The transport ministry has wilfully misinformed parliament and the people over the negative consequences of a bigger Schiphol, the Volkskrant reports on Monday.
During the last twenty years subsequent transport ministers have consistently used their influence to play down the effects of the airport’s growth particularly where an increase in noise levels and safety issues were concerned, the paper says.
Researchers were pressurised into altering offending results while others were left out altogether.
Research into Schiphol political decision making between 1990 and 2009 carried out by TU Delft’s Menno Huys and Jan Anne Annema shows that any information that could have resulted in a ban on the airport’s growth was systematically ‘prevented, marginalised, rewritten or used selectively’.
‘We are not really surprised about politicians manipulating information for their own ends, especially when they are dealing with a big infrastructure project like Schiphol’, says Annema. ‘But what did surprise us was that they had such a big say in the information production of third parties’.
According to Huys and Annema researchers seldom protest publicly against the manipulation of their findings. ‘The transport ministry is an important source of income for many research bureaus. It is best not to bite the hand that feeds you. University departments are increasingly financially dependent on this sort of research assignments as well’, says Huys.
For their report Huys and Annema talked to some fifty key ministry figures. ‘We came across some weird stuff,’ Huys says. ‘Like a researcher who was told by the ministry to change his final conclusion. If not, the bill wouldn’t be paid.’
Professor of safety and contingency planning Ben Ale has been involved in several Schiphol studies and confirms the findings in the Volkskrant.
‘It was always the same, no matter who the minister was. The transport ministry only ever selected information that supported the growth of the airport. Anything that didn’t was ignored, or parliament was given other figures,’ he told the paper.
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