New rail link planned for Heathrow T5

6 Mar 2008 by Mark Caswell

By 2014 passengers living in wide areas to the south and west of London should have easier rail access to Heathrow, meaning they will no longer have to head to Paddington for the Heathrow Express or use the current rail-air bus links from Woking and Reading.

Plans call for a new Airtrack service, which will see six trains an hour operate direct to Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 by means of a new five-kilometre spur line, which will be constructed off the existing over-ground line linking Waterloo and Staines.

Speaking at a recent rail industry meeting in London, Brian Raven, managing director of Heathrow Express, revealed that £5 million in funding has already been committed to the new product. Consultation has already started, with the eventual cost being £350 to £400 million.

According to Raven, Airtrack is expected to operate the following services every hour:

- Two trains from Waterloo (via Clapham Junction and Richmond).
- Two trains from Guilford (for connections from the south coast) via Woking (for connections from the west).
- Two trains from Reading via Bracknell (for connections from Swindon, Bath, Bristol, Wales and the West Country).

Airtrack will increase the likelihood that passengers who may previously have considered using regional airports like Southampton, Bristol or Cardiff, will be drawn to using Heathrow instead.

Heathrow airport-operator BAA estimates that within a couple of years of opening, Airtrack will be carrying 3.2 million passengers a year. Trains will share T5’s dedicated six-platform station with the existing services operated by Heathrow Express and Piccadilly tube trains.

Airtrack (whose operator has yet to be decided) will serve only T5 at Heathrow. Because of lack of rail capacity at the other terminals, passengers bound for the central area (T123) will have to change at T5, while those for T4 will have to change twice, once at T5 and again at the central area T123.

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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