Third runway should be opportunity to create Heathrow ‘rail hub’

Any expansion at Heathrow Airport should be accompanied by an expansion of rail services, Greengauge 21 has said.

In a blog post following the government’s announcement that it has finally made the decision to allow the third runway at Heathrow, the organisation said the airport should have several direct rail services, following the success of a similar approach in Manchester.

It also said that Heathrow lags behind European airports such as Amsterdam’s Schiphol, CDG Paris and Frankfurt in terms of its rail links, with an “inefficient” rail structure that was created as a result of “incremental” decisions.

The blog post said: “It is clear that regardless of the debate around the value of Heathrow as an air hub, it is time to recognise Heathrow’s role as a rail hub. This isn’t just a rail network nicety. It means that the case for creating the necessary infrastructure is not something to insist on the airport owner alone providing, because the rich mix of M25-style rail journeys and benefits that a rail hub will bring come regardless of whether Heathrow gets a third runway.

“The funding mix needs to reflect this point. And planning should not be delayed, because it is important that development plans for the airport’s third runway do not inhibit the rational development of surface transport west of London, which if it is to succeed, will rely on a hub rail facility at Heathrow.”

Greengauge 21 argued that the airport should provide rail links to the immediate areas in its flight path, but also be a destination for hourly services from Cornwall/Devon and Somerset; South Wales and Bristol; the West Midlands and Oxford; and the East Midlands.

Shortly following the Heathrow announcement, London TravelWatch said there should be a “major improvement” in local rail links to the capital’s airports.

(Image c. Yui Mok from PA Wire and PA Images)

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Huguenot   27/10/2016 at 18:26

Greengauge21 is right to this extent, that the rail service to Heathrow should be considerably expanded, with the Western Rail Link giving direct access to Reading and points W and N thereof, and also the SW link via Staines. Permission for Heathrow expansion should be contingent upon these links being provided. Where I would disagree with Greengauge is this: the Airport operator should make a substantial financial contribution ( 50%) towards the cost of these links. The 3rd runway will have a huge impact on surface access and the airport should pay the costs of mitigation.

Andrew Gwilt   28/10/2016 at 00:52

With a 3rd runway to be built could also see Heathrow Terminal 6 to be built and the 5 other terminals to be renamed (Terminals A, B, C, D, E & F) or renumbered (Terminals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6). Unless terminal 1 isn't there no more or terminal 1 is having refurbishment along with terminals 2 & 3 to also be refurbished.

Jimbo   28/10/2016 at 10:14

@Andrew Gwilt - Heathrow T6 is an integral part of the plans for the 3rd runway. T1 has been demolished to make way for a larger T2, and the long term plans show T3 being demolished for further expansion of T2, although that may now get delayed if the emphasis is on the 3rd runway and T6.

Graham Nalty   28/10/2016 at 13:23

Greengauge is right to suggest that we should build a rail hub at Heathrow. Now that the decision has been taken to add a runway, we should seriously consider what is needed. Gatwick airport station serves 17 million rail passengers a year, but has only half the number air passengers as Heathrow, so to cater for the likely demand Heathrow needs a station capable of handing more passengers than either Birmingham new Street or Leeds. As such it should be one of the largest nodes on the rail network outside central London. Because Heathrow is the only UK airport for many long distance destinations, it does need to be connected by fast rail services to all UK cities not having connecting flights. It also needs to be much better connected in 360 degree axes by rail to all major towns within a 50-100 mile radius that use Heathrow as their 'local' airport. And that is only the start of defining the challenge to make Heathrow accessible by rail.

John Grant   28/10/2016 at 13:44

For most people outside London, Heathrow is easier to access by road than by train, whereas the opposite is true of Gatwick. So if Heathrow does go ahead (and we've been here before a few times in the last 50 years, so I won't hold my breath) a dramatic improvement in rail access will be needed if it's to meet the environmental conditions, which effectively require it to generate no more road traffic than at present.

Graham Nalty   28/10/2016 at 15:05

John Grant makes the valid point that for most people outside London it is easier to access Heathrow by car. That may be reasonable if you live within about 50 miles, but for longer distances, and that includes most large cities in the midlands and north, a train journey is far more pleasant than driving and avoids very high parking charges for a long trip by air. Certainly I feel discouraged from using Heathrow because of the need for a long car journey.

Andrew Gwilt   28/10/2016 at 17:30

I can imagine if the new Terminal 6 could be built starting from 2018 and completed in 2022 which will take about 4 years to be built along with new terminal bays, railway station with connections with Crossrail, National Rail and London Underground and a new spur road that will link from M25 to the new Terminal 6.

David Moloney   29/10/2016 at 10:09

For a 3D animation, that shows, the construction methods and sequence to build a runway and tunnel. Click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EldsPYjHplg

Jimbo   30/10/2016 at 12:56

It could be argued that more people use rail to Gatwick, because it is so much harder to access by road for most people. Heathrow is next to the M25 and so easily accessible from the M3, M4, M40 and M1, whereas Gatwick requires a longer trip around London and down the M23. Not saying that rail improvements aren't needed at Heathrow, just that Gatwick perhaps isn't the best comparison. Birmingham International is probably a closer match for ease of access. Good Road and Rail access are needed, not one or the other.

John Grant   30/10/2016 at 15:23

However, it would appear that Heathrow needs a modal shift away from road to meet its environmental targets. BTW Thameslink makes a big difference for Gatwick, at least for access from mid-Anglia: the trains go through London, by car you have to go round.

Thames Valley Resident   02/11/2016 at 12:58

If you live in London, LHR by train is easy, coming from Reading either the coach link, or mess about at Hayes. What is needed FAST, never mind T6, is the link in from the west, and a fast-non-stop service from LHR terminals direct to LGW. That way both airports could work much better together. May be HS2 can be branched to do this

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