Hammond Heathrow £500m rail link plan consideration

First Great Western train The proposed new Heathrow Airport link would connect with trains on the south Wales main line

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UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is said to be drawing up plans for a £500m rail scheme linking Wales with Heathrow Airport.

A proposed new spur from the Great Western main line would end the need for passengers to travel in to London before heading out to the airport.

The scheme, to include the west of England, would also connect with the proposed HS2 high-speed rail link.

The Department for Transport estimated it could cut 30 minutes off journeys.

The Sunday Times newspaper reported Mr Hammond was considering building a new railway station at Heathrow that would see up to four shuttle services per hour from Reading.

The new airport railway station would take shuttle connections from Reading, including passengers travelling from south Wales. But the newspaper suggests the airport hub could also take trains direct from Cardiff and Bristol.

Start Quote

A lot of people are probably getting off at Reading and getting the bus at the moment, which is a much more inconvenient way of doing it”

End Quote Tony Miles Modern Railways magazine

It would also be a hub for the High Speed Two (HS2) rail link, it added.

The Department of Transport has declined to comment but Whitehall sources said the plan would:

  • Cut journey times by 30 minutes
  • Fit in with the proposals for the high speed rail network - subject to consultation - and if it goes ahead it will be an integrated transport hub at Heathrow
  • Allow rail travellers from Wales to pick up the high-speed line for journeys to the Midlands, the North and Scotland.

The UK coalition government has confirmed that a £1bn electrification of the main rail line between London and Cardiff, announced by the previous Labour government in 2009, is to go ahead.

The Welsh Government has called for the full electrification of the line to Swansea.

Cardiff council leader Rodney Berman said: "This is incredibly encouraging news. The link with Heathrow will help us attract new businesses to Cardiff and south Wales, opening up greater opportunities for inward investment.

"Travel links to major airports are a big consideration for businesses looking to relocate and if we can improve those links, it can only mean that we attract more quality companies to Cardiff."

Tony Miles, who writes for Modern Railways magazine, told BBC Radio Wales the scheme would involve creating about five miles of new railway, as well as amending some existing facilities, but that a direct service from Wales was unlikely.

He said: "It wouldn't be a through service from Cardiff and Swansea and so on. I think that would be fairly impractical.

"What I gather from proposals that have been talked about by business leaders is to have a shuttle service of some sort that picks up at Reading and goes straight into terminal five.

"A lot of people are probably getting off at Reading and getting the bus at the moment, which is a much more inconvenient way of doing it, particularly if you have a lot of luggage."

The proposed new airport link would not be possible until after the electrification of the south Wales mainline, he said.

The Sunday Times reported the Department of Transport as believing the link and airport transport hub could be open by 2021.

We asked what you thought of the possible rail link from Wales and the west to Heathrow.

Brilliant idea! We need integrated transport - Brunel managed it in 1843, surely we can do now nearly 170 years later?

Graham Howe, Pembrey,

I always catch the train to Reading and then to West Drayton. I prebook a taxi which costs £5 and takes me to terminal 1 departures in 5 mins. The fair is cheaper than Heathrow express via London Paddington and is 45mins quicker. Thus saving £500m.

Marc, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan,

If we're talking about railways and airports, wouldn't it be better to spend money on a high-speed rail link to connect Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow, so that it would be relatively trivial to connect from one to the other. This would reduce the pressure for a third runway at Heathrow, because arriving passengers could connect to short-haul flights from Stansted. Putting some immigration people on the trains would then allow some of the paperwork to be done during the connection process. Potentially it would also mean that it was sensible to park at Stansted and get to Heathrow or Gatwick on the train, thus relieving the M25.

Dave, Cambridge,

We have an international airport in Cardiff! Why do we need this Heathrow/Gatwick nonsense with the additional expense, time, congestion and pollution? Is Wales the only country in the world where you have to arrive and depart via another country?

Taffman,

What a brilliant idea, with the very limited air services from Cardiff Wales Airport this would certainly open world wide travell to people in wales. Let's hope it happens.

Derek Rowlands, Caerphilly,

If this is to be a short spur line, then it would be an excellent opportunity to showcase British ultra-light rail technologies. Low-weight, lower risk and lower cost solutions will be crucial to the survival of many other branch lines all over Britain (and the world) and also will allow many future light tram lines in congested cities to become cost-effective.

Stephen Lawrence, Cambridge,

If we are serious about tackling global warming it would be better to discourage air travel rather than facilitate it. Much business travel is no longer necessary given the ease of communication today.

Peter Williams, Caerphilly,

Looks like the word integrated is starting to filter into Transport planning ... Long overdue !

