Thursday, 11 February 2010

Heathrow: row over secrecy

A row has erupted over apparently deleted email conversations that were held between senior officials at the Department for Transport, DfT, and the British Airports Authority, BAA. Both of whom want to build a new runway at Heathrow Airport in spite of near-universal opposition to the scheme from local authorities under the new flightpaths. This includes Hammersmith & Fulham, with one of the new flightpaths being directly over the Bush.

To their credit both the Council and our MP have campaigned against this, with Andy Slaughter actually resigning from the Government over it, and David Cameron assuring local voters here during his recent visit that the runway would definately not be built if his party win the next election.

Justine Greening, Tory MP for Putney in south-west London just over the river from us, placed a Freedom of Information request to see the relevant correspondance leading up to the Government's announcement that it supported the new runway. She noticed that large sections of the emails were mysteriously missing. The DfT are claiming they were 'deleted'.


The Information Commissioners Office, an independent authority set up to guard against practices like this, is now formally investigating the Department for Transport.

Surely this is the last bit of evidence, if we ever needed any, of how much the DfT have really cared about anything local people have had to say on this issue. That a Government department of state is prepared to ride roughshod over the views of local people and then attempt some kind of cover-up is beneath contempt.

In the afternoons during summer you can already hear the almost constant loud drone of aircraft as they stack up just to the west of Shepherd's Bush, which carries on 'till gone 9. Enough already. And why can't we look at alternatives?

Because of a death in the family I have had to go to the North East at short notice twice in the last two weeks. The cheapest train ticket (and this is on the now publicly owned East Coast Mainline) was nearly 200 pounds. So I drove, which cost about 45 pounds return. Could we not invest in rail instead?  And at the very least actually listen to what local people have to say.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry to hear about your bereavement.

    I think the runway probably one of the most important issues about our future here. I grew up near the Gatwick flight path, which back in the 70s and 80s was bad enough - now I visit friends and clients in Richmond and Sheen, and in certain places the noise is intolerable. It has a real effect on property prices, too. I don't think people realise how bad it is until they have to live with it. Respect to Andy Slaughter for resigning over it. One of his only departures from the party line, I think.

    Interesting to see the increasing number of disgraceful ways that the government tries to get around the freedom of information laws that they themselves introduced.

    The cost of trains is bewildering to me - particularly short notice tickets. Surely the whole point is that the cost is *shared*?? As you say, it's so much cheaper by car. And surely the last minute deals should be cheap - or at least there should be a flat rate.

    The idea of private companies making a profit out of train fares is anathema to me, too. But I don't see any of the political parties doing anything about it. For the money we've spent and lost on the railways, the scheduling & rolling stock issues surely could have been sorted out without the botch job they made of privatisation?