Fares, rail policy and DfT news

04.01.19

Ambitious £10bn plans for Gatwick Heathrow HS4Air rail service rejected

Plans to build a new £10bn high-speed rail service connecting HS1 with HS2 via Gatwick and Heathrow airports have been rejected by the DfT.

The ambitious plans would see passengers able to travel between Heathrow and Gatwick in under 25 minutes compared to the current one hour 45-minute journey, connecting the existing high-speed rail line in Ashford to the planned HS2 project along the route.

The new £10bn railway service proposal has been dubbed the ‘M25 for the high-speed trains’ and was submitted by engineering consultancy Expedition earlier this year after the DfT called for ideas for a new Heathrow southern rail link.

But the DfT has reportedly turned down the proposal, primarily over concerns about the affordability and that it would likely face issues because the proposed route will run across greenbelt land.

The ‘HS4Air’ scheme would have seen a 140km route start at Ashford in Kent and run south of London via the two airports before connecting with HS2 and the Great Western Mainline— connecting Kent to major cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Cardiff without passengers having to travel through the capital.

The director of Expedition, Alistair Lenczner, said the company was “disappointed and perplexed” that the plans had been rejected and called it a “premature rejection of proposals without allowing us to show evidence.”

He commented: “We got a response from the DfT saying it didn’t want to engage any further without allowing us to demonstrate a business case.”

Lenczner said that most of the rail line was going to be in tunnels, ensuring the impact to open green areas was limited and less than the Lower Thames Crossing.

He said: “We’re trying to encourage people to get out of cars and use more sustainable modes of transport and the HS4Air would have contributed to that.

“We have had lots of messages of support who are also utterly gobsmacked that it has been rejected at this stage.

He added that “we don’t intend to back down,” and said the engineering company plans to challenge the DfT’s decision.

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