Heathrow to address air quality concerns with ultra low emissions zone and charges for vehicles using the airport
Wed 29 May 2019 – As part of efforts to reduce the number of vehicles coming to the airport and protect local air quality, Heathrow is introducing the world’s first airport Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2022 for passenger cars and private hire vehicles entering car parks or drop-off zones. The Heathrow ULEZ will introduce minimum vehicle emissions standards identical to those shortly applying in central London. Following the opening of the new proposed third runway and improvements to public transport access to the airport, Heathrow then plans to transition the ULEZ into a vehicle access charge (VAC) on all passenger cars, taxis and private hire vehicles coming to car parks or drop-off areas. Heathrow will consult on the proposals in a statutory consultation on its expansion plans to be launched on June 18.
Although charges are still be set, drivers to the airport with cars with older, more polluting engines that fail to meet ‘Euro 4’ emissions standards in respect of petrol cars and diesel cars that fail to meet ‘Euro 6’ standards could face having to pay between £10-15 ($13-19). As Heathrow already falls within the London Mayor’s Low Emissions Zone, the standards for which are being tightened in 2020, non-compliant freight and servicing vehicles as well as buses serving Heathrow are likely to have to pay a daily charge of between £100 and £300. Taxis will be exempt from ULEZ charges but will be subject to the VAC charge when it comes online with the new runway. Private hire vehicles will be subject to both the ULEZ and VAC charges.
The charges will help fund new measures to improve sustainable transport modes at the airport and public transport access proposed as part of the expansion plans, says Heathrow. It is currently exploring ways of expanding current electric vehicle charging points for London black cabs and other cars at the airport to incentivise clean vehicles, and is also backing plans to treble rail capacity by 2040 through improved transport links.
The airport said its expansion plans include a commitment not to release any additional capacity if that would directly result in a breach of the UK’s legal air quality obligations,
“This is a significant step change in Heathrow’s effort to clean up local ground level air pollution by shifting people into the cleanest modes of transport,” commented Val Shawcross, former London Deputy Mayor for Transport, who has recently been appointed to lead an independent group, the Heathrow Transport Area Forum, to help improve accessibility and public transport around the airport.
“I have never pulled my punches talking to the airport about local air quality and I look forward to continuing to hold Heathrow to account in my new role.”
The statutory 12-week consultation on its expansion plans will be its largest engagement exercise yet, says Heathrow. It will use new technology to show the public its current proposals, including a model of the intended future airport that features virtual reality to demonstrate the effect of noise insulation on properties overflown by aircraft. The airport will be holding events in more locations than previously and in addition to national publicity campaigns, it is leafletting 2.6 million households in the vicinity encouraging participation.
This second public consultation follows the Airspace and Future Operations consultation earlier this year into airspace changes resulting from operating an expanded Heathrow, including local factors when designing future flight paths and managing noise, respite and night flights.
Following the conclusion of the latest consultation, as part of the planning process Heathrow will submit a final proposal to the Planning Inspectorate in 2020. The decision on whether to grant the development consent order (DCO) will be made by the Secretary of State following a public examination period led by the Planning Inspectorate. Construction on the main works, including the third runway, would then start after the DCO has been granted. The airport hopes to open the new runway in 2026.