Heathrow loses High Court challenge on charging Crossrail trains using the line it built

Heathrow has lost a High Court challenge over access charges it can can levy on Crossrail trains travelling to the airport.  The airport spent £1 billion building a five-mile spur 20 years ago to connect Heathrow to the Great Western track. Legal action was triggered after the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) decided the amount which Heathrow could charge Crossrail, and others, for using the spur could not include any amount connected to the recovery of the spur building costs.  Heathrow applied for a judicial review at London’s High Court, arguing the decision was irrational and ORR had no power to reach any decision over the access charge at all.  Now Mr Justice Ouseley has ruled that the challenge failed on all grounds. He refused permission to appeal, but Heathrow can still ask the Court of Appeal to hear the case. Heathrow is counting on the arrival of Crossrail in May 2018, as part of its plans to increase the airport’s rail capacity by 2040.  There had been concerns that had the decision gone  in favour of Heathrow, Transport for London (TfL) may have opted not to serve the airport at all. Heathrow needs a higher proportion of passengers to arrive by rail, to try to deal with its air pollution problems. 


High Court derails Heathrow Airport bid to charge Crossrail trains for each time they travel to the airport

By Rebecca Smith (City AM)

The High Court has rejected Heathrow Airport’s bid to charge Crossrail for its trains travelling to the airport.

Heathrow said it was “disappointed with today’s ruling” and is considering its next steps.

There had been a dispute over whether Crossrail trains should be charged for each time they travel to Heathrow Airport, which the airport was seeking from Transport for London (TfL) which runs the Elizabeth Line.

Crossrail, now known as the Elizabeth Line, will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

Part of the line will run on track built by Heathrow owners, who use it for the Heathrow Express service. The airport spent £1bn building the line 20 years ago to connect Heathrow to the Great Western track. It wanted to recoup some of the costs of the link.

Read more: Capacity gap needs plugging until Heathrow expansion, say business leaders

Previously, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) had decided Heathrow couldn’t charge trains for using the line, saying it would cost around £42m a year.

The airport had said it wanted to ensure “track access charges were fair”. It took the decision to the High Court for a judicial review, with the court dismissing Heathrow’s application today.

The ORR said:

We welcome this judgement and we will now work with all the affected parties to enable Crossrail services to start running as scheduled into the airport.
“As the independent regulator for the UK’s railways, we have a statutory role in ensuring charges to run trains on relevant networks are underpinned by evidence and comply with legal requirements,” it said.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Heathrow is committed to increasing sustainable public transport to the airport – that’s why we invested in Crossrail, built the Heathrow Express rail service, support Piccadilly Line services to the airport, and subsidise Europe’s largest free bus network.”

We are looking forward to the arrival of Crossrail in May 2018 as part of our plans to treble Heathrow’s rail capacity by 2040 and put the airport at the heart of an integrated transport network in London.

While we are disappointed with today’s ruling and are considering our next steps, both Heathrow and Network Rail agree that track access charges must be fair to encourage future private investment in the rail network.

There had been concerns that should the decision go in favour of Heathrow, Transport for London (TfL) may have opted not to serve the airport at all.

Howard Smith, TfL’s operations director for the Elizabeth Line, said:

“We welcome the court’s judgement to uphold the Office of Rail and Road’s original decision on the charging levels for Elizabeth line services to Heathrow.

“We look forward to working swiftly with Heathrow to conclude final details of access arrangements for Elizabeth line services.”

Four Crossrail trains an hour are planned to run between Paddington and Heathrow terminals 2 to 4, from May next year.



The High Court decision means some has raised questions over whether the stance taken by ORR risks discouraging future private investment in the railway network..


See earlier:

Heathrow and Crossrail in legal dispute over how much TfL would have to pay to use 5 miles of track

Crossrail (the Elizabeth line) is a £15 billion train line designed to cross London from west to east, bringing relief for commuters, but it seems it may not now stop at Heathrow because of a legal row with the airport’s owners over fees. Heathrow has its lucrative Heathrow Express service runs partly on a 5-mile stretch of track, built and paid for (over £1 billion) by the airport. The Crossrail link into Heathrow would run on this section of track. It is an expensive (£25 per ticket) route, and Heathrow’s foreign owners want to recoup past spending on the private train line with an “investment recovery charge” of £570 for every train that uses the track, plus extra fees of about £107 per train. But the Elizabeth line, by contrast, will be in line with the fares that apply across the rest of the capital’s transport network. The opening of the new Crossrail service to Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4 is expected to throw the financial sustainability of the existing Heathrow Express into question, though Heathrow insists it would continue to run alongside the Elizabeth Line. Heathrow’s owners are now in dispute with the Office of Rail and Road, which sets track access charges, over the amount that TfL, which runs the Elizabeth Line, will need to pay to use the track. The hearings were held earlier this year and a High Court judgment is expected within weeks.

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Heathrow expansion plans, and ability to reduce road vehicle trips, threatened by Crossrail costs row

Simon Calder, writing in the Independent, says plans to build a 3rd Heathrow runway could be jeopardised by a row between the airport’s owners and Transport for London (TfL). Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 4 are expected to be served by the new Crossrail east-west line, which is due to open in May 2018. But Heathrow is demanding very high fees from rail users to pay back the estimated £1 billion cost of the privately funded Heathrow Express spur from the Great Western line – into the airport. That opened in 1998. The Office of Rail and Road said that Heathrow could not recoup the historical costs of building this link. Heathrow challenged this decision, and a legal judgment is expected shortly. If the ruling is in favour of Heathrow, TfL may choose not to serve the airport at all — which would throw into doubt predictions of the proportion of passengers using public transport if a 3rd runway was built. The NPS for the runway requires a higher proportion of passengers and staff to use public transport in future, than now. One of Crossrail’s selling points has been easy access to Heathrow from east London and the City, down to 34 minutes from Liverpool Street to Heathrow. “Without straightforward, low-cost rail links, more airline passengers may opt to go by road to Heathrow — adding to pollution, congestion and noise.”

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