Crossrail may not stop at Heathrow Airport when the line opens in 2018, because of a dispute about the amount of money the airport has proposed to charge for use of a section of railway it built.
According to the Times, unnamed sources have said if the dispute is not resolved, Crossrail trains might have to stop at a nearby station with passengers transferring to another service to complete the journey to Heathrow.
The apparent contingency plan by Transport for London (TfL), which will operate Crossrail, has been formed against the backdrop of a protracted legal case brought against Heathrow Airport by the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) which says the proposed charges for the line use are too high.
The line in question is Heathrow Airport’s dedicated Heathrow Express line. When Crossrail opens in 2018, the route is to travel along the existing Network Rail owned track from Paddington to Hays and Harlington where selected services would transfer onto Heathrow Express track.
The 8.5km long section of the track was built by BAA – now Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) – in 1998 at a reported cost of around £1bn.
To travel along the section of track, operator HAL wants to recoup historical build costs and has proposed a charge of £597 per Crossrail train, plus a further £138 per train for “operational expenditure”.
This charge has been disputed by the ORR and is now subject to a High Court ruling.
Surface transport requirements for the proposed third runway at Heathrow mean the airport must ensure there is adequate access for workers and passengers.
“In May 2016, taking into account representations and evidence from affected parties, including considerable documentation and submissions from HAL, we decided it was not permitted to introduce all of its proposed new charges for train operators to use its track, which links Heathrow Airport to the Great Western main line,” said an ORR spokesperson.
Findings from a consultation carried out by the ORR were published last May. Responding to the initial ORR judgement, TfL said the track access charges should be linked to directly incurred costs as a result of operating the service. It added that the charging structure currently proposed by HAL did not appear to do this.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are committed to increasing public transport to Heathrow and look forward to the arrival of Crossrail in May 2018. We need to ensure that track access charges are fair and are waiting on a ruling from the courts on whether the regulations apply and if so, their correct application to costs.”