Heathrow Airport congestion charge proposed

Plane flying over a Heathrow Airport sign Image copyright PA
Image caption The charge would only go ahead if the third runway is approved

People travelling to Heathrow Airport by car could have to pay a congestion charge if the airport's proposed third runway is built.

The airport says it wants to introduce the charge in the hope that it would improve air quality.

The charge would apply to roads leading from the M25, M4 and the A4 to the airport.

The airport will put its plan to the Airports Commission, which is looking at the future of air travel in the UK.

Options floated by the commission include creating a third runway at Heathrow, or extending the northern runway to the west.

Both would result in at least 750 homes being demolished.

Other options include expanding Gatwick Airport or building a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

The commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, is due to give its final report by summer 2015.

Heathrow Airport said the money could be ring fenced for spending on public transport improvements.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Airports Commission is due to give its final report by summer 2015

It said it had agreed to a target of 50% of passengers accessing the airport via public transport by 2030. Currently the figure stands at 40%.

In the next few years, Crossrail will connect the airport to the City and east London; a Piccadilly Line upgrade will provide more frequent and faster journeys for London Underground passengers and there will also be improved rail transport.

'Heathrow bombshell'

Cait Hewitt, deputy director of Aviation Environment Federation, said: "The Heathrow area is an air pollution hotspot that regularly breaches limits on air quality because of emissions from both aircraft and from passengers and freight arriving at the airport by road.

"Encouraging passengers and staff to use public transport through a congestion charge is necessary now as part of a strategy to reduce today's level of pollution at the airport but it will be extremely challenging to promote this as a way of overcoming environmental objections to a third runway."

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "Given the enormous growth potential at Heathrow, it seems right the owner does something to limit the impact of congestion and pollution on those living around the airport.

"Better still if the money is spent fixing potholes on local roads, as is one of the options temptingly being suggested."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson supports the building of new airport in the Thames Estuary and is opposed to expansion at Heathrow.

The mayor's aviation adviser Daniel Moylan said: "Heathrow have always underestimated the impact of increasing runway capacity in an area where public transport already strains at the seams and my impression is that they do not give a fig for the wellbeing of west London."

Gatwick's chief executive Stewart Wingate said the roads around Heathrow were some of the most congested in Europe.

"It was only a matter of time before this Heathrow bombshell was dropped," he said.

"On the eve of final submissions to the Airports Commission, Heathrow have been forced to announce unprecedented measures to tackle one of the huge environmental challenges of their expansion plans."

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