Heathrow: charging motorists £15 would be 'popular', says Airports Commission boss

Sir Howard Davies rates chances of third runway at seven out of 10

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
@SimonCalder
Friday 07 July 2017 21:38
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The man who recommended a third runway at Heathrow says charging people who drive to the airport £15 or more would be a “popular” move.

Sir Howard Davies, whose Airport Commission urged expansion at Britain’s busiest airport, was speaking to the Evening Standard two years after he published his report.

He said: “When we looked at this, congestion charging to the airport was something that people regarded as pretty extreme. But I think now the congestion charge is hardly controversial in London any more.

“The idea that you should have to pay £10 or £15 if you really want to drive to the airport and maybe you pay more if you are in a diesel car — I think that is a perfectly politically acceptable thing. Indeed I think it would be popular.”

The notion of charging drivers was first proposed 15 years ago, when the then-London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, said it would follow on swiftly from the central London congestion-charge zone.

But even though Mr Livingstone said it would be “relatively easy to do because of the small number of roads affected”, a charge was never introduced.

The most heated aspect of the Heathrow expansion debate is emissions, a significant proportion of which are generated by motorists driving to and from the airport.

The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has said a third runway is contingent on being able to operate within air quality limits.

But John Stewart, the chair of HACAN, which opposes expansion at Heathrow, said: “It would be a very brave politician who introduced such a tough and potentially unpopular measure”.

“The very fact that it’s even being talked about shows that people realise how difficult it will be to control air pollution at a bigger Heathrow.”

Next year the number of trains running from central London to Heathrow is set to rise, with the opening of the Elizabeth Line — the Crossrail project.

Sir Howard also revealed how pessimistic he was that his commission’s unanimous report would be ignored: “I was at three out of 10 while Cameron was PM.”

He now rates the chances as seven out of 10 that a third runway will be built during his lifetime.

“I’m much more optimistic than I was when I did the report because this Prime Minister was bold and said she was in favour and the Secretary of State for Transport said he was in favour, which we did not have before the election.”

Sir Howard Davies is 66 years old.

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