billion and a second runway at Gatwick would cost £9.3 billion. However, despite costing twice as much, the Commission unanimously recommended the Heathrow option. See the BT News report.
Heathrow runway could cost passengers £40 each
The owners of Heathrow have suggested that it could fund a third runway by increasing passenger charges from £20 to £24, yet carriers fear it may be far more - British Airways puts the figure closer to £40 a passenger, says a report in the Sunday Times. "£80 per return trip in airport charges will turn Heathrow into a white elephant," said BA boss Willie Walsh. "Yet again, we see a monopoly airport supplier looking to gold-plate facilities and fleece its airlines and their customers," he said. "We won't pay for it and we most certainly won't pre-fund the construction of any new infrastructure." See the Sunday Times report.
Fuel cells could cut aviation costs
EasyJet has said it would trial a new fuel cell system on planes that could cut its fuel bill by up to $35 million a year as part of its battle to keep fares low and compete against Ryanair. If trials of an Airbus fitted with a hydrogen cell in its hold were successful, its planes would be able to taxi to runways without using jet engines, saving up to $35 million a year on fuel. The airline is already benefiting from a plunge in the oil price over the last 18 months, but it could cut its bill further with this new technology, it says. About 4 percent of the airline's total annual fuel consumption is used on the ground at airports. See the Reuters report.
NOx emissions could rise 43% in 20 years
Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from planes in Europe are expected to increase by 43% over the next 20 years, according to a study by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in its first environmental report on the aviation industry. It calculates that NOx emission from Europe's aviation sector doubled between 1990 and 2014 and are expected to grow by a further 43% between 2014 and 2035. This growth in emissions from the sector is largely due to the 80% increase in the number of flights since 1990. Aviation is expected to grow by another 45% by 2035 by which time the EEA estimates that 20 major EU airports could face "significant" and related environmental impacts due to air traffic growth. While the EEA report concedes that today's aircraft are quieter and produce fewer emissions than their equivalents 30 years' ago, it argues that plane fleets in Europe are "slowly ageing", with the rate of technological improvement failing to keep pace with the historic growth in demand for air travel. See the Air Quality News report.
Fuel surcharge, what fuel surcharge?
How can airlines continue to make passengers pay fuel surcharges when oil prices are at a 12-year low? The charges haven't gone away, they are just not for fuel anymore, explains Jamie Robertson, business reporter for BBC News. Fuel surcharges were acceptable for a while because airlines had hedged, buying oil when the price was high, so savings were slow in coming through, he explained. As oil prices plunged, fuel surcharges became impossible to defend. The US regulator then insisted the per-passenger fuel cost had to be declared. But this may not be the end of the surcharge, the BBC report indicates. The International Air Traffic Association reckons ticket prices have fallen by around 5%, which, it says, is a "substantial reduction" because airlines are experiencing increases in other costs such as labour and airport charges.
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