Virendra Sharma MP: Heathrow meets Labour’s air quality test
West London Labour MP Virendra Sharma writes in support of Heathrow expansion due to the reduction of any environmental impact of the project, the creation of up to 40,000 local jobs doubling the number of apprentices to 10,000.
For those of us living in cities, concern over our air quality has been mounting. So much so, that businesses and politicians have united to tackle toxic concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), released into the air by diesel cars. And while progress is certainly being made, with the phasing out of diesel buses and the introduction of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in London, action to accelerate the clean-up of our air should be welcomed.
That is why I am delighted to hear the announcement that Heathrow is launching a fleet of up to 200 fully electric Jaguar i-Paces, for passengers to hire. It will be the UK’s largest electric vehicle (EV) fleet to date.
For the UK’s cities, the switch to EVs is a crucial step towards a clean and sustainable future. And it will come much quicker than we first anticipated.
Technologies are improving, vehicle ranges are increasing, and charging points across the UK are swiftly being installed. In fact, new research suggests that up to 55% of all vehicles on London’s roads could become electric by 2030, which will accelerate uptake by the remainder of the city’s residents. And the impact on London’s air quality will be transformational – with NO2 concentrations expected to drop by up to 8%.
Heathrow is leading this charge, and today marks its next step along. The airport has already built the highest density of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Europe, which it continues to grow. It is trialling innovative technology in this space, including rapid charging points and electric buses on the airfield, and has plans for an ultra-low emission zone airside to encourage ground handlers and airlines to use electric technology. It’s all part of Heathrow’s ambition to deliver expansion sustainably.
You may know I have not always supported Heathrow’s new runway. In 2009 I resigned from my role as a parliamentary private secretary over the Government’s proposals for the project.
But Heathrow’s plans have come on a long way since then. After years of scrutiny and re-drafting, today, Heathrow’s plans root the local community and environment at the heart.
I’ve been clear that my support for expansion hinges on Heathrow’s commitment to these two things. Not just on their efforts to maximise the benefits of expansion for our local residents, with up to 40,000 new local jobs and doubling the amount of apprenticeships to 10,000 – but on their efforts to use this major project as an opportunity to shake-up old methods, mitigate against the airport’s impacts, and find a cleaner, better way of doing things.
My party has been clear on this too. That’s why, in 2015, we set out our ‘Four Tests’ for expansion, that we still stick by today. We called on Heathrow to: demonstrate the evidence for increased airport capacity; reduce CO2 emissions; meet local concerns surrounding noise and environmental impacts; and guarantee that the benefits of expansion will be felt across all of Britain, not just the South East.
Heathrow has taken each test seriously, and has continued to pass them. Through its consultations with local communities, Heathrow has not only heard its neighbours’ views on issues affecting them, but begun to action them.
Of course, no airport will be without an environmental impact. But today is another example of how Heathrow has the ambition and know-how to not only meet, but in some cases exceed its environmental commitments and set the bar for others.
Heathrow expansion will keep Britain connected to the world after Brexit, in the most sustainable way.
So, every time I fly into Heathrow, my welcome home will be enhanced in the knowledge that this is a gateway Britain can be proud of. It is a gateway that stands up to its promises; that looks after the environment, its community and its people. It is a gateway that passes the test.
That is why I wholeheartedly support this project. And I urge my Labour colleagues, and those of all parties, to join me in supporting a new runway that will deliver for all of Britain.
Virendra Sharma is the Labour MP for Ealing Southall