Tackling air and noise pollution around Heathrow

Date published: 
14 March 2012

Air quality around Heathrow could be significantly improved by better public transport links to help reduce the number of people who travel to and from the airport by car.

Plane Speaking, by the Environment Committee, highlights the fact that passenger numbers at Heathrow could grow by a third to 95 million, and calls for steps to be taken to ensure the growth in passengers does not make air quality around the airport worse.

Heathrow is already the second worst area in the capital for poor air quality, which can cause serious ill-health and premature death.

Of particular concern is the significant contribution to poor air quality made by people using private cars and taxis to get to and from the airport – and at the moment almost two-thirds of the 69 million passengers using Heathrow every year travel by car.

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 problem.

The report also looks at noise pollution around Heathrow, which now affects people living up to 20km away. The Committee believes there is scope to develop a tighter and more consistent approach to dealing with the impacts of aircraft noise, and recommends that more stringent standards are adopted and the trigger point at which people quality for noise insulation assistance is lowered.

The report sets out a number of actions, including:

  • Introducing incentives to encourage people to use buses and coaches
  • Expediting the upgrade of the Piccadilly line and extending its current operating hours by one hour at either end of the day
  • Consideration of more robust measures to reduce the level of drop-off and pick-up traffic
  • Ensuring Crossrail offers the service levels to take on the growing numbers of passengers coming into central London
  • Making sure Heathrow is linked to the new planned high speed rail network which will help to minimise long car journeys to the airport
  • Using incentives to encourage airline operators to remove the most polluting aircraft from their fleets more quickly and switch to more greener, quieter planes
  • Ensuring Heathrow’s on-site vehicle fleet meets the latest EU emissions standards

Watch a short video about the report's key findings:


This report builds on the Committee’s previous report on environmental conditions around Heathrow.

Read the report, Plane Speaking: Air and noise pollution around a growing Heathrow airport. Transport for London's response to the report is also available to view.