HS2 spur to Heathrow ditched in another blow to airport’s Colnbrook Runway hopes

Transport minister Patrick McLoughlin has ruled out an HS2 spur to Heathrow in another big blow to the airport’s Third Runway master plan. 

HS2 train

A key plank of an expanded Heathrow’s surface access plan has been dropped before the Davies Commission even completes its deliberations on its final recommendation due this Summer.

The Heathrow spur was originally planned to be part of the second phase of HS2 but in 2013 the Government announced that it was postponing work on the project pending the Airport Expansion commission’s report in 2015.  But it published a “preferred route” to avoid blight at the same time, and said that some “preparatory work” may begin prior to a formal consultation, even opening the possibility of compensation to those affected.

Yesterday’s announcement by the minister, made in a letter to Beaconsfield MP Dominic Grieve, says the £2bn link will now not be built as part of Phase 1 or 2.  While it has fallen short of ruling it out forever the lack of any current plan means the spur will now not be included in the HS2 plans up to 2033.

The Government's preferred route for a Heathrow spur published in 2013

The Government’s preferred route for a Heathrow spur published in 2013

HS2 will transform journey times to the Midlands and the North in a way that simply cannot be achieved at Gatwick

Only last month Heathrow used its response to the Airports Commission’s final consultation to stress the integral part HS2 would play in its surface access strategy which would “connect every part of the UK to global growth” and  allowing people from all over the country to reach Heathrow without crossing London.

“Crossrail will deliver direct train services to the City, Canary Wharf and East London by 2019. Western Rail Access will reduce journey times to Slough, Reading, and South Wales by 2021. Southern Rail Access could deliver new rail connections to Clapham Junction, Waterloo and the wider South West Trains network. HS2 will transform journey times to the Midlands and the North in a way that simply cannot be achieved at Gatwick.”

"In 2026 HS2 will provide fast routes to Heathrow from the Midlands and the North".  Not any more - the claim made in Heathrow's 'Taking Britain Further' submission and reiterated last month is now void.

“In 2026 HS2 will provide fast routes to Heathrow from the Midlands and the North”. Not any more – the claim made in Heathrow’s ‘Taking Britain Further’ submission and reiterated last month is now void.

It added:

“This will transform the ability of people in the Midlands and the North to access flights to global markets, and make those regions much more attractive locations for businesses that value international connectivity. Heathrow will reduce journey times for more passengers and deliver higher mode shift onto public transport than Gatwick.”

The ditching of the scheme will be a big disappointment to the airport – which criticised the Commission last month for not giving more consideration to transport connectivity “at the local, regional, national and international level” in its assessment of the three options for new runway in the south-east.

“We would have therefore expected to see some consideration of the short-listed options against, for example, national transport policies and strategies for road and rail, including HS2. Integrating Heathrow firmly into the rail and HS2 networks provides a unique opportunity to think more broadly about the wider transport system we want for the UK.”

"70% of the UK population will live within three hours of Heathrow" the airport claimed.  Dropping the HS2 spur will mean passengers having to change at Old Oak Common for the exorbitant Heathrow Express or Great Western Mainline to connect with Fiona Mactaggart's Western Rail Access to Heathrow.

“70% of the UK population will live within three hours of Heathrow” the airport claimed. Dropping the HS2 spur will mean passengers having to change at Old Oak Common for the exorbitant Heathrow Express or Great Western Mainline to connect with Fiona Mactaggart’s Western Rail Access to Heathrow.

… high-speed link from St Pancras to Heathrow, connecting the north, could replace up to 66,500 flights a year

Dismissed by some as an election sweetener the announcement nevertheless derails (no pun intended) previous Tory transport pledges as well as its very justification for the controversial HS2.

In 2008, shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers, said a future Tory government would say no to a third runway at Heathrow and instead give the green light to HS2.  She claimed a high-speed link from St Pancras to Heathrow, connecting the north, could replace up to 66,500 flights a year.

 

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