THE future of Heathrow is a hot topic in the media at the moment, with the end of the Operational Freedoms Trial, the Airports Commission and the Night Flights consultation all in the news.

I thought it would be timely in my column this month to review what’s going on, what I am doing on this and how you can get involved.
 
The Operational Freedoms Trials finished at the end of February. The CAA is currently considering the outcomes of this trial. The good news is that Heathrow airport are unconvinced about the benefits of mixed mode operations, describing it as “a lot of pain for not much gain”. In our fight to maintain runway alternation and the critical half day’s respite it provides local residents from aircraft noise, this is welcome news indeed.
 
The Government has also set up an independent Airports Commission, headed by Sir Howard Davies to look into the scale and timing of any requirement for additional aviation capacity in the UK.  The Airports Commission is due to present interim findings by the end of this year.  Last week, I had two key meetings to discuss the work of the Airports Commission.

Firstly, I organised a cross-party meeting of west London MPs to meet the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP and the Aviation Minister, the Rt Hon Simon Burns MP to ensure that the combined voices of residents from west London are being heard. Secondly, I met with Sir Davies to discuss the progress and timing of the Airports Commission and, in particular, whether the interim report will clarify fully the preferred option for future aviation development.
 
I am also delighted to be working with fellow MP from Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith to hold a Heathrow Mega Rally to say no to further expansion of Heathrow. This will be a visible and vocal display to the Government of the scale of opposition there is to further expansion at Heathrow. The event will take place on Saturday 27th April at Barn Elms from 9:30 to 10:30am and I would urge as many of you as possible to come along to support this event. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London will join us at the event and be the first to cast his vote against Heathrow expansion. Please contact my office on 020 7219 7023 if you need more information or directions.
 
Last month, I spoke at a meeting of Bedford Park residents on the issue of Heathrow expansion and listened to a fascinating presentation on the proposal for the Thames Hub Estuary airport. I also visited Terminal 2 at Heathrow to view the progress being made towards the opening of the new terminal. Terminal 2 is due for completion in 2014 and brings with it the potential for up to 38% more passengers without a single extra flight – if the existing flight slots and capacity are managed more efficiently.
 
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the Department for Transport's Night Flights consultation currently underway and encourage you to take part in this ahead of the deadline on 22nd April (details can be found at www.gov.uk ).

The consultation document is very technical in nature, however I have been assured by the Secretary of State for Transport that the second phase of the consultation (expected towards the end of this year) will encourage a broader range of views from residents affected by night time noise. I firmly believe the time is right to take action on night time noise from aircraft and I will continue to campaign for a ban on night flights at Heathrow.