Heathrow airport got a £500M boost yesterday in form of a new rail link for passengers travelling from the west, despite the government delaying its full consultation on south east aviation capacity until the autumn.
The plan for the new rail link was unveiled as part of a wider consultation on aviation policy that looks at regional airports, noise and sustainability.
More frequent flights to emerging markets, improved access to airports – including the £500M Heathrow rail link – and a reduction in the impact of airports on local communities is to be put at the heart of UK aviation strategy, transport secretary Justine Greening said.
The draft policy framework is intended to form the basis of future sustainable aviation growth in the UK.
Key measures include:
- Further liberalisation of the UK aviation market to encourage foreign airlines to develop routes from airports other than Heathrow
- Improving reliability and reducing delays at Heathrow, possibly by the mixed-mode operation of its runways permanemt.
- Addressing the environmental and local impacts of aviation through pushing for international action on aviation emissions while continuing to support EU Emissions Trading Scheme; and incentivising noise reduction though higher landing fees for noisier aircraft at unsociable hours and higher penalties for breaching noise limits at any time
- £500M towards a western rail link to Heathrow, which is in addition to £1.4bn already being invested to improve surface access to airports, including £44M towards a new platform at Gatwick Airport station and a new fleet of thirty electric trains already improving services on the Stansted Express.
- Improving efficiency at the border, including a review of the UK’s visa regime, bringing forward the recruitment of 70 additional border staff at Heathrow and working with the US authorities to look at the options for speeding up entry into the US.
- Supporting the introduction of new rules by airport operators to maximise their existing capacity, for example through limiting access to smaller aircraft
- Introducing airport performance charters which will set out the level of service that airlines and their passengers should expect from airport operators
- Improving the overall passenger experience through the Civil Aviation Bill which is expected to gain Royal Assent in 2013.
The Heathrow rail link project will be included in the government’s forthcoming High Level Output Specification for the railways (HLOS) announcement and will go-ahead subject to a satisfactory business case being made.
The government said a separate call for evidence on how to maintain the UK’s international connectivity and hub status will follow “later in the year”, “once the industry has had time to consider the measures put forward for consultation today”.
“London is already one of the best connected cities in the world, but there is still an important but challenging debate to be had on how we accommodate the long-term growth of aviation,” said Greening. “This framework provides the building blocks for this debate and I look forward to working with the industry, residents and other interested parties on this once they have had the chance to consider these measures.”