Heathrow ‘needs rail links as well as third runway’

23.10.2008   (Evening Standard)

by Dick Murray, Transport Editor

Airport owner BAA today launched an ambitious campaign for a third runway at
Heathrow and a high-speed rail network across Britain.

A government decision on the airport, expected to back a third runway, could
be announced next month.

But BAA fears environmental and financial concerns might see ministers back away
from expansion and opt for allowing more flights from the existing runways.

The Conservatives have already come out against a third runway. Instead, they
support a high-speed rail link so Heathrow passengers can easily reach other parts
of the country.

But BAA says that improving rail services without adding a new runway would prove
a “false and dangerous” decision which would leave Britain at a severe disadvantage.

At a conference BAA urged the rail industry to work with the aviation sector
to generate a “once-in-a- generation opportunity to create a world-leading air
and transport hub at Heathrow”. BAA said its aim is for a “third runway built
within strict environmental limits and a high-speed rail network that will connect
the UK’s hub airport with every major centre of population across the country”.

Stuart Condie, BAA’s director of planning and surface access, said: “Our vision
is simple; it is one where, in the next decade, a three-runway Heathrow airport
strengthens the UK’s connections with global markets, particularly those in China
and India.”

He admitted it was an “ambitious plan, but it is achievable and sustainable and
the work to bring each strand together hopefully starts today”.

Mr Condie highlighted Paris and Frankfurt, which have both developed high-speed
rail links and have more runways than Heathrow.

“Choosing rail capacity over airport expansion, or air over rail for that matter,
is a false and dangerous choice that will leave the UK at a competitive disadvantage
at precisely the wrong time,” he said.

“It is widely accepted that investment in strategic infrastructure projects is
a fundamental element of the country’s long-term economic recovery package and
to force choices where the answer is clearly both runway three and high-speed
rail is at best short-sighted.”

The Government is still “considering” the future of Heathrow. It has had to contend
with highly-organised opposition to expansion from environmental groups, councils
and residents. They oppose both a third runway and more frequent landings.

Last month the Conservatives unveiled plans for a 190mph rail link between Heathrow
and Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

link  to article