By Daniel Hunter

With passenger numbers at Heathrow potentially growing by a third to 95 million a year, road traffic around the airport could increase dramatically - worsening already poor air quality unless urgent steps are taken to improve public transport links, a new report says today (Wednesday).

Plane Speaking by the Assembly’s Environment Committee builds on the Committee’s previous work on environmental conditions around the UK’s busiest — and fastest growing — airport.

The report raises particular concerns about the significant contribution to poor air quality around Heathrow made by people using private cars and taxis to get to and from the airport: almost two-thirds of the 69 million passengers using Heathrow every year travel by car.

Emissions from road traffic have contributed to the area around Heathrow achieving the dubious honour of being the second worst area in the capital for poor air quality, which can cause serious ill-health and premature death.

The situation could worsen as the number of passengers has the potential to rise to 95 million with the introduction of bigger planes and once redevelopment and construction projects at Heathrow are complete, generating even more road traffic.

Committee Members believe improving public transport links — alongside the introduction of more greener, quieter planes and ensuring the airport’s on-site vehicles meet the latest EU emissions standards — is essential to tackling the poor air quality around Heathrow.

“Poor air quality causes the early deaths of at least 4,000 Londoners a year, and it’s time more action is focused on Heathrow as a big player in this serious public health issue," Murad Qureshi AM, Chair of the Environment Committee, said.

“Heathrow airport is of vital importance to London. And this is not just about planes. One of the biggest challenges to reducing emissions around the airport is the volume of road traffic.

“Improvements to public transport are absolutely essential to getting more of Heathrow’s passengers and employees out of their cars.

“We need an integrated solution to surface access to and from Heathrow if we are to start to see air quality in the area improve. This means all the organisations involved - Heathrow Airport Limited, government, Transport for London, and rail operators — need to make improving transport links a priority.”

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