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New runway plan for Heathrow includes improved rail links

The plan to build a third runway at Heathrow recommended by the Airport Commission includes several proposed rail upgrades – but no HS2 spur.

The panel, led by economist Sir Howard Davies, finally handed down its decision earlier this week, after three years of work to finally settle the controversy over where airport expansion in the south east should take place.

Sir Howard insisted that a new runway at Heathrow would deliver the greatest benefits to the UK.

It could generate up to £147bn for the economy over 60 years and 70,000 new jobs by 2050, he said.

However, at a cost of £17.6bn, it is also the most expensive and politically contentious of the three shortlisted options, with prominent government ministers, environmentalists, MPs of all parties and London mayor Boris Johnson all opposing the scheme.

Heathrow diagram

The report says that if the runway were to be built major rail upgrades, costing around £5bn, would be needed in order to cope with the surge in demand.

Some of these projects, such as Crossrail, are already in progress; however a HS2 spur at Old Oak Common was ruled out.

“The work carried out demonstrated that the scheme was likely to attract only a small number of passengers, carry a high capital cost and represent an inefficient use of HS2 capacity,” the report said.

It does, however, support the proposed Western Rail Link. This would provide a new rail link into the site from the west, converting the existing rail spur from the Great Western Main Line into a loop and allowing for direct services to the airport from Reading.

760 939 map

A Southern Rail Access link was also recommended, connecting the airport to Waterloo as well as areas of west London which currently have poor public transport access.

The report states that Network Rail is currently carrying out a review into the case and options for such a link.

A diagram of the surface transport links also suggests that the Piccadilly Line could be upgraded but no details are given in the report.

(Picture by: Warren Rohner)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Nonsuchmike   06/07/2015 at 15:13

As much as I would love to see Heathrow with an improved rail service, particularly to/from the south and the north, I am just shaking my head at these fancifully inane reports about the siting of another Runway. The obvious answer is to knock down most of Hounslow and Harlington to build two more runways there. But this will not happen so near to the core of London itself. We do not need a vast increase in the number of planes landing and taking off - we need better use of the flights that already exist, some of which take off virtually empty. The clear plan should be to develop regional airports for the tourist trade adn internal flights, whilst building a second runway @ Stansted to the ENE of the existing runway and extending the rail line through to the east as well as the west and the HS lines. Once that has started, then embark on the second runway to the south of the existing one @ Gatwick, and make it a condition of development that a rail line is built to connect it to Heathrow and also to HS1 & 2. All of this could be achieved for the same cost, give or take a billion, as expanding LHR and giving it a viable transport system fit for the 21st Century. I live half way between the two major London airports, so we get traffic right by our road from both, especially when the Motorway is closed for any reason. Chaos. Put people & freight back on the railways, please.

Les F   07/07/2015 at 23:44

Firstly, Howard Davies panel has not "handed down its decision" because they had no decision to make. They have made recommendations. The government will make the decision. Secondly, there is no need for a new runway at H'row. As Nonsuchmike says, many aircraft are under-utilised because airlines cling to their landing slots. The short-term solution is to send the smaller aircraft from H'row to Northolt, with a new east-west runway. This will take 20-30% of the flights and 10-15% of the passengers out of H'row, freeing up the precious landing slots for larger aircraft. H'row and Northolt should be linked by joining the H'row and Uxbridge branches of the Piccadilly line into a loop so all Piccadilly trains go round the loop instead of reversing at T5 or at Uxbridge. Northolt airport to have a new station on the Piccadilly/Metropolitan line. The Piccadilly services that currently go to Uxbridge to be replaced by Central line services that currently turn back at West Ruislip, as proposed by Hillingdon Council. The third service at Northolt will be the existing Metropolitan line and the fourth will be an airport shuttle consisting of 3 sections; one for fare-paying passengers, one for airside air passengers, and one for checked in baggage. This rail service will make H'row and Northolt into a single hub, 5 minutes apart. Thirdly, in the longer term, Gatwick's proposed new runway is acceptable to the locals (unlike H'row R3) and will also operate in combination with H'row when the two airports are linked by a new railway. That railway can also form the relief for the Brighton line (BML2). H'row needs better rail access. This can be achieved by extending the tracks from T5 to Staines and to GWML. No need for any new stations or tunnels, or for a remote "hub" needing a change of train to get to H'row; the rail capacity at H'row will be transformed when terminating services are replaced by through services.

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