Airports Commission input into National Infrastructure Plan on improvements to surface access to main airports
Sir Howard Davies wrote to George Osborne on 26th November, on surface access to airports. This has influenced the National Infrastructure Plan for 2013, now released. The Airports Commission says that as adding any new runways will take a decade (or decades), in the interim “there is a strong case for attaching a greater strategic priority to transport investments which improve surface access to our airports.” The letter gives specific recommendations on improving surface access at UK main airports. On Heathrow it recommends: “Recognising the importance of encouraging modal shift towards more environmentally sustainable forms of transport at Heathrow, not only for supporting future expansion plans [!?] but also for optimising the airport’s operations within its current capacity constraints, the Government should work with Network Rail to undertake a detailed study to find the best option for enhancing rail access into Heathrow from the south. Initial indications are that up to roughly 15% of Heathrow’s passengers in the London and South East region could benefit from improved Southern Access.” They “remain concerned that the proportion of users (particularly workforce) accessing Heathrow using private cars remains high, with consequent implications for air quality.”
Airports Commission welcomes surface transport improvements
Surface access recommendations featured in National Infrastructure Plan
4.12.2013 (Airports Commission website)
Ref: ISBN 978-1-909790-57-5, PU1576PDF, 1.07MB, 152 pages
In the National Infrastructure Plan published today (4 December 2013), the government has set out its intention to act on the Airports Commission’s surface access recommendations.
Welcoming this move, Sir Howard Davies said:
I am pleased that the government has acted on our recommendations to enhance surface access to some of our major airports. Improving the quality of surface transport links can play an important part in optimising how we use our existing infrastructure in the short and medium term. We will present further recommendations for making the best use of existing capacity in our interim report, which we will deliver later this month.
As part of its work on making the best use of existing airport capacity, the Airports Commission has considered a range of measures to improve surface transport links to airports.
The Commission recognised that the 2013 National Infrastructure Plan and Autumn Statement presented the opportunity for early progress on this issue. Accordingly, Sir Howard Davies wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 26 November 2013 to set out the Commission’s recommendations for a short term package of surface transport improvements that would help optimise the use of existing airport capacity, whatever decisions might be taken in the longer term.
The letter is
PDF, 358KB, 10 pages
The letter says:
In our interim report we will explore some operational changes which will allow the
nation to make better use of existing airport capacity in the short term. We will also
produce a shortlist of options for additional runway capacity in the longer term, which
we will examine in more detail in the second phase of our work. All of those longer
term options will inevitably take a substantial period of time to plan and build, even if
political consensus in support of our recommendations can be secured. We therefore
face a period, probably of a decade or more, before any significant new
infrastructure can be brought on line to alleviate the capacity constraints facing the
In the interim there is a strong case for attaching a greater strategic priority to
transport investments which improve surface access to our airports. Surface
transport improvements can encourage more use of airports which currently have
spare capacity, improve the passenger experience, and make airports more
attractive to airlines. Clearly, the needs of other users of the transport network must
be considered, and we have taken them into account in reaching our
recommendations, which in many cases would deliver substantial and wider positive impacts and benefits. However, for the foreseeable future, some greater weight should be placed on the needs of existing airports and their users when taking decisions on transport investment.
It sets out specific recommendations for Gatwick, Stansted, Heathrow, Manchester, and Other Airports.
On Heathrow specifically, the letter says (in its Annexe):
Heathrow airport is already operating close to its capacity limit and that its ability to open routes to new markets is constrained by that lack of spare capacity. In addition, there are works already in progress, notably Crossrail and Westem Rail Access, which will bring huge improvements to the quality of Heathrow’s surface access.
However, we remain concerned that the proportion of users (particularly workforce) accessing Heathrow using private cars remains high, with consequent implications for air quality around the airport. We therefore think that there is a case for plugging the remaining gaps in the airport’s rail access, which are primarily to the south.
This problem has been recognised before and a proposed remedy was sought through the Airtrack scheme. This would have provided a rail link into the airport from Guildford, Reading and London Waterloo.
However, the scheme was cancelled due to concems over its cost (£673m) and its impact
upon local transport networks, particularly level crossings in a number of towns along the route (some of which would only have been open for a few minutes in each hour). Since then, a separate proposal (Airtrack Lite) has been put forward which attempts to alleviate some of these issues.
We think there is a case to look again at rail access to Heathrow from the South. This may involve revisiting the Airtrack proposal or developing fresh ideas.
Accordingly, in respect of Heathrow, we recommend:
Recognising the importance of encouraging modal shift towards more environmentally sustainable forms of transport at Heathrow, not only for supporting future expansion plans but also for optimising the airport’s operations within its current capacity constraints, the
Government should work with Network Rail to undertake a detailed study to find the best option for enhancing rail access into Heathrow from the south. Initial indications are that up to roughly 15% of Heathrow’s passengers in the London and South East region could benefit from improved Southern Access.
Our understanding is that this study would require some time to do its work, although its budget would likely be less than £1 m. Its eventual recommendations may have a cost of several £100ms, but a full study will bring a better understanding of the costs and benefits of the options in this area.
An AirportWatch member commented: “And what would air quality be like with the extra 20 million vehicle journeys per year that a third runway would bring?”
Airports Commission surface transport improvement plans for Gatwick airport including £180 million station upgrade
Date added: December 5, 2013
Sir Howard Davies (Chairman of the Airports Commission) has written to George Osborne, on the subject of surface access to airports. He says that as adding any new runways will take a decade (or decades), in the interim “there is a strong case for attaching a greater strategic priority to transport investments which improve surface access to our airports.” The Airports Commission have recommended improvements for Gatwick including improvements to the train station, which could cost £180 million – “subject to the airport providing an appropriate contribution to the costs of the scheme.” It is not currently regarded as being well suited to travellers, especially those with heavy luggage, so better luggage space would need to be added. The Commission says Gatwick is succeeding in getting more long haul routes, and due to capacity constraints at Heathrow, “we believe that the UK’s interests to enable passengers to more effectively access Gatwick’s increasing connections to new markets, as well as its existing route network.” The government says it will provide £50m towards the redevelopment of the station, subject to satisfactory commercial negotiations with Gatwick airport.