Low Carbon Vehicle Funding Part of £6 Billion UK Transport Package

The £250 million has been committed for consumer incentives and infrastructure development

Published: 24-Jan-2009

The UK Government will spend £250 million (US$354 million) on a wide-ranging package of measures to promote ultra-low carbon vehicles. Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon announced the move alongside the government’s decision to grant approval for a third runway at Heathrow Airport—a highly-charged issue in the UK.

In a wide-ranging statement to the House of Commons, Secretary Hoon outlined the government’s plans for spending on low-carbon vehicles, and road and rail infrastructure before announcing the Heathrow decision.

The £250 million has been committed for consumer incentives and infrastructure development, supplementing an existing £100-million program for research, development and demonstration. The funds, said Hoon, will help stimulate consumer uptake of ultra-low emission cars and support provision of infrastructure that may be required. Further details will be provided later this year.

Other measures described by the Transport Secretary included: Details of where up to £6 billion (US$8.5 billion) to increase capacity on some of the nation’s busiest roads will be spent—providing an extra 520 lane miles of road by widening and opening up the hard shoulder—as well as new plans to roll-out hard shoulder running across the core motorway network.

This funding is in addition to the £3 billion allocated to strategic regional roads before 2015/16 through the Regional Funding Allocation process. Regions are currently reviewing their priorities for the period up to 2018/19. The creation of a new company—High Speed 2—to help consider the case for new high speed rail services between London and Scotland and tasked initially with developing a proposal for an entirely new line between London and the West Midlands which could link to Heathrow and Crossrail through a new international interchange station. Further work to consider the case for electrifying two of the busiest railway lines—Great Western and Midland Mainline—with decisions to be announced later in the year. Bringing international pressure for international aviation to be part of global deal on climate change, building on aviation’s inclusion in the European Emissions Trading Scheme. New work to promote international agreement on progressively stricter limits on carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft, similar to those already in place for new cars within the EU. The intention to set a new target of reducing UK aviation emissions below 2005 levels by 2050.

Transport is the lifeblood of Britain’s economy. In spite of record levels of investment over the last decade, increasing demand means that in many places our transport infrastructure is operating at, or very near, capacity. It is essential we take the right decisions now: for the economy, to drive down greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; and to support British jobs.

Heathrow is vital to our economy. It connects us to the growth markets of the future— essential for every great trading nation. But for too long it has operated at full capacity, losing ground to international hub airports in other countries and with relatively minor problems causing severe delays to passengers.

—Secretary Hoon

Heathrow expansion. Hoon confirmed the Government’s support for a third runway and additional terminal facilities at Heathrow. He also announced that as he had rejected mixed mode [using the existing runways simultaneously for both arrivals and take-offs]—he would expect the airport operator to bring forward a planning application for the third runway so that it could be built as soon as possible in the period 2015 - 2020 so as to reduce delays to for existing passengers and improve resilience.

Mixed-mode operation would have ended the current system of runway alternation which gives local residents respite from overhead aircraft noise for at least 8 hours each day.

In order to give further assurance that environmental limits will be met, Hoon also announced that new capacity at Heathrow would be released only once strict air quality and noise conditions are shown to be met and on the basis of independent assessment and enforcement.

In an opinion piece in the Sunday Times following the announcement, Lord Chris Smith, the chairman of the UK’s Environment Agency, sharply criticized the decision on the third runway.

This [the economic impact] is an unproven claim and I am skeptical of the economic benefits this decision will bring. I am certain, however, of the environmental damage it will cause. Air quality around the airport is already approaching EU pollution limits and, with the operation of a third runway, not only will we be producing unhealthy amounts of nitrogen dioxide, but we will struggle to reach our ambitious—but essential—target of an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide by 2050. It was a deeply disappointing decision.

The Environment Agency, which has consistently opposed the additional runway, has been asked to monitor and enforce air quality limits around Heathrow. It is an ironic position to find ourselves in, but we will be strenuous and rigorous in carrying out our new responsibility, and will do our utmost to protect local people and the environment. Ensuring a watertight system of monitoring air quality is going to be difficult because pollution will come both from aircraft and from all the ground traffic getting to and from the airport, but we’ll be tough.

—Lord Smith

The local conditions which must be met to permit expansion of Heathrow are: No net increase in the total area of the 57dBA noise contour. This would be measured at 127km2—the size of the contour in the summer of 2002. Levels of nitrogen dioxide (the critical pollutant) would be contained within EU limits, which will apply from 2010 or 2015 where the European Commission agrees the case for extension. There must be improvements to public transport access to the airport.

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