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Template:Color box Heathrow Airtrack (proposed)
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The current T5 station which may form part of Airtrack

Overview
TypeUrban rail / Airport rail link proposal
SystemNational Rail
StatusProposal only
LocaleLondon, England, UK
TerminiHeathrow Terminal 5
London Waterloo
Reading Central
Woking
Guildford
Stations13
Operation
Opened2015 (projected)
OwnerBAA/National Rail
Route map
Template:Heathrow Airtrack

This route map:  view  talk  edit 

Heathrow Airtrack is a proposed railway link in west London, England, UK. The line, proposed by BAA, would run from Terminal 5 (T5) of Heathrow Airport into central London and across the suburbs of south-west London.

If constructed, the line would provide direct rail services from the airport to London Waterloo, Reading Central and Guildford, and offer an alternative route to the existing rail routes to Heathrow (namely Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect and the Piccadilly line).

The proposed route would partly make use of a reopened section of the former West Drayton to Staines railway line, roughly following the southern route of the line to a junction with the Staines to Windsor Line with reinstatement of the Staines West chord.[1]

The scheme, estimated to cost around £673 million,[2] is controversial mainly because of the projected impact on local road traffic due to the high number of level crossings on the route.

PlansEdit

The T5 railway station has two safeguarded heavy rail platforms for use by a west-facing connection to the National Rail network, which would be utilised by Airtrack. The original proposal for the AirTrack link[3] included a new station, called Staines High Street railway station, built near the site of the former station of the same name, but that plan was omitted from the revised proposals in the second public consultation, published on 20 October 2008.[4]

A new rolling stock depot on the site of the former marshalling yards at Feltham has been included in the proposal.

BAA indicated that they wished to extend the Heathrow Express service from terminal 5 to a new terminal platform at Staines.[4]

Rise and FallEdit

The principle of a rail connection to Heathrow from the south had been the subject of considerable discussion and study for 50 years. Since 1960, there have been more than 10 studies or proposals that considered how to improve surface access to Heathrow by means of an additional fixed rail link and in 1984 studies confirmed the viability of the link. [5]

Following a period of public consultation in 1998, BAA submitted plans on the 24 July 2009 to the Secretary of State for Transport seeking authorisation under the Transport and Works Act to acquire the necessary land and begin constructing the rail link.

Work had been forecast to begin in 2011, with rail services operating by 2015.[6] However, on 30 July 2010 the Department of Transport wrote to all parties involved in the public inquiry, informing them that this had been delayed indefinitely. The reason cited was that "the Government has confirmed that its most urgent priority is to tackle the UK's budget deficit and that there will be a spending review in the Autumn. The review may have implications for the proposed funding of the Airtrack Scheme and until the position becomes clearer, we do not consider it appropriate to take matters forward..." [7]

In the event, Airtrack was not mentioned in the spending review and, as a result, in November 2010 BAA announced that the 'public enquiry remains deferred'.

On 23 December 2010, two radio stations, County Sound and Eagle, ran news stories on the 'end of the line' for Airtrack. However, it is not clear whether these stories were based on industry rumour of official sources. The same report had BAA insisting that its commitment to the project was still there and promising a new 'public consultation in the New Year'. However, on 26 January 2011 the DfT again wrote to objectors informing them the Transport and Works Act process remained suspended indefinitely, citing 'continuing uncertainty'.

Meanwhile, an alternative proposal has emerged, called the Windsor Link Railway. According to the promoting company, this has the advantage of potentially not requiring any public subsidy whilst providing more public benefit, not only connecting Heathrow to the north west (via the Thames Valley) but also to the south and linking the historic Great Western and Southern Railway regions. The proposal has been welcomed by the Minister for Tranport, Theresa Villiers. [8]

Support and oppositionEdit

The AirTrack Forum, is a 'group of organisations with a common interest in seeing Airtrack built', formed at the initiative of British Airways, according to its website.[9] It has commissioned consultants to study the economic benefits of the scheme funded by the (now defunct) SE Regional Assembly.[10] Some groups within the Airtrack Forum do not support the current proposals

BAA has claimed support for the scheme from Transport for London, the Mayor of London, nine London Boroughs and local borough councils of Runnymede, Reading, Woking, Guildford, Bracknell Forest and Wokingham, as well as by Surrey and Hampshire County Councils.[11] However, this is contradicted by objections made by some of these authorities to the final plans. Surrey County Council, for example, is an official objector to the scheme, as is Wokingham.[12] Additionally, "Strong concerns" have been raised by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead,[13] including a worries that the busy Windsor Riverside service will be downgraded as a result and, again, level crossings.

