High Court blocks Heathrow from imposing fees on Crossrail trains

The High Court has this week upheld a ruling made by the ORR to stop Heathrow charging TfL to run Elizabeth Line trains through the airport.

Last week, RTM reported that Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) was attempting to impose fees amounting to around £47m per year to run services on the Heathrow Express, something that was threatening to stop Elizabeth Line trains running through the airport altogether.

This is despite the fact that a year ago, the ORR ruled that Heathrow should not be able to charge Crossrail to run on the service, a decision which HAL then took to the High Court to try and resolve.

But now the ruling has sided with the rail regulator and stopped HAL from imposing the charges, opening the doors for Crossrail services to run through Heathrow as planned.

A spokesperson for the ORR said: “As the independent regulator for the UK’s railways, we have a statutory role in ensuring charges to run trains on relevant networks are underpinned by evidence and comply with legal requirements.

“In May 2016, taking into account representations and evidence from affected parties, including considerable documentation and submissions from Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL), we decided HAL is not permitted to introduce all of its proposed new charges for train operators to use its track, which links Heathrow ‎Airport to the Great Western Main Line. ‎

“HAL launched a judicial review of our decision and after a three-day hearing, the court has dismissed HAL’s application and upheld our decision. We welcome this judgment and we will now work with all the affected parties to enable Crossrail services to start running as scheduled into the airport.”

Howard Smith, TfL’s operations director for the Elizabeth Line, who wrote for the latest edition of RTM, said: “We welcome the court’s judgment to uphold the ORR’s original decision on the charging levels for Elizabeth Line services to Heathrow.”

He also stated that TfL was now looking forward to working with Heathrow and concluding final details of access arrangements for the Elizabeth Line trains.

“The Elizabeth Line will transform rail transport in London cutting journey times across the city, boosting jobs and economic growth,” he concluded.

A Heathrow spokesperson said that the airport was disappointed with the decision, but was still committed to improving links to the airport and working with Crossrail.

“Heathrow is committed to increasing sustainable public transport to the airport – that’s why we invested in Crossrail, built the Heathrow Express rail service, support Piccadilly Line services to the airport, and subsidise Europe’s largest free bus network,” the spokesperson explained.

“We are looking forward to the arrival of Crossrail in May 2018 as part of our plans to treble Heathrow’s rail capacity by 2040 and put the airport at the heart of an integrated transport network in London.

“While we are disappointed with today’s ruling and are considering our next steps, both Heathrow and Network Rail agree that track access charges must be fair to encourage future private investment in the rail network.”

Top Image: Warren Rohner

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J, Leicester   30/05/2017 at 12:17

Good. Heathrow is a greedy-enough juggernaut as it is. What right have they to charge track access on what is still ultimately Network Rail property? Well, none, as it turns out. All the charge would have done is stopped an additional stream of passengers into the airport anyway. It's almost as if Heathrow doesn't actually want additional passenger revenue to help pay for their third runway.

G, London   30/05/2017 at 12:45

J from Leicester - you're incorrect in stating that it is Network Rail property; it belongs to HAL and maintained by NR in loose terms. So HEx/HAL built the network and now expect some compensation (perhaps £47m p.a. is a bit steep though!) for running on it.

Lutz   30/05/2017 at 12:47

The wrong decision which will have implications for future capital investment in rail infrastructure.

Dan Livingstone   30/05/2017 at 12:58

Another adventure in the life of a legal fiction...

Mark Hare   30/05/2017 at 13:53

@G and @J - actually a certain Mr Brunel built most of the line that HEX uses to get to the airport with only the last 5 miles from Airport Junction being privately funded and built by BAA. I note the article states "HAL is not permitted to introduce ALL of its proposed new charges" so how much is it permitted to charge? I assume NR will be charging Crossrail their own rate for track access, will charges to the airport be in line with these figures?

Mikeb   30/05/2017 at 15:00

@Mark Hare - as an open access operator, HEx is undoubtedly charged a considerable sum for running over Network Rail lines into Paddington. Surely therefore Heathrow Airport Ltd is entitled to ask for payments from TOCs to operated on their privately owned line from Airport Junction.

Mark Hare   30/05/2017 at 15:30

@Mikeb I quite agree. HAL should indeed be entitled to access fees from other operators using its line to the Airport. However the ORR apparently feels the amount they were asking (£47m per year) was excessive. I wonder what they and the High Court consider a suitable sum?

