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The missing link Steve Purnell, technical director at environmental consultant ERM, looks at new approaches to getting to the airport on time.


By next month the UK's top 23 scheduled airports must each establish an Airport Transport Forum. This will produce a best practice guide to encourage airport users, both employees and passengers, to leave their cars at home and use alternative transport.

London's City Airport is a prime example of this shift in thinking. The airport relies almost entirely on car or taxi for delivering passengers to planes, with no direct rail link or tube line, although there are local bus services.

The good news from a green transport standpoint is that Docklands Light Railway is planning a link into City Airport in line with the Government's transport plans. This month a public consultation exercise will ask 4,000 households in the Docklands area for their opinion. Working alongside the project engineers ERM has spent the past few months examining the environmental and socio-economic impacts posed by three potential routes for the link. No matter which is finally chosen it will almost certainly pass through residential areas at certain points. In this context, ERM has been able to advise on noise levels or wheel squeal caused by rail cornering at speed and the best type of barrier for each section.

It is fair to say that there are generally no significant residual harmful environmental impacts resulting from a scheme of this nature. The immediate benefits to residents will be the reduction in cars travelling to the airport and parking in residential areas. It is also a great deal quieter than conventional rail.

No matter which of the three routes is finally chosen, the effect on the local population is expected to be extremely positive in terms of employment and opening up areas for redevelopment.

The current preferred route would leave the existing Beckton branch of the DLR at Canning Town, pass under the Lower Lea Crossing and run on viaduct to the south side of Silvertown Way using some of the existing alignment of the former Silvertown tramway. New stations would serve the Britannia Village development, the airport and the local community of Silvertown. There is also further scope for stations serving development sites at Thames Wharf and Pontoon Dock.

If all goes according to plan, the public consultation will continue until the end of this year with a view to beginning construction in November 2000.The link is due to open in January 2003.

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