London Stansted’s boss is calling for the return of four trains per hour between the airport and London, as passenger numbers near pre-pandemic levels.

Managing director Gareth Powell says the restoration of rail services is “key to delivering vital sustainability targets and supporting the airport’s growth plans”.

The frequency of Stansted Express trains to London Liverpool Street station halved to two per hour during the pandemic due to the drop in passenger numbers.

London Stansted says that more than 50 per cent of passengers travelled to or from the airport by bus, coach or train in 2019, a figure that Powell described as “an impressive record, and one I intend to protect”.

The latest CAA modal share data, however, shows an 11 per cent decline in the use of rail as a proportion of all trips to the airport in comparison to pre-pandemic figures.

Stansted says that the reduced frequency has “made rail less appealing and less convenient” for both passengers and staff, leading many to switch to private cars or taxis.

In a speech at this week’s annual Transport Forum, held at the airport’s Radisson Blu Hotel, Powell said:

“Now the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, we’re fast returning to 2019 volumes, and we therefore need a higher frequency, more convenient rail service, the likes of which serve the other major London airports.

“This will also enable us to deliver the most sustainable recovery possible, encouraging more passengers back onto trains and out of private cars, in line with a key pillar of the Government’s recent aviation strategy.”

After the event, Powell spoke of the airport’s plans with regards to sustainability.

“Our future plans and ambitions for sustainable growth, including the whole aviation sector achieving net zero by 2050, are clearly matched by our business partners, as we have heard loud and clear today.

“National Express and Greater Anglia are committed to doing all they can to support our sustainability agenda and drive down emissions as much as possible, while our work with Arcadis to develop a ULEV strategy for the airport will be critical to our success.

‘All our partners are primed and ready to do their bit – we know Greater Anglia, for example, have the infrastructure, quality rolling stock, the necessary resources and high passenger demand. We just now need government agreement to push the button on four trains an hour.”