Is Defra trying to screw the DfT?

Defra Heathrow night

This morning Defra published a compilation of airport noise charts, showing the area around airports, and the various decibel bands.

Nothing odd about that, until you look closer. While the DfT tries to avoid showing an area greater than its preferred 57db limit (and rejected the recent ANASE report which found that people are disturbed at 50db), the Defra day chart goes down to 55db, and the night one to 50db.

Could those crafty civil servants at Defra be trying to undermine their transport colleagues determination to ignore the ANASE report's findings? Why else would they show a 50db limit if, as the DfT believes, people are only affected from 57db and above? Or is it just early and I'm being conspiracy minded? Answers on a postcard to: I don't like aircraft noise, c/o the DfT, 76 Great Marsham St, SW1P 4DR...

Who invited the US to the Bali party?

US at Bali Party

It all started so well. 10,000 people jetted off to Bali for two weeks of sun, sea and partying. But as the days passed, one nation's representatives began acting up.

The problems started when James Connaughton, the senior US negotiator in Bali, declined to go on an afternoon sightseeing tour, and spent the time drinking heavily with the rest of the US delegation at the poolside bar. When the party returned they found the Americans passed out on the sun-loungers.

Heathow: not 700 but 4,000 homes destroyed

Map of Sipson

Just when you thought the expansion couldn't get any worse; yesterday's Westminster Hall debate revealed that the third runway could see up to 4,000 houses destroyed, with 10,000 people forced out of their homes.

John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, made clear that this was not going to be the last we hear of Heathrow in Parliament: "We shall apply regularly for debates on different aspects of the matter, so I warn the Minister not to plan any lengthy holidays next year, and certainly not to plan any via Heathrow".

Blears gets roasting in Planning Bill debate

Blears protest

Oh to have been in Parliament on Monday - although I'm not sure I'm allowed in anymore, given what happened last time...

The Government's Planning Bill - basically an attempt to prevent another Terminal 5 inquiry (the longest in British legal history) - was up for discussion, and MPs from all sides of the House chimed in to criticise Hazel Blears and her madcapped schemes to steamroller through public opinion.

Predict and it will be provided, part two

Keep us flying!

In an earlier article, I talked about 'predict and provide', a pro-growth transport policy model which has lead to self-fulfilling and exponential growth in surface transport. In this article I'll be looking at the Government's argument that Heathrow must be expanded to meet the growing demand for air travel, and consider if this is a predict and provide approach.

Let's quickly recap on predict and provide. Officials make a prediction based on current growth rates, and extrapolate future data. It is presumed that this demand cannot be checked (because demand is caused by forces over which the Government has no control) and therefore the space for the demand to grow into is provided.

Flying Matters versus the Climate Change Bill


Everyone's favourite pro-aviation group, Flying Matters, has been hard at work. They'd like international aviation left out of the Climate Change Bill, and have written to lots of MPs asking them not to listen to the science.

Luckily one of them sent us a copy, which we have kindly transcribed for you. For your viewing pleasure we present: why aviation should get special treatment. Please take one pinch of salt and retire to enjoy:

Tory MP: scrap Manchester-London flights

Thomas the Tank Engine

It seems that Plane Stupid's call for domestic flights to be scrapped has not gone unheeded. Tory MP and former environment minister John Gummer called for Manchester-London flights to be scrapped, and said that passengers should take the train instead.

Sounds familiar. This was exactly Plane Stupid's message when it blockaded the domestic departure lounge of Manchester Airport back in October.

Emission trading scheme - a license to print money


Sorry to go all Daily Mail on y'all, but you really couldn't make it up. The emissions trading scheme, the Government's preferred method of reducing aviation's contribution to climate change, is likely to generate up to £4 billion in windfall profits for the industry.

A report commissioned for the DfT and Defra into the effects of the ETS, reveals how the scheme will reward airlines with too many free credits, which will then be sold on by industry. The airlines are expected to use the spectre of the trading scheme to raise their own prices, charging customers for the emissions generated by their flight - despite recieving 96-97% of their current emissions in free credits.

My day trip to Parliament

Dunwoody and a runway

In my years of campaigning I've come up against some tough opponents. Riot police in fields of beans behind the Camp for Climate Action; over-zealous security guards determined to keep carbon criminals operating; even angry businessmen prevented from getting to work. But nothing had prepared me for the wrath of Gwyneth Dunwoody.

Yesterday, five of us entered the Transport Select Committee inquiry into "the Future of BAA". After thirty minutes of whinging from Easyjet, BA and American Airlines that BAA weren't helping them profit from the 'cheap' flights bonanza, BAA's head honchos took the stand.

Predict and it shall be provided, part one

Criswell predicts!

You can call the Heathrow consultation many things, but there's one phrase the Government doesn't want you to use: 'predict and provide'. But what does predict and provide mean - and is it a fair description of the industry's unprecendented expansion plans? In the first of two articles, I'll focus on how a phrase that was once transport policy gospel fell into ill repute.

For years, transport policy was based around a growth model, whereby the Department for Transport would "provide road capacity where and when it will be required". This primarily applied to traffic growth - road building - and it was widely (and erroneously) held by civil servants that the "main drivers of traffic growth [were] outside policy control"; they felt that income was the primary driver of growth - and who in the 80s was going to suggesting reducing that?