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Heathrow expansion team working around ‘frustrating’ delays to rail access

3115718 heathrow southern rail image 3to2

A senior Heathrow Airport boss has described delays to the government’s decision about a southern rail connection to Heathrow as “frustrating”.

Speaking at a Westminster Forum event, Heathrow Airport surface access director Tony Caccavone expressed frustrations that the government’s market let proposal scheme to build a southern rail connection to Heathrow was not moving “as quickly as we would have hoped”. 

The government has invited market led proposals to attract more private investment into the railways. The flagship competition to provide a southern rail connection into Heathrow was launched in March last year, but no scheme has been taken forward yet.

Caccavone confirmed that Heathrow Airport is urging the government to speed up the decision making process.

“For schemes like the western and southern [rail access schemes], we’re calling on promotors and the government to help us create the right environment to move forward at pace,” he said. “We need to get some more momentum behind them to get them more at the delivery mode stage.”

Frustration is shared across the industry with one entrant into the scheme branding the government vision for market led proposal projects a “utopian dream”.

Caccavone said the lack of both the western and southern schemes was not holding back Heathrow’s expansion plans, but he said the casefor expansion would be strengthened if the schemes were progressed.

“Both western and southern rail aren’t included in our base assessment case, so while they are in our expected case they’re not in the base, and the overarching surface access strategy will demonstrate how we can meet the targets without those two schemes,” he said.

“Obviously it becomes easier if there are two big rail intervention schemes moving much quicker than they actually are.”

Since the call for ideas for a southern rail connection was made last year, promotors have made their ideas public.

Of the four, only two remain in the running after a scheme to provide southern and western access via a connection in Windsor and the HS4Air plan to link Heathrow and Gatwick were “rejected outright” in December last year.

In February, it was revealed one promotor, Heathrow Southern Rail, was at loggerheads with the Department for Transport (DfT) over track access arrangements.

A scheme promoted by Spelthorne Council to provide a DLR style service into Heathrow is also still in the running. 

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