The Heathrow decision flies in the face of Theresa May’s promise to ratify the Paris Agreement and my heart goes out to Londoners who will face years of uncertainty along with having their lives blighted by noise and pollution if the runway ever goes ahead.
London is the most overflown city in Europe and is already the largest noise polluter on the continent. What is needed certainly isn’t more noise and more pollution.
London is also the best served city, in terms of its six airports and seven runways, in the whole of Europe, we should be exploring better use of existing infrastructure rather than building new runways.
The current culture of travel needs an overhaul. The Government’s view that ‘predict and provide’ expansion is the only option is blinkered and short-termist and deliberately ignores sustainable solutions.
The Government, and indeed the Mayor, must take a broader view of airport expansion, we should not be arguing a case of Heathrow versus Gatwick but how we can travel and do business without poisoning our atmosphere and further accelerating climate change.
London’s ‘invisible smog’ cannot be ignored, air in Heathrow already exceeds legal Nitrogen Dioxide limits, the third runway will add 25 million more road passenger journeys and 300,000 extra flights adding ever more pollution.
We need to travel differently, not only for the benefit of our environment, for people living under flight paths but also for people who are making these journeys.
There must be a solution that allows us to use our existing airports and international and national train services more efficiently to provide alternatives to flying.
One of the ideas to reduce demand for short haul flights is a frequent flyer levy, which would reduce the need for expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick or anywhere else.
Every holiday maker would be entitled to a ‘free’, ie unlevied, return flight every year, the levy would come into effect on the second flight and increase incrementally on every flight taken afterwards.
This levy is not aimed at penalising families taking their summer holidays but to replace Air Passenger Duty and shift taxes away from holiday makers and onto the most frequent flyers.
With train capacity almost criminally underused on the Eurostar – more should be done to encourage international travel through the Channel Tunnel.
The original plans for Eurostar forecast that 21 million journeys could be made every year but at the moment it carries just over half the passengers it was built for.
Demand for train seats is dampened down by the off-putting cost, the use of the tunnel is taxed and so are passengers just for boarding the trains, no wonder it isn’t the ‘preferred option’ for travel.
A move to trains would not only ease our congested roads around airports but also lessen the massive environmental impact that air travel has.
The Mayor should use his influence on the Government to remove the absurdly unfair taxes in place, it is perverse that aviation is exempt from fuel duty, and zero-rated for VAT alongside disability aids, while the Eurotunnel passengers are weighted down with excessive, arbitrary fees.
We need to work to maximise what we have, not expand indefinitely at the cost of the wellbeing of Londoners and to the detriment of our climate and health.