Heathrow Link to Waterloo Plan Abandoned

Airtrack's spiffy logo shows the consultation process spiraling out of control.

Airtrack's spiffy logo shows the consultation process spiraling out of control.

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Issues at other sites could not be resolved and government funding for the scheme has been withdrawn so the airport operator has chosen other alternatives to increase rail access to Heathrow.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.

Hopefully the WHIRS will come to something. In the meantime Terminal 5’s two spare platforms stand empty waiting for trains that will never come while traffic pollution keeps on killing. Let’s try and not take a dozen years to cancel the next scheme, eh chaps?

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  • http://twitter.com/bohaynowell bohaynowell

    That IS a shame. I live in an area affected by HS2, and although I feel sorry for the people directly impacted, we really need to improve our public transport structure.

  • Windsorian

    I can understand the level crossing problems on the T5-Waterloo, T5-Guildford and T5-Reading lines, but there are no road level crossings on the proposed T5-Staines line.
    All that is missing is 4km of new line accross Stanwell & Staines Moors to allow the existing Heathrow Express trains to be extended from T5 to a re-built Staines station.
    No level crossing problems, no new train fleet or maintenance depot required, and would cost only about one tenth of the £750M Airtrack proposal.

    Yes existing SWT passengers would have to change at Staines on to the HEx, buy capacity on the windsor lones (via Putney) can then be increase by the 10 carriage proposals without excessive down times at the 15 level crossings.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed – hopefully that’s what the WHIRS will conclude too – but I guess the loss of direct trains would discourage quite a few users.

      • Windsorian

        Something I did not mention earlier is another advantage of extending HEx to Staines is it would provide a southerly link to Heathrow T5, CTA, Old Oak Common (OOC) and Paddington.

        The OOC Heathrow Express stop is included in the HS2 consultation along with the HS1/HS2 link.

  • Windsorian

    I can understand the level crossing problems on the T5-Waterloo, T5-Guildford and T5-Reading lines, but there are no road level crossings on the proposed T5-Staines line.
    All that is missing is 4km of new line accross Stanwell & Staines Moors to allow the existing Heathrow Express trains to be extended from T5 to a re-built Staines station.
    No level crossing problems, no new train fleet or maintenance depot required, and would cost only about one tenth of the £750M Airtrack proposal.

    Yes existing SWT passengers would have to change at Staines on to the HEx, buy capacity on the windsor lones (via Putney) can then be increase by the 10 carriage proposals without excessive down times at the 15 level crossings.

  • Dmaulder

    I just wanted to highlight a couple of points: BAA has the MOST expensive train service in the UK (Heathrow Express). Only offering a service between T5 and Staines was never envisaged precisely because BAA wouldn t be able to charge astronomical fares.

    BAA never addressed the concerns about the levels crossings: their latest proposal proves it. Surrey County Council was ready to forget about the interest of local residents for a £11b bribe. Money talks! Network Rail’s attitude is the worst: they are the cause of this problem with excessive downtime at the crossings. Local residents and businesses were so against the Airtrack project because they know perfectly well the issues related to these crossings: In response to Doc Martens, we are already sit in our cars in traffic jams waiting for barriers to open, the issue is that buses, and ambulance also wait. Not to mention the impact on local properties: who would dare to buy a property ONLY accessible 15mins. If BAA, Network Rail and SCC came with solutions ealier, Airtrack might not have been cancelled. They are firmly responsible for this chaos and botrched consultation.

    • Windsorian

      Fully agree with your comment about the high cost of HEx; this is something I overlooked earlier.

      There is a cheaper all stops Heathrow Connect service from Paddington to CTA that is less than half the price of HEx; a dedicated Shuttle provides the link between CTA and T4. Passengers on HEx going to T4 also use this Shuttle as HEx stops at CTA and at present terminates at T5.

      Under the Crossrail proposals (subject to revision closer to launch date) the Heathrow Select service is due to be replaced by 4tph Crossrail. One option could be to extend the Heathrow Select service to Staines or perhaps even a combination of 2tph HEx plus 2tph Connect/Crossrail to Staines.

      Apparently BAA are considering improving the CTA rail layout to increase capacity; also as part of Crossrail they are paying for the Stockley flyover (Airport junction) to be re-built to eliminate conflicting paths between the fast and slow lines.
      One option not at present included in the new Stockley flyover / GWR junction is to provide Western Access for trains approaching from Slough, Maidenhead and Reading.