Heathrow Southern Rail needed ‘with or without third runway’

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The Heathrow Southern Railway (HSR) bid does not need a third runway at Heathrow Airport to be viable, its chief executive has said.

HSR chief executive Graham Cross said it was neither for or against a third runway, adding that its proposition for the line was needed to resolve capacity issues even if Heathrow Airport’s expansion bid was turned down.

Cross said that the new route, which is proposed to run from Heathrow Airport to Chertsey, provided much needed connectivity and faster journey times from Staines, Hounslow, Brentford, Richmond and Wandsworth.

He also said, “uniquely” the HSR link built a “missing link” in the rail network enabling Surrey and Hampshire to have direct trains to Paddington and to Old Oak Common, creating “previously unimagined” connections to the Elizabeth and HS2 lines.

“This scheme will reduce congestion on road and other rail services and relieve the burden on tax payers by using private sector funding this vital new piece of infrastructure.

“It will provide a modal shift from road to rail, improving air quality.”

The project has been backed by a range of MPs including from each of the three main parties. Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Baroness Jenny Randerson said that although her party is against building a third runway, it did support the new railway scheme.

“We are against the third runway,” she said. “That opposition is largely based on environmental concerns and it hinges on the fact that this is an area with a very dense population and therefore the new runway would be very inconvenient.

“Now, for all of those reasons, I am extremely supportive of schemes like this which improve the public infrastructure and take people out of their cars. To me this is a totally laudable scheme.”

Last week, HSR revealed that it had spent £1M developing its scheme, but still had no guarantees from the government as to when a decision would be made.

A decision on whether the third runway proposal should go ahead or not is expected to be taken before the 26 June after transport secretary Chris Grayling backed the project earlier this month.

Should it get the green light from government to proceed, HSR hope to open the new line by 2027. In addition to the southern route, Network Rail has also proposed a western rail link into the airport on which it is calling final responses to its public consultation.

The current six week consultation closes on the 22 June. Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) is relying on the two rail schemes to help meet its target of a 50% public transport journey share by 2030, a requirement for expansion.