Mark, London,

Let it be paid for by taxes levied entirely in Wales.

Alan Fisk, London,

Wouldn't £500,000,000 be better spent in establishing international carriers at Cardiff Airport?

Morgan, Cowbridge,

And what will the price of this S Wales to Heathrow connection be? Considerably more than I am presently paying as an over 60 on the coach service. (£23 return Bridgend to Terminal 4). Beat that B.R. Nothing wrong with the excellent service tha National coaches supply direct to terminals 1,2 and 3 and other direct service to terminal 4. Who wants to go to terminal 5 anyhow. I think its that "We'll take less care of you" Airline

John Salmon, Bridgend,

This is the first sensible thing Hammond has said for ages. Reading-Heathrow has been on the 'books' for years. Now that Hammond has at last seen the pointlessness of having to travel in and out of London unnecessarily to complete a journey by rail he should scrap HS2 and concentrate on the East-West railways. Cambridge through to Oxford would be a start. Not just passengers but frieght would benefit hugely by relieving the heavily over burdened London 'hub'.

Robert W Warne, Cardiff,

We have a well established completely under-used airport in Cardiff? why cant we have some investement in transport links from Wales to the airport? A station where you have to catch an additional bus to get to is by no means ideal when going on family holidays with all your luggage! Lets spend some money in Wales please

Chris, Merthyr Tydfil,

The £500m would be better spent on providing proper dedicated rail links to Cardiff and Bristol airports, from the existing relatively close main lines, with stations within the terminals. These two international-standard airports are nearer in travelling time to London than capital-biased Transport Ministers might realise. All Cardiff airport lacks is proper DIRECT rail (and road) links into the terminal - so why spend £500m on encouraging even more passengers to travel from Wales via Reading to Heathrow to add to its existing over-use?

Pete, Newport,

Wouldn't it make more sense for everybody to leave 30 minutes earlier and save the taxpayer £500 million.

Taxpayer,

We need this Heathrow connection! National Express service takes too long and is tedious. The problem is that Cardiff has a very limited number of air routes, and no prospect of expansion.

Andy, Cardiff,

This idea is totally ridiculous bearing in mind that there are other parts of the rail network in Wales that need to be updated before £500m is used on a link to Heathrow. Firstly a link between 'Wales and Heathrow' essentially means from Cardiff to Heathrow. I'm sure many would find this service of benefit, but secondly how about the links between North and South Wales? For example, to go from Bangor to Aberystwyth, or Aberystwyth to Carmarthen, you need to go via Shrewsbury? From North Wales to South Wales go via England. There is no west-coast line which is totally bonkers bearing in mind the the public transport (buses) in West Wales are shambolic to say the least. And to finish, there is an airport in Cardiff. When politicians argue that areas of Wales are the worst economically in the UK, why do they not improve the international transport links that are already there, such as Cardiff International Airport, rather than building something from scratch. It would surely attract more businesses to invest in Wales.

Dafydd Morgan, Llandysul,Ceredigion,

Can't see the point of suggesting people from Wales and the west use Heathrow to get on HS2 to Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds. Surely staying on the existing Cross Country network is more convenient, less miles and quicker and probably a lot cheaper if suggested HS2 prices come to fruition. Having been an HS2 enthusiast I'm now tending towards appreciating that spreading that massive sum around to improve the existing network (including a Heathrow hub) is a better way.

Andy, Crewe,

Travellers used to flying from Zurich, Frankfurt and many other cities in Eurpoe, would be surprised to discover that unike these airports, British airports generally have few national on-going connections and absolutely no international rail connections. How about a Birmingham to Paris train or Cardiff to Brussels - both via Heathrow? Come on - get out of your little box !

Adam Gosiewski, Gdansk Poland

If 2021 is the earliest completion date, this may become a monstrous white elephant. With the projection of oil prices post-2017, aviation fuel will be so expensive that air travel will probably become a luxury as in the 1930's, even with the economies of scale of super-jumbos. As we're a long way off from a commercially viable alternative to the jet engine, this rail link may be redundant before it begins.

Graham, Crickhowell,

For £500m we could build rail spurs from existing rail lines to Liverpool Airport and Leeds/Bradford Airport, build an extra link for Manchester Airport and have millions left over. However, as usual a complicated expensive project for London gets priority.

Edd, Cheshire,

I recently was obliged to fly with gulf air to Bahrain from Heathrow quite frequently. I travelled by train from west wales, initially to Reading and took the bus link. Sadly I had to find another way of getting from T3 to T4 adding about 40 mins to the journeytime. The 2nd time I went into paddington and took the Express to Heathrow - £32 return on top of the £89 for a return between Wales and London. My final trip I used National express at a cost of £54 return after cancellations and so called cable theft disruption between Cardiff and Newport. Make your own mind up. I did.