It has been reported that Surrey may 'drop its opposition' after BAA offered to fund £11million of transport improvements[14] and a vote to provisionally drop their opposition was passed by the county's cabinet on 28 September 2010.[15] This decision was due to be finalised by the full council in December 2010 [15] but was deferred. The move was the subject of an 'extraordinary outburst' from Philip Hammond, the local MP, who also happens to be the Secretary of State for Transport[16]. Hammond criticised the council for 'grabbing a bribe', a payment of £11 million towards mitigating some traffic problems in Egham entirely unconnected to[citation needed] Airtrack and went on to demand a more comprehensive solution, saying 'no solution, no scheme' and urging BAA to 'get back to the drawing board'[17]. BAA had made a significant compromise in offering this payment as it had previously been consistent in arguing that traffic problems caused by Airtrack were not its responsibility, using the fact that Network Rail has no legal obligation to open level crossings at all or to consult on changes.[18]

Construction Edit

The economic case was heavily dependent of the fact that Airtrack should be a low-cost option[19] as only four kilometres of new line would be required, mostly within Spelthorne. The remaining new infrastructure would consist of station improvements and associated facilities.

The key elements of construction work would involve:[1]

  • Tunnelling from Heathrow Terminal 5 to Stanwell Moor
  • Construction of a new rail line across Stanwell Moor and Staines Moor
  • Construction of a new section of track in Staines town centre
  • The remodelling of Staines station
  • Building a train depot at Feltham

The scheme was estimated to cost about £673 million,[2] of which about £150 million is expected to come from an operating surplus and the remainder from a government subsidy.

In the Airtrack project some stations used by its trains would be upgraded. It is intended that from Staines the trains would use existing Network Rail tracks

Services Edit

The passenger services proposed for the Airtrack service generally offer a half-hourly service to each destination are:[4]

London Waterloo - Heathrow: two trains per hour stopping at:

  • Clapham Junction
  • Richmond
  • Twickenham
  • Feltham
  • Staines

If the existing Heathrow Express service is extended to Staines, there will be an additional 2tph between the airport and Staines. Journey time from Waterloo to Heathrow would be approximately 40 minutes.[20]

Guildford - Heathrow (via Egham and Virginia Water): two trains per hour (one per hour at peak times) stopping at:

  • Chertsey
  • Woking

Journey time from Guildford to Heathrow would be approximately 36 minutes.[20]

Reading - Heathrow (via Egham and Virginia Water) two trains per hour stopping at:

  • Wokingham
  • Bracknell

Journey time from Reading to Heathrow would be approximately 45 minutes.[20]

ImpactEdit

Concerns about the impact of Airtrack construction work and operation have been raised by local residents, campaigners and politicians.

EnvironmentEdit

File:Pond on Stanwell Moor - geograph.org.uk - 131630.jpg

Staines MoorEdit

Most of the construction work will affect Staines Moor and Stanwell Moor, which include a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and extensive consultations have taken place in Spelthorne, with major modifications of the scheme resulting.[1]

Feltham depotEdit

Building a train depot in Feltham is part of the scheme. Residents of Feltham have expressed opposition to this mainly as the depot may encroach on a natural conservation area and that the depot may give rise to noise pollution.[21]

In response to these concerns, BAA have published assurances in their consulation literature that the Feltham depot will be designed to limit noise and light pollution and with landscape screening.[1]

Level crossings Edit

File:Mortlake station level crossing look north.JPG

A number of major problems concerns level crossings. The proposed Airtrack route would run on lines which have fifteen level crossings, and local campaigners along those routes have pointed out that more frequent trains would increase waiting times at closed barriers and exacerbate traffic congestion problems. For example, between Richmond and Barnes as many as five trains may pass before the road barriers are lifted.[1] BAA investigated the possibility of constructing road bridges or tunnels at these locations but concluded that such construction was "not feasible or justifiable".[4]

BAA have acknowledged these problems and note that eight crossing will be slightly impacted, with barrier closure times increasing by up to 13%. Three level crossing more would be moderately affected, with increases of between 13% and 25% to the amount of time that the barriers are closed to road traffic. Four crossings will be "severely" affected, with barrier downtimes increasing by between 25% and 36%.[22] As yet no independent time and motion study has been conducted so the closure times of level crossings and impact to the surrounding area has still yet to be assessed.[12]

Three of the four severely affected crossing are located in Egham, which lies between Staines, where the Airtrack spur will meet the main line, and Virginia Water, where the Reading and Guildford lines diverge.

