As part of aviation policy, the UK government set up an independent commission to examine the need for additional UK airport capacity and recommend to government how this can be met in the short, medium and long term.
Whilst I don't want to go into details about that process (the website for the Commission is here) what has come out of it so far is that a shortlist of options have been selected by the Commission for more detailed work. One of them is construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, and within that proposal is a surface access proposition that includes a congestion charge for road traffic accessing the airport.
Heathrow Airport Limited has produced its own documentation about its proposal on this website with downloads available here. Media comment has been on the BBC and Daily Telegraph among other media outlets.
I'm not going to comment on the proposal at all here, as my sole interest in placing it on this blog is for the interest of readers regarding road pricing, and because I am myself undertaking work for the Airports Commission. As such I am neither expressing a view about the proposal for a congestion charge, nor any of the airport expansion proposals (which for the purposes of completeness include proposals from Gatwick Airport Limited and Heathrow Hub, with a separate investigation into the idea of a new Thames Estuary Airport). Heathrow's proposal is the only one so far to refer to road pricing and is mentioned as a post-2040 implementation. Certainly I don't believe there are any such charges applied at airports elsewhere in the world, although parking charges may sometimes be used to partially address this.
Key statements regarding the charge are as follows, from Volume 1 of the submission (PDF):
Beyond 2030, once our comprehensive network of public transport services is in place, we believe there is a case for introducing a new congestion charge zone to further reduce vehicle journeys to Heathrow. Revenues could be ring-fenced to fund major rail, London Underground and road infrastructure improvements. It could also be used to fund sustainable travel initiatives, public transport service improvements and local community projects. If expansion were to proceed we would work with local people and relevant authorities to define how such a zone would be applied. These public transport improvements will enable Heathrow to deliver more flights, without increasing airport related traffic on the road.
We believe there may be a case for introducing a congestion charge zone at Heathrow, once public transport improvements are in place. This would provide an opportunity to manage airport traffic levels and emissions by charging those with the biggest impact. We would wish to consult on many issues to ensure any such proposal is appropriate and fair, such as exemptions that could be offered to blue badge holders, low emission vehicles, local residents and licensed taxis. A charging zone will provide an opportunity to ring-fence revenue (in the form of an enhanced ‘Super’ Public Transport Levy fund). This could be used to support funding of major surface access schemes, and to fund sustainable transport projects in the wider area to benefit local communities.
Certainly this is one option to address traffic congestion at major airports. The final report of the Airports Commission will not be released until mid 2015, which is expected to recommend a preferred airport expansion option. It is not clear whether that will include any comment on the congestion charge element of the Heathrow proposal, whether or not Heathrow's airport expansion proposal is recommended by the Commission for adoption by government.
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