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Better rail links needed to meet aviation demand – Airports Commission

The Airports Commission’s interim report includes recommendations to improve rail links to Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

The government should work on developing proposals to improve the rail link between London and Stansted, provide rail access into Heathrow from the south and introduce smart ticketing facilities at airport stations.

A southern link for Heathrow could benefit up to 15% of Heathrow’s passengers in the London and South East area, the commission says.

Rail links into Heathrow have long been a controversial subject. Heathrow Airtrack, a scheme to provide southern services to the airport, was abandoned in 2011, following lengthy consultation. But a final route for plans to provide western rail access to Heathrow (the WRaTH project) is expected to be announced by the end of the year.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We welcome the Airports Commission's recommendation that the Government should look into a southern rail link to Heathrow, as well as confirmation of the commitment to connect Heathrow with the Great Western Line.

“A direct connection from the south has the potential to improve public transport journey times for millions of people living in places like Surrey, Hampshire and South London, reinforcing the fact that Heathrow is already in the best place for the UK's only hub airport. We look forward to working with the government and Network Rail on this exciting project.”

The Airports Commission report recommends that the government should work with Network Rail and TfL on a detailed study of the route between London and Stansted, including serious consideration of four-tracking the line as far as Broxbourne Junction.

The report states: “Any steps to enhance the Stansted Express service through regularising or reducing journey times and improving reliability will help the airport to play an enhanced role in supporting London and the UK’s international connectivity.”

Options to connect Stansted Airport to a wider range of London destinations should also be developed, with an emphasis on making better use of connection facilities available at Starford domestic station.

The commission also supports a “significant enhancement” of Gatwick Airport, to make it more accessible. The report says: “The Government should pursue an ambitious (circa £180m) option for enhancing the station through the construction of a new concourse and ticket hall with enhanced access to platforms, subject to the airport providing an appropriate contribution to the costs of the scheme.”

There is a need to improve the suitability of Gatwick Express rolling stock for airport users, including additional luggage space. Work to provide a detailed plan for the enhancement of the Brighton Main Line should be accelerated to improve capacity and reliability and accommodate growth on both rail and air.

The commission considered whether HS2 could solve the airport capacity problem, but forecasts show a “relatively small reduction” in domestic demand, as well as an increase in passengers flying to international destinations from the UK as HS2 increases the catchment area of UK airports.

In terms of the rest of the UK, the report sets out support for the Northern Hub rail project and Birmingham Gateway, and calls for the government to explore light-rail options to improve access to Glasgow Airport.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Ricp   26/12/2013 at 17:47

This link should have been one of the conditions for T5, and the constant argument over level crossings on the Staines route, made 'things difficult. How new links might traverse the central area of Staines, which involved building a new railway viaduct over a car park, in short, not a real problem!

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