Airtrack originally envisaged that by investing in new signalling technology, they could keep level crossings down-times to a manageable level. This was accepted as a reasonable proposition by the local authority, Runnymede Borough Council, and by the Highways Authority for the area, Surrey County Council, both of which actively supported the Airtrack scheme.[11] However in September 2009 Runnymede Borough Council responded to the TWA Application with an Objection.[citation needed]

Egham Edit

File:Egham Hythe - Thorpe Road level crossing - geograph.org.uk - 913151.jpg

Immediately after Staines the westward line goes through the town of Egham. Local campaigners in Egham have voiced their opposition to Airtrack mainly due to the foreseen traffic congestion problems caused by level crossing closures.[23] Opponents note that the railway bisects the town, and it can only be crossed via four level crossings (Thorpe Road, Egham Hythe; Vicarage Road; Station Road; and Prune Hill) as there are no alternative bridges or tunnels in the locality.

Concerns have also been raised about the scheme's effect on the town by Egham Chamber of Commerce,[24] Runnymede Council, Richmond Council,[25] and bus operators. Local MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, Philip Hammond had first raised his concerns about lack of alternatives to level crossings in Egham in the House of Commons;[26] in 2002. In 2009 he arranged for the Chamber of Commerce to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street appealing to the then Labour Government to not allow Airtrack to be built without a tunnel or bridge in Egham. Hammond became Secretary of State for Transport in May 2010.[27]

In a consultation between Surrey County Council and the emergency services, the Fire and Ambulance services have expressed concerns about increased level crossing down-times.[28]

Airtrack has estimated that if the project proceeds as planned the three significantly affected level crossings in Egham will be closed an average of 34 minutes per hour between 7 am and 7 pm. These figures are based on the assumptions that only timetabled trains will operate, that they will operate without delays and that the signalling regime can be reorganised to allow barriers to be raised if there is a 30 second gap between trains.[22]

WokinghamEdit

File:Wokingham - Waterloo Crossing - geograph.org.uk - 135124.jpg

The Airtrack route is also planned to pass through the town of Wokingham. As with Egham, an opposition campaign has been organised to voice local concerns about the foreseen traffic congestion caused by increased rail traffic on level crossings.[29] Wokingham has five crossings (Easthampstead Road, Waterloo Road, Barkham Road, Station Road and Wellington Road) which will be affected by the project, and campaigners have submitted a petition to the Government.[30]

BAA have said that Wokingham Borough Council is considering the issue as part of its transport strategy. The council discussed the possibility of building a bridge over the Barkham Road crossing but such a solution was unlikely due to the excessive construction cost. The council also proposed that Wokingham Station would need to be moved closer to Reading in order to accommodate the Airtrack proposal.[31]

See alsoEdit

Template:Heathrow rail services

External linksEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Template:Cite press release
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Heathrow Airtrack Order: Estimate of Costs of Carrying out the Proposed Works. BAA Heathrow Airport (Q1 2008). Retrieved on 6 January 2010.
  3. Template:Cite press release
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Template:Cite press release
  5. http://www.airtrack.org/airtrack_history.htm
  6. BAA Heathrow: Heathrow Airtrack. BAA Heathrow Airport (October 2008). Retrieved on 20 October 2008.
  7. Department of Transport. http://www.wokingham-airtrack.org.+Retrieved on 07 August 2010.
  8. http://www.windsorobserver.co.uk/news/roundup/articles/2011/01/23/50333-railway-plan-on-track-/
  9. About Us. Airtrack Forum. Retrieved on 2010-10-21.
  10. Template:Cite press release
  11. 11.0 11.1 Supplementary memorandum submitted by BAA Limited (PEAT 07A). House of Commons Select Committee on Transport (May 2007). Retrieved on 6 January 2010.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Template:Cite news
  13. Template:Cite press release
  14. Template:Cite news
  15. 15.0 15.1 Template:Cite news
  16. Template:Cite news
  17. Template:Cite news
  18. http://www.egham-airtrack.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=59
  19. Wider Economic Impacts of Airtrack - Final Report. Steer Davies Gleave, consultants (December 2007). Retrieved on 6 January 2010.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Aitrack Forum: ProposedServices
  21. Template:Cite news
  22. 22.0 22.1 Giesler, Nick (2009). Heathrow Airtrack Environmental Statement Volume 2: Effects at Road Level Crossings. Temple Group Ltd. Retrieved on 6 January 2010.
  23. Level Crossings and Egham. Egham Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved on 6 January 2010. (Egham Airtrack campaigning website)
  24. Egham Airtrack campaigning website. Egham Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved on 6 January 2010.
  25. Template:Cite news
  26. Hammond, Philip (6 March 2002). Level Crossings. Hansard. House of Commons. Retrieved on 6 January 2010.
  27. Template:Cite news
  28. Transport And Works Act 1992: The Heathrow Airtrack Order. Surrey County Council (29 September 2009). Retrieved on 6 January 2010.
  29. Template:Cite news
  30. Wokingham Airtrack campaign website. Retrieved on 6 January 2010.
  31. Template:Cite news

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