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Heathrow chief plays down environmental impact of airport expansion

John Holland-Kaye insisted that air quality is a key concern.

Heathrow’s chief executive has defended claims that a major expansion of the airport would see a cut in road traffic connected to the transport hub.

Appearing before the Commons Transport Committee, John Holland-Kaye insisted pledges on air quality levels would be met if a third runway went ahead.

The comments came after Tory MP and committee member Huw Merriman said that a number of airport commitments had “somewhat unravelled”.

Mr Holland-Kaye insisted Heathrow would be able to keep to promises such as “no new cars on the road” after any expansion.

He said: “It is linked to the question around air quality. We have to make sure that we are fully complying with EU air quality standards, which we will do.

“And we have a triple-lock plan which will help to make sure that we can do that.”

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Tory MP Huw Merriman questions if some environmental targets would be met (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/(Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)/PA)

The Heathrow chief said a “strong plan” had been drawn up to deal with traffic levels.

He said: “The issue with air quality is not about the planes, it is about cars on the road.”

Mr Holland-Kaye said expansion of the airport would cut costs for travellers.

He told MPs: “We should also be concerned about the end price passengers pay for their tickets.

“And there is no question that there will be more competition and choice on routes into Heathrow, that the price of passenger tickets will come down.”

The Department for Transport is due to publish final proposals for a third runway at Heathrow in the first half of the year for a vote in Parliament.

If the scheme is approved, the airport will submit a planning application after consulting local communities on detailed proposals.

It hopes to begin construction in early 2021, with the runway completed by the end of 2025.

The third runway was due to cost about £16.8 billion, but Heathrow claims it can complete the project for £14 billion.

Airlines have expressed concerns that landing charges could be hiked to help pay for the investment, but the airport insists that the charges – currently around £22 per passenger – will remain “close to today’s levels”.

Asked if he could make a “firm commitment” that landing charges would not increase, Mr Holland-Kaye told MPs: “At this stage I couldn’t. It would be a mistake at this stage to make any guarantee on particular costs.”

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