Philip Hughes, Crymych, Wales

Heathrow may be the busiest Airport in the UK but people overlook the fact that many people arrive at Heathrow on regional flights from airports like Manchester and Edinburgh and then make a connecting flight, so for a large number of Heathrow passengers there is no need for public transport to and from Heathrow Airport.

Jen, Reading,

What a daft article by BBC Wales to represent this as £500m to link south Wales with Heathrow and throw in the South West & HS2 as a bolt on. No wonder some of the comments are suggesting the money should be spent on Cardiff/Bristol airport & even paid for by welsh taxes! This is a much larger (and very useful) transport interchange born out of HS2 and possibly Reading Station redevelopment and will benefit nearly everyone living near a railway line that comes into Reading - a vast area south of Birmingham, not just Wales & S West. When it came to the business case for this new line, the benefit of reducing south Wales to Heathrow journey times by 30mins probably came way down the list.

DC, Cardiff,

With all the cutbacks in jobs and benefits, where is this money coming from? For Wales, I do suggest the most logical approach to expand Cardiff Airport for international travel as it is not really an international airport now. In 1994, I was told by the Cardiff Airport officials that direct flights from Cardiff to Chicago USA were in progress with the Welsh Assembly, and would be completed by 1995. 16 years later and still no progress. Heathrow Airport is too large, too much traffic, too much air pollution, too much damage to the environment with people living too close there.

F. M. Jachim, Swansea,

Bravo Mr Hammond. From the South Midlands, it will be easy to get to LHR by train, taking the Cotswold line, perhaps from Worcester to Reading and taking a train direct to Heathrow. Fantastic. Execution: Do it well, get it right and do it quickly (it doesn't need to take ten years to build this - it is perfectly feasible to do it in under three years - six months for planning, three months to review and tweak and two years to construct and commission). Yes! less than three years is ample time to build a five mile rail spur using off-the-shelf solutions.

Owen, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK,

For once a decent suggestion. Run the line from Slough into the west side of Terminal 5, and increase Heathrow Express to 6 trains per hour running Paddington - Heathrow - Slough - Maidenhead - Reading. And then they can drop the inflated ticket price with the more efficient use of the trains if that's what they pin the Heathrow Express price on.

Drew, Reading,

This money should be spent on improving the lines in Wales plus improving links to our own International Airport in Cardiff, not giving Heathrow or Gatwick more business from passengers travelling long distances from Wales. As usual the Welsh will accept this third class treatment from Westminster, Scotland wouldn't (they have dignity & a back bone), " Hey! so what's new."

Richard ap Davies, Swansea,

Cardiff airport can't handle the bigger planes, it would cost far more than £500m to deal with this! I'm all for investment in Wales but time for some people to be realistic - the airport there is dead, Heathrow & Gatwick are huge, true international airports - Cardiff would be better off used as a hopper service with small flights going to LHR or LGW than trying to deal with the bigger ones.

Chris, Bridgend,

What appears a well-meaning project on the surface has significant short-comings in my opinion. For one, as pointed out above, this will not be a connection from Wales as one entity, but from Cardiff. Secondly, I fear for the future of my local airport, Cardiff International, as it offers a very limited service during the non-summer months, and this money could be better spent encouraging major airlines to fly from there. You know that the most frequent flight is likely the Anglesey flight (last time I went had 8 people on board)? And also as pointed above, the rail links within Wales itself should be given priority, rather than a link to an airport which I would rather get the bus to (at £29 single I can't go wrong!). The average journey time from Holyhead to Cardiff is around 4 to 4 1/2 hours, the lowering of this time should be the priority!

JF, Pontypool,

Terminal 5 has empty platforms which were originally built for the doomed Airtrack project. It would make sense to utilise these. They can easily be linked to the South West Trains line from Reading, via Staines. It would be easier than the original proposals of trains from Waterloo doing a 'u' turn into T5.

Rob Healy, Feltham,

GR8 idea. Now take it a step further and go high speed from Heathrow down the M3 corridor to the coast. This would remove the tens of thousands of cars traveling A3/M3 every day to the Heathrow area to work, who have no public transport options today. And by the way, don't bother doing any of it if it costs as much as going into London costs today. Look at how public transport is done in scandanavia. That's how to do it properly.

Damien, Camberley,

Yet again the emphasis is on connecting South Wales to London. Spend the money on a proper rail link to Cardiff Airport!

Wyn, Cardiff

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