Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Come fly with me…then we’ll take the train

Posted in Great Britain, Infrastructure, Ireland by Chairman Pip on 5 February 2010

It is a given in the modern world that major airports need to have a railway connection to the city that they serve, whether it’s a direct connection, or by travelling a short distance using a bus/people mover from the sirport to the railway. Three of London’s four major airports have rail links, with the fourth (Luton) has a parkway station where a shuttle bus carries passengers to the airport. In Great Britain, Birmingham International Airport, Manchester Airport and Prestwick Airport all have their own stations, while Liverpool, Southampton and Cardiff have parkway stations. London City and Newcastle airports meanwhile are served by local metro services that have short trains but high frequency. Outside Great Britain, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is on the TGV network, while Frankfurt Airport has two seperate stations for regional and ICE trains. Schiphol station, which serves the Netherlands’ largest airport, sees a majority of trains out of most of Amsterdam’s main stations passing through. JFK Airport has constructed a high frequency people mover that connects directly with the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan; three rail companies serve Narita Airport in Tokyo, which on some services connects directly with Tokyo Haneda Airport. Shanghai Pudong Airport even has the world’s first commercial, high-speed maglev service.

Most nations recognise the need to connect their major airports to the railway. So can someone explain to me then the logic of the Scottish Government of cancelling the airport link to the airport that serves Scotland’s largest city? Or of cancelling the airport link to the airport of Scotland’s capital to replace it by a tram system? While the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link was cancelled before any major preparatory work could be started, the work to prepare for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link was already well under way – resignalling was taking place along the route, modifications to the track layout to allow the new section to the airport to be constructed were done and 30 brand new trains had been ordered to improve capacity. The project, estimated at between £170m and £210m, was advanced, with the last element, construction of the 1.2km section of line and a new airport station, were ready to start. And then the Scottish Government cancelled it. There have been claims from a great many people that this will damage Glasgow’s standing, as air passengers, looking to get where they need to be as quickly and easily as possible, transfer their business elsewhere. How it will look once the 2014 Commonwealth Games arrives in Glasgow we can’t know. But, Glasgow won its bid on the back of including better access to the city from the airport. Which suggests that the Commonwealth Games Federation might not look too kindly at this decision. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Glasgow will be stripped of the games, but it may mean that any future bids Scotland puts in for major events will be given second thought if the local authority goes back on its promises like this. But of course, according to the SNP government in Edinburgh, it’s all the fault of the UK Government in London for not giving them enough money.

“Airport boss warns over rail link”
“Glasgow Airport Rail Link plans dead as Scottish Government budget is passed”
“Nationalist defects to Labour”

Northern Ireland
It isn’t just Scotland though that suffers – Belfast International Airport sits right next to the Lisburn-Antrim line that is currently not operational. This line, were it to be reopened, would provide not just a link from the centre of Belfast to its airport, but also an alternative route into the city from the North-West, freeing up capacity, as well as providing a rail service to the settlements on the eastern side of Lough Neagh – these would serve not just the communities the line actually passes through, but also communities further out by providing park-and-ride access. At least though the Northern Ireland Executive has the excuse that it is often on the verge of falling apart. That being said, encouraging noises have come out that this line is included in future plans – Belfast Airport’s operators have included a railway station as part of their long-term plan for development and, should the railway line be re-opened, there is every likelihood that the airport would be considered. Especially so if Translink don’t have to pay for it!

“Fresh call for airport rail link”
“Disused track 1 mile from airport”


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