BAA have called it quits on their 12-year-old Airtrack proposal and will now investigate alternative rail connections for Heathrow.
Airtrack was a proposed southerly link from Heathrow, designed to go under Terminal 5 (which wasn’t built when the plans started, and where platforms now stand ready) and connect to Reading, Guildford and Waterloo via a new stretch of track from the airport to the existing network at Staines.
The plans ran into trouble as the badly engineered Windsor Lines from Waterloo are already packed with trains and dotted with level crossings, which would have been down for extra traffic-clogging minutes if the scheme had proceeded (uber-geek level info on this here, courtesy of London Reconnections). Early estimates expected 13 million passengers to use the link per year, removing 5,000 car journeys from the M25 and M4 from each rush hour. BAA attempted to ease this problem by funding other congestion improvements, making a £12m deal with Surrey Council last year.
Issues at other sites could not be resolved and government funding for the scheme has been withdrawn so the airport operator has chosen other alternatives to increase rail access to Heathrow. A new Wider Heathrow Integrated Rail Strategy (WHIRS) will be produced to look at integrating Crossrail and HS2 into the airports operations, while retaining the Heathrow Express and seeking alternative links to the South and West.
It’s sad that the links thorough south west London can’t go ahead, they would be hugely useful for a large area of the capital, but understandable local objections kept this one in the holding pattern until the money ran out.