Still no clarity on Heathrow finances
Updated: Jan 3, 2019
Last week the CAA took the exceptional step of publicising a letter it had sent to the DfT regarding their concerns about Heathrow’s plans for financing the third runway. Essentially, the CCA is complaining that Heathrow has still not provided adequate or detailed information.
As Nils Pratley highlighted in the Guardian “in most industries, a rebuke from the regulator would be met with an immediate promise to do better. Heathrow’s response, however, amounted to a shrug of the shoulders. (They) didn’t even attempt to explain why it has not satisfied the CAA’s long-standing and reasonable requests.”
For those communities impacted by operations at Heathrow, such a complaint and lack of response is not a revelation: it simply confirms the ongoing, arduous reality of seeking to engage with this arrogant corporate behemoth. Indeed, Heathrow's response has entirely ignored the issues raised - and merely offered their generic holding statement that they are proceeding with the planning process.
In May, Heathrow submitted their initial Scoping Report for expansion to the Planning Inspectorate. This sets out their initial thinking on the multitude of issues associated with their aspirations; yet it does not go into specific detail.
Buried deep within the highly technical documents is a line that seeks ‘early release of capacity’ that would be created by a third runway. In short, Heathrow are trying to secure an additional 25,000 flights each year before the third runway opens.
This means that they are effectively trying to force the lifting of the 480,000 Air Traffic Movement (ATM) and thus break a key condition of the T5 planning permission. Essentially, Heathrow is seeking these extra 25,000 flights a year in order to raise the money to pay for the third runway.
There has been no assessment undertaken on the impact on local communities of an additional 25,000 flights – 68 every day – in terms of noise, air pollution or congestion on public transport and local road networks. None whatsoever.
Was this always a part of their strategy – despite it was never being discussed in the run up to the Parliamentary vote on the Airports National Policy Statement?
Or is it a tactic to seek to deliver on the condition that a third runway does not result in significant increases in landing charges?
After all, steep rises in landing charges over the past decade has been a Heathow financing technique - deployed by Heathrow to pay for the T2 refurbishment without having to put its hand into its shareholders pockets.
But whichever game they are playing, the inescapable fact is that Heathrow's ability to finance the 3rd Runway is yet again being called into question. And its inability to produce a transparent set of answers on the issue - even when implored repeatedly to do so, by the CAA - may speak to the truth, more than any of the platitudinous assurances that Heathrow has uttered in the public domain.
The communities that we represent are already sceptical and concerned. Sceptical about the favourable, special protections that have long been offered to Heathrow. And concerned about the manner in which taxpayers are being asked to underwrite the construction risks of Heathrow’s expansion plans.
No 3rd Runway Coalition