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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

UK government needs to rethink HS2 Heathrow link

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The UK needs to act quickly and integrate its rail and air strategies by adding Heathrow to the HS2 route plan, a new parliamentary report has urged.

Britain’s plans for high-speed rail and its hub airport strategy should not be developed independently of one another but rather form part of a wider transport masterplan, concluded the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on UK Integrated Transport Strategy study.

By placing Heathrow at the centre of the UK’s rail network, HS2 could not only bring the country’s major cities closer together, it could bring regional businesses within reach of global markets.

The report refers to examples of successful airport rail links in Germany and France.Specifically, it cites high-speed lines connecting Frankfurt International Airport and Paris Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG) Airport that connect directly to through lines without relying on branch lines or loops.

The report said: “The UK has a unique opportunity to consider an integrated approach to its air and rail strategies. This is particularly important in view of the UK’s peripheral offshore location in Europe, and the country’s dependence on global access for its future competitiveness in an increasingly connected world.”

The report also points to HS2 estimates that an alternative route via Heathrow would actually be cheaper, with marginally longer journey times being the only drawback.

For the actual passengers using the service, rail travel expert Mark Smith – The Man in Seat 61 – believes that there is one very practical flaw that is overlooked when linking high-speed links to airports.

“The typical question is ‘my flight from JFK lands at CDG at 7.30am at what time can I book my non-refundable, miss-it-and-I’m-screwed rail ticket on the TGV from Charles-de-Gaulle to Avignon, Marseille, Nice wherever’ and of course the answer they get is your PREM ticket is non-refundable non-changeable.

“You have to allow four hours between the flight landing and the train going because otherwise the flight might be an hour late, it might take ages to get your baggage off, which begs the question why did we bother building a high-speed rail network to the airport? Why didn’t we just buy a cheap and cheerful slow rail link and let people turn up, buy a ticket and hop on the next train.”

6 COMMENTS

  1. There is already a route drawn up via Heathrow which follows existing transport corridors – this is a better option than the current one if they have to go ahead with it, but frankly the whole project is a waste of money and the money ought to be put to better use on making quicker capacity upgrades to existing lines which are struggling under the strain of increased numbers of commuters to large cities, including London, HS2 does nothing to ease this very real pain and delivers limited cost/benefit in comparison, depute government attempts to spin it otherwise.

    • Richard – A significant uplift in capacity is perhaps the central argument for HS2. Increasing commuter numbers, standing room only on peak time trains, a lack of pathways for freight and bottle necks on the exising rail network that hinder reliability and punctuality. HS2 is the value for money answer to the crippling capacity issue. Beyond that, throw in jobs (400,000+), skills and training (that will offer uplift for a generation) and a chance to give regions outside London a strong and sustained economic boost then HS2 starts to look like a really essential project. It is a lot of money, it is a big investment but the returns are hugely significant. France, Germany, China, USA, Brazil, Portugal among many others all have plans to expand their respective HSR networks. We cannot miss out.

      • Hilarious… if you’re going to deal out the same old tired and flimsy excuses for this money pit than HS2 and Patrick McLoughlin do people will simply assume that you work for HS2….ah, but then you probably do don’t you !? ha ha

        • If anything’s ‘tired and flimsy’ it’s the utterly illogical argument that no one would mind HS2 if it was built alongside existing transport corridors, or that it makes any sense spending just as much money on repeating the same mistake made with the West Coast Route Modernisation. To suggest a freight line only underlines the compete absence of any logic or understanding of the capacity issues. I’m sorry Richard, but your just repeating the laughable arguments of people who don’t care about real world solution,s just conning people into thinking that there are easy alternatives.

  2. There would be no point in linking to Heathrow, only to find it is going to be replaced by an airport in the Thames estuary or similar. A coherent airport strategy is inseparable from a coherent rail strategy & needs to be thought out first. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of comprehension of what the words “strategy” or “coherent” really mean. All there seems to be is a general reluctance to deal with any problem unless absolutely forced to, together with an inability to realise that not making a decision is itself a decision! HS2 itself was an attempt to bring capacity relief to other routes, but the route was hastily planned & has very little connectivity with the rest of the network, hence much of the faster journey time is lost. Faster from Birmingham to Leeds, yes. Faster from Bristol to Bradford? Maybe, but even if it is, you’ll have a long walk in Birmingham & another in Leeds. Best take the car eh!

    • Exactly Ian – its been designed around speed only and in its current form does little to ease congestion – if a new freight-centred line with proper connectivity were built it might work by also adding some passenger journeys at lower cost, therefore freeing up existing commuter lines where real pressure is already at the limit. It could also avoid contentious areas by running at slower speed which might bring the bill down a bit and speed up the delivery somewhat. Problem is they won;t admit they got it wrong being the narcissists that they are…rather waste taxpayers money than wipe a bit of egg off their own face.

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