J, Leicester   30/05/2017 at 16:29

Apologies, guess I was misinformed. I still think it's plain daft for any part of the national network, unless it's entirely self-contained (I'm thinking TfL lines, T&W Metro, that sort of thing), to be separately owned. It seems the High Court share that opinion. If Heathrow Airport have a gripe about it, why don't they build their own personal rail link to London with their seemingly bottomless pit of money and charge what they want for the privilege of operating on it? It's what any Victorian entrepreneur worth his salt would have done, though I vouch he'd have got it done in a matter of years rather than decades!

Thames Valley Rail User   30/05/2017 at 17:07

About time HAL was prevented from imposing charges. HAL is in non-UK company, so eject the owners and get it back under UK management. Now we need the link to Reading completed at standard fares, HEX is no longer needed - electric services do away with the need. Also tightens security at the airport.

Huguenot   30/05/2017 at 18:19

I'm inclined to side with Lutz. HAL will be able to levy track access charges on the train operator (Crossrail) but not additional charges to help repay the capital investment in constructing the Heathrow Spur in the first place. The trouble is that HAL were trying to be too greedy and, if they had scaled down their demands, they might have got away with it. But the fact is that HAL built the spur with their own money and if all and sundry had had access to the line from the start, it wouldn't have got built at all as the financial return would not have been sufficient.

Neil Palmer   30/05/2017 at 18:41

HEX not Needed? You want the only heavy rail to Heathrow to be an all stations stopper?

Mikeb   30/05/2017 at 19:12

@Thames Valley Rail User - Heathrow Airport may be owned by a consortium of Spanish companies but, in this day and age, it does not matter. The day-to-day management of HAL is British and it is they who will have attempted to impose high access costs.

Andrew Gwilt   30/05/2017 at 19:59

Well thats Heathrow Connect soon to be adsorbed as part of the Elizabeth Line and Heathrow Express could end their non-stop Direct London Paddington-Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 Direct non-stop service & Heathrow Central-Terminal 5 Shuttle service because of the Elizabeth Line will be taking over and the Elizabeth Line could operate to Terminal 5 as well to Terminal 4. Once the HX franchise expires.

Jukebox   30/05/2017 at 21:26

HAL appears to be rather worried that their license to print money (named HEX) is going to run dry as soon as Crossrail starts operating. This is because, for the first time, there will be a competitor in terms of value for money because of the high frequency and the direct journey to the City and Canary Wharf. If Crossrail becomes popular then no doubt the UK flagship airlines at T5 will demand for this to run to 'their' terminal as well. The HEX concession is running out in 2023 and it remains to be seen whether there will be an extension in the current format. What happened now appears to be an attempt to recover some of HEX's revenue losses at best, if not to force TfL to charge a premium fare or even run fewer Crossrail trains to Heathrow. Thank god ORR and the high court saw through this - great decision for London. The cost for building the Heathrow spur is a complete red herring as those spread sheets have been run long time before the train service operating on Crossrail was drawn up, and therefore HAL could not seriously claim to rely on this revenue stream.

Mark Hare   31/05/2017 at 13:04

@Andrew Gwilt more nonsense from you. Why would HEX stop operating to Heathrow? Plenty of people will still want to use a non-stop service, even after Crossrail starts running trains to the airport.

Chrism   01/06/2017 at 01:10

By the time Crossrail starts running to the airport HAL will have had almost 23 years of fare income from the very expensive HEX operation to have repaid their initial capital investment in their infrastructure from Airport Jcn to T4, I think that is long enough - and Crossrail means they will no longer have the expense of running the shuttle service to T4. Of greater concern to the British taxpayer is the fact that the lightly loaded 100mph HEX trains use up valuable paths to/from Paddington, in fact at least five 125mph paths. With the new IEP stock this will represent a wasted opportunity to provide over 3,000 seats an hour (each way), If rail passenger growth continues, those premium airport shuttles may have to be eradicated.

Andrew Gwilt   01/06/2017 at 21:14

Oh please. Me talking nonsense. @Mark Hare. Just ignore what I say ok or dont mention me ok Mark.

Trevor Bishop   02/06/2017 at 21:18

I wonder what HAL charged for the Great Western run Heathrow Connect services (I'm guessing they were charged a fee commensurate with the service frequency)?

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