Heathrow’s Southern Rail access moves ahead

Heathrow Southern Railway Ltd has welcomed the invitation for proposals for new privately financed rail access to the airport. Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling stated that a southern route into Britain’s busiest airport is one of the first projects for which the Government is seeking market-led proposals to improve the rail network. HSRL’s plans involve eight miles of new track leading into the existing station beneath Terminal 5, which was constructed with additional space for future platforms. This would enable trains from Waterloo via Clapham, Richmond and Staines, as well as a link to Woking and Guildford.

Unlike previous schemes, trains would continue beyond Heathrow, offering passengers from Surrey and Hampshire connections to Old Oak Common for HS2 and the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail), and into Paddington. It would also open the possibility of direct Heathrow and Paddington services from Basingstoke and the South Coast.

HSRL Chairman Baroness Jo Valentine said: “We welcome the invitation and stand ready to fulfil this once-in-a-generation opportunity to open up Heathrow to train services from London and the south of England, while also transforming connectivity across the whole region.

“We want to put many more communities within easy reach of the UK’s only hub airport by train, while at the same time reducing road congestion and improving air quality.”

HSRL Executive Director Graham Cross added: “The work carried out by AECOM and the rest of our expert team confirms it is viable, deliverable and affordable. HSRL will now prepare to submit its proposal for a new rail link.”

The Government’s draft Airports National Policy Statement requires Heathrow to maximise the proportion of journeys made by public transport. The target is 50% by 2030 and at least 55% by 2040. HSRL says the route is viable whether or not a third runway is constructed, as many of the passengers would be passing through the airport rather than beginning or ending journeys there. It would also be used extensively by airport and airline employees.

Local campaign groups have previously criticised the lack of robust Government plans relating to air quality and road and rail provision around the airport. The Department for Transport will publish final proposals for the third runway this year, for a vote in Parliament.

If approved, Heathrow would then submit a planning application. It hopes to begin construction in 2021, with the runway completed at the end of 2025.