Heathrow has a comprehensive air quality mitigation strategy for expansion, including an extensive public transport plan which will limit airport-related road traffic. Significantly, the Airports Commission confirmed Heathrow expansion can take place without exceeding air quality levels.
Heathrow takes air quality very seriously and the airport has cut emissions by 16% in five years. Thanks to investment by the airport 40% of passengers now arrive by public transport and this will only increase when Crossrail arrives in 2019 and the Piccadilly line upgrade is complete.
And more can be done as the reason for air quality currently exceeding EU levels north of the airport is road traffic on the M4.
The truth about air quality at Heathrow
Approximately 90 air quality automatic monitoring stations in London recorded data for at least 90% of the year in either 2013 or 2014.
Of the 37 monitoring stations which had annual average NO2 concentrations below the limit, nine are located near Heathrow (within 2 kilometres). Of the 53 air quality monitoring stations above legal limits, only two are near Heathrow (within 2 kilometres).
At these two sites, (Hayes and Hillingdon), both of which are north of the M4 motorway, all airport emissions, including airport-related road traffic account for 6% and 16% respectively of total NOx emissions.
Road traffic is the most significant contributor to poor local air quality across London. For example, both Putney High Street and Brixton Road monitors have already breached the annual limit for exceedences of the hourly limit for NO2 in 2016.
Heathrow to work with government and airlines to improve air quality
While some of the Commission’s recommendations are dependent on action from other parties, including government and airlines, others are within Heathrow’s control and are already being worked on.
Heathrow is already:
- Working with partners to deliver projects such as Crossrail and Western Rail to increase public transport use by passengers to over 50%;
- Providing avenues and incentives to reduce staff car use;
- Incentivising airlines to use quieter and cleaner aircraft;
- Using over 850 electric vehicles in its airside fleet.
It is significant that by far the greatest contribution to local air pollution in the Heathrow area arises from non-airport related road traffic.
Co-ordinated and meaningful action is needed from Government and City Hall within the framework of an integrated transport strategy to get cleaner vehicles on to major roads and motorways.
Heathrow understand air quality is a real concern for local communities and it’s an issue London needs to tackle urgently.
We have made it clear that Heathrow Airport has to and will continue to play its part.