Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Build it!! Go on, build it!!

Posted in Commuter, Customer service, Infrastructure, London, Politics by Chairman Pip on 28 October 2011

You may recall that in April, BAA abandoned its Heathrow Airtrack proposal, intended to improve the rail service to Heathrow by creating a new route for trains out of London Waterloo. The kibosh was put on this by local residents of the various towns that would be on this proposed route; this route has a large number of level crossings, with the planned frequency of the service causing an increase in waiting time of up to 25% at the barriers. BAA decided that it was just too much hassle and dropped the plan. However, it seems that Wandsworth Council have decided that it is worth pursuing and have devised their own plan, which they are calling “Airtrack Lite”. Unlike the original proposal, the intention of which was for Airtrack to run in addition to the existing services to and from Waterloo, Wandsworth’s proposal intends to use existing services in their entirety, through rerouting of some trains, and splitting others. Doing this, according to Wandsworth, will avoid those stretches that are heavy on level crossings, with the only new construction being the stretch of line that would connect the west facing platforms at Terminal 5 station to the network, and a new station in Staines. So what are we to make of this? BAA have said that, after dropping the plan, they are looking at other priorities to improve connections to Heathrow (most notably Crossrail), so would they be interested in starting it up again? Would it be a priority for the DfT? Perhaps, if they didn’t have to contribute much to the cost of it. But that is the question – what will the cost be? The original proposal was estimated at around £670m. No doubt this will be less, but how much less? It’s perhaps a situation like this that would have been ideal for the London Development Agency to take a hand in. Except that the LDA is a regional development agency, and they are being abolished by the government in 2012. It’ll be interesting to see which way this one does go.

“New Airtrack plan to connect Heathrow”
Airtrack Lite plan

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