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DfT to rule on £10bn HS4Air proposal

The £10bn HS4Air rail scheme connecting High Speed 1 (HS1) with High Speed 2 (HS2) via Gatwick and Heathrow airports is to be submitted to government as part of its market led proposals (MLP) call for ideas.

The 140km high speed route starts at Ashford in Kent and runs south of London via the two airports before connecting to the Great Western Mainline and HS2 north of Heathrow.

The scheme was originally proposed by Expedition director Alistair Lenczner in March this year and has now been developed by Expedition in conjunction with architect Weston Williamson and Partners (WW+P) and planning and development consultant Turley.

The line has been dubbed the “M25 for high speed trains”, slashing journey times between Heathrow and Gatwick from around 1 hour 45 minutes to just 15 minutes.

Four new stations along the route at Ashford, Tonbridge, Gatwick and Heathrow have been proposed. Expedition said that the line would provide new points of transport connectivity to the rest of the UK beyond London.

It also envisages both Heathrow and Gatwick airports becoming multi-modal regional transport hubs with many passengers using the stations even if they were not flying.

About 40% of the line is proposed to use existing Network Rail track between Tonbridge and Ashford which, it said, being flat and straight, could “readily” be upgraded for use by high speed trains.

It went on to say that to minimise the impact on environmentally sensitive areas such as the Surrey Hills, or to go through built up areas around the airports, about 20% of the line would run in tunnels. To the west of London, it would run alongside the M25 motorway to make use of the existing transport corridor.

A shuttle service would be introduced between the airports with a 15 minute transfer time meaning passengers could use the airports as one, increasing capacity and resilience.

Lenczner said: “As a joined-up, strategically important piece of infrastructure, HS4Air offers new connectivity that will provide an economic boost for the entire country. The multi-benefit nature of the project means that it will offer a better return on infrastructure investment than is often the case for infrastructure projects that have only a single primary objective.

“HS4Air will overcome the barrier that historic London represents in terms of rail connectivity between the UK regions and Europe. By allowing London to be bypassed at high speed, economic activity between the UK regions and Europe can expect to grow.

“The very positive response the HS4Air project has received from various parties suggests that the proposal can expect widespread public support as it moves forward”.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is currently calling for ideas for third party investment under its market led proposals scheme. When the call was launched in March this year, the DfT said the public sector did not have a “monopoly on good ideas” and wanted to provide a sustainable future for the rail sector.

The closing date for entries has been set for the end of July.

Proposed HS4Air reduced journey times:

  • Ashford to Gatwick: 25 minutes (typically 1 hour 50 minutes today)
  • Manchester to Heathrow: 1 hour 10 mins (typically 3 hours 20 mins today)
  • Heathrow to Gatwick: 15 minutes (typically 1 hour 45 minutes)
  • Cardiff to Heathrow: 1 hour 40 mins (typically 2 hours 50 mins today)
  • Birmingham to Paris: 3 hours (typically 3 hours 50 minutes by air)

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