‘Benefits’ of expansion cut by £25bn as public transport improvements fall short

Release Date: 12 June 2018

Government claims for the economic benefit of expanding Heathrow do not include the costs of the improved public transport links needed to keep road traffic at current levels.

Campaigners are calling for guarantees that the taxpayer will not be expected to meet the costs of new rail infrastructure required for a three-runway airport.

A third runway is expected to add around 100,000 trips a day. Heathrow has pledged that road traffic levels will not increase with a third runway. This would mean seven out of ten journeys to and from the airport being made by public transport. Today’s figure is four in ten.

Transport for London estimate that expenditure of £10bn-£15bn is required for new surface access. However, this includes the cost of new southern and western rail links which are required to cope with a two-runway airport.

Current forecasts for passengers ending their journey at a two-runway Heathrow show these rising by 60 percent by 2050, up from 55 million in 2016 to 88 million.

A third runway would generate a further 26 million passengers a year by 2050, more than double the current number.

This means that the current cost projections for new public transport links are insufficient. The outcome would then be more delays for passengers arriving at the airport whether by road or rail.

Using the Government’s own approach, these delays could cost the economy around £25bn over a 60-year period.

This would reduce the claimed benefit from expansion from its current £74bn to £49bn.

Peter Willan of the Richmond Heathrow Campaign, who compiled the figures, said:

“The Government will fail to keep road traffic at current levels because they have not planned for the additional surface access improvements that will be essential for a three-runway airport.

“This will mean more congestion, more delays and more air pollution. Using the Government’s own approach, we put the cost of these failings at £25bn.

“The Government must confirm that they will not saddle the taxpayer with this £25bn funding gap. Either Heathrow pays or their customers do.

“Even a congestion charge scheme won’t get people out of their cars unless the public transport infrastructure is in place."

Richmond Council Leader, Gareth Roberts, said:

“The Government’s figures don’t add up. By understating the true costs of the infrastructure needed to cope with an additional 100,000 daily road journeys and passenger numbers double what they are today, they are inflating the claimed economic benefit from expansion.

“They also run the risk of allowing a third runway to be built without the additional public transport capacity needed. In this case, Heathrow should be barred from opening the runway until the new provision is put in place.

”This is a mess that can be avoided. The Government must face up now to the hard truth that this runway is simply unbuildable on grounds of cost, increased congestion and worsening air quality.”

The surface access demand figures and costs are based on published Department for Transport data and the Government’s WebTAG approach for calculating economic benefits. The full report is available on The Richmond Heathrow Campaign website.

Richmond Council is part of a four-borough alliance opposed to expansion including Wandsworth, Hillingdon and Windsor and Maidenhead Councils.

Notes for editors

For media information, Peter Willan on 07530 266436 or Elinor Firth.

If you are a journalist and would like further information about this press release, contact Elinor Firth on 020 8487 5159.


Reference: P294/18

Updated: 3 June 2019