Heathrow Airport's plans for a third runway has run into some controversy over the actual costs of upgrading transport links to and fro the aviation hub. Transport for London has said that its estimates to upgrade the transport system were about eight times more than what the airport had estimated at £2.2bn (€2.83bn, $3.18bn).
TfL claimed that there had been a "substantial underestimate" on how the third runway at Heathrow will affect local buses, trains and roads. It puts the actual figure at £18.4bn to ease the heavy congestion expected with the third runway.
It claims that transport upgrades should have included bus links enhancements, traffic management measures and even alterations to the South West Main Line and the Great Western Main Line. But TfL does not stop here.
It even says that the figure put forward by the independent Airports Commission which was released last summer also underestimated what was needed to improve transport links to cope with the additional flow of both passengers and vehicles. It claims that the Airports Commission had failed to take freight into account when coming up with its estimate.
The estimate made by the independent Airports Commission in its report released last summer suggested that £5.7bn would be needed on projects that included the widening of the M4 or perhaps even tunnelling the M25 motorway under the runway.
According government is expected to make a final decision on which airport - Gatwick or Heathrow - will get a new runway as both airports fight hard for another runway.
According to the Financial Times, Heathrow's management had claimed that only £1.2bn of public contribution would be needed to upgrade local road and rail links. Heathrow Airport itself will cough up the remaining £1bn.
This is in line with what the government has been saying all along - that the full cost of any access to the additional runway will have to be met by the 'scheme promoter' as the airport would directly benefit from any expansion, the newspaper said.
TfL says that its £18.4bn estimate does not include any upgrade plans that have already been committed, funded or planned. "It is entirely in the realms of possibility that some of the schemes would be deemed necessary at some unspecified time in the future," TfL says.
"The point is they're not currently envisaged - planned or committed - but if Heathrow expansion is progressed, they would be absolutely need to be," TfL claims, according to the FT. TfL £18.4bn and its breakdown was obtained by Greenpeace through a Freedom of Information request.
John Sauven, the Executive Director of Greenpeace, said the figures released by TfL indicated a "gaping hole" in financing for Heathrow's proposed expansion. However John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow has dismissed TfL's higher estimates as a "long list of anything that might be needed across London."
The FT pointed out that TfL comes under Boris Johnson, the current Mayor of London who has a campaigner against a third runway. The agency itself is an apolitical taxpayer-funded agency.
"The trouble with Heathrow is that it produces overwhelming noise pollution for the people of London and this runway, a new third runway as [the Airports Commission's report] acknowledges, will be an inevitable precursor for a fourth runway, with a catastrophic impact on the populations in the city and for noise pollution around West London," Johnson said last year when the report was released.