Airline chiefs: £15 charge to drive to Heathrow airport is just 'another tax on travel'

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Airline chiefs today hit back against proposals for an “H-charge” to cut toxic air around Heathrow as part of plans for a third runway.

They stressed it would be “another tax on air travel” and warned against “penalising” passengers who could not easily get to the west London airport by public transport.

Sir Howard Davies, who chaired Britain’s Airports Commission, has suggested a charge of £10 to £15 could be brought in to discourage people from driving pollution vehicles to Heathrow.

Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, also supports a “congestion cordon” around the airport if it expands.

In addition, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling believes some form of low emission zone around the airport will be needed.

EU limits on nitrogen dioxide, significantly blamed on diesel vehicles, are widely breached across London including around Heathrow.

The airport is examining whether a congestion charge should be introduced.

But Airlines UK, whose members include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyjet, Monarch and flybe, warned against such a levy.

Its chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “We need much more consultation on this proposal – its knock-on impact on congestion elsewhere and its effect on consumers. This will, in effect, be another tax on air travel.”

He stressed that much of the pollution around Heathrow was not linked to traffic using the airport and called for better public transport to it, including better western rail access.

He added: “Whilst access is very good in places, from the West and South, in particular, it is scratchy at best and it seems unfair to penalise people who have no other reasonable way, other than the car, of getting to their destination.”

Heathrow has pledged that if a third runway gets the go-ahead, the amount of airport-related traffic on the roads will remain the same as today.  

Airport bosses see a congestion charge as a “last resort” and if it is introduced, it may only apply to vehicles going to the airport, with possible exemptions for the greenest vehicles, taxis and local residents.

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