Government plans £500m western rail link to Heathrow

Justine Greening may have delayed the decision on the future of the UK as an aviation hub, but the Transport Secretary has announced plans for a £500 million rail line linking Heathrow with the west.

The travel industry reacted with dismay to the news the government has delayed the results of its consultation on expanding airport capacity in the south-east to the autumn (see online news July 12).

Announcing the delay Greening said that “A separate call for evidence on how to maintain the UK’s international connectivity and hub status will follow later in the year once the industry has had time to consider the measures put forward for consultation today”.

Those measures include:

  • £500 million towards a western rail link to Heathrow, which it is claimed will reduce journeys between south Wales and the airport by up to 30 minutes. However the project will be “subject to a satisfactory business case and the agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry”.
  • Further liberalisation of the UK aviation market to encourage foreign airlines to develop routes from airports other than Heathrow.
  • Improving efficiency at the border, including a review of the UK’s visa regime, bringing forward the recruitment of 70 additional border staff at Heathrow and working with the US authorities to look at the options for speeding up entry into the US.
  • Supporting the introduction of new rules by airport operators to maximise their existing capacity, for example through limiting access to smaller aircraft.

The statement also said that the government would continue with measures aimed at “Improving reliability and reducing delays at Heathrow”.

Recent trials have included the relaxing of mixed mode restrictions (allowing runways to be used for both take offs and landings), and Greening said that “If operational freedoms show clear benefits in terms of resilience, reducing delays and allowing planes to land more effectively, thereby reducing the impact of noise for residents under the flight path, then the Government will consult on making these benefits permanent”.

To join in the discussion on the merits of a third runway at Heathrow, a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and the expansion of other London airports, visit our forum.

Report by Mark Caswell


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