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‘Major improvement’ needed in rail links to airports following Heathrow decision

better rail links to all of the capital’s airports, London TravelWatch has said.

The government announced the controversial and substantially delayed decision today, with transport secretary Chris Grayling saying it “delivers the greatest economic and strategic benefits”.

But the transport watchdog said the decision should be followed by substantial improvements to rail links in London, including direct rail links from South London, North West Surrey and the Thames Valley to Heathrow Airport, and prioritising electrification of the North Downs rail route, which serves Gatwick.

Stephen Locke, chair of London TravelWatch, added: “Now that the government has made a decision on extra capacity, plans will be needed for a major step change improvement in public transport infrastructure.

“Current links just aren't good enough for current demand levels, let alone those projected in future.”

Locke’s comments echo findings in a Transport Select Committee report published in February, which argued that the government should provide better rail links to airports – including by utilising the extra capacity of HS2.

London TravelWatch added that in the shorter term, incremental improvements at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton should be used to make better use of increasing capacity.

Luton Airport said yesterday that the new East Midlands franchise should include a requirement for four express train services an hour to the airport. In contrast, Govia Thameslink Railway announced last week that it will cancel 33 Gatwick Express services a day until 12 December to cope with autumn-related delays.

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

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Andrew Gwilt   25/10/2016 at 17:41

By saying about Heathrow Airport that will soon have a 3rd runway to be built. There has also been possible plans to built the new Terminal 6 that will have a new terminal and new railway station that will have rail links such as MTR Crossrail Elizabeth Line, London Underground Piccadilly Line and National Rail (South West Trains and Heathrow Express). Plus the DC 750v 3rd Rail electrification of the North Downs rail route (Reading-Guildford-Redhill-Gatwick line) that will see GWR Class 387/1's to take over the Class 165's and there has also been proposed plans to build a 2nd runway at Gatwick Airport.

Lutz   25/10/2016 at 22:58

Is their assertion correct? There are always empty seats on the trains to Heathrow on the various lines and times of travel. The problem may be that rail travel is just too inconvenient and unreliable if you are travelling with bags n' suitcases along with a need to be there on time. Perhaps making the trains run to timetable would be a more effective step than demanding additional infrastructure investment.

J, Leicester   26/10/2016 at 12:26

The rail service to East Midlands isn't the problem (it's a single-purpose station without any other real uses) - it's the pathetic links between the station and the airport itself. The original bus service was withdrawn within a year of the station opening due to being uneconomic, and though a second service has since sprung up, it is in the form of a rattly minibus - hardly a good advert for the Airport! The other alternative is to take one of the sporadic, expensive taxis that may show up every now and again - though again, few bother given the low turnover. HS2 is planned to burrow underneath East Midlands Airport at great expense and head to a station at Toton. I can't help thinking that placing the station for the East Midlands within the developing EM Gateway project adjacent to the airport would be a better bet - then East Midlands Parkway could either be earmarked as an area for residential development and become a focal point for a new commuter belt, or gracefully retired as the white elephant it currently is. If we must persist with EM Parkway as the link to the airport, it needs a dedicated system between it and the terminal - either a tramway, guided bus network or a conventional bus service that is a franchise commitment for the operator to prevent its withdrawal.

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