High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Heathrow Airport Limited (HSR 131)

1.  Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Transport Committee's inquiry into the strategic case for high speed rail. We have a particular interest in the Government's plans for a new high speed rail network given the proposal to provide a direct link to Heathrow Airport.

2.  We have previously submitted detailed evidence on the issue of Heathrow and high speed rail to the Mawhinney Review in 2010. Our submissions may prove useful further reading in this context and are attached as appendices to this evidence. Subsequent to the Mawhinney Review, HAL and its airlines carried out an extensive evaluation of a number of options for connecting Heathrow to the high speed network. Whilst no overall option has been established as a preferred location for a high speed station at Heathrow, it is clear that a direct and effective connection is a pre-requisite for achieving air/rail substitution. The proposed link from Old Oak Common will not achieve the mode shift Government is looking for. It is important to note that while we recognise the potential national strategic value of connecting Heathrow directly into the high speed rail network—ie to deliver Government objectives on mode shift and carbon savings—our commercial evaluation of the various options showed a limited investment case from a Heathrow perspective.

3.  In summarising our evidence below, we consider that there is a strong case for a new high speed rail network serving the UK's principal cities and international gateways. High speed rail has the potential to create a properly integrated transport system, ensuring that the UK can compete more effectively with its European counterparts in terms of connectivity and its ability to deliver economic growth. Linking high speed rail to Heathrow Airport will be a key component of any network providing the opportunity to achieve Government objectives for increasing public transport mode share, reducing carbon emissions, improving productivity and making more efficient use of Heathrow's capacity. However, the proposal to provide a direct link to Heathrow as part of the second phase of the network means that the Government's objectives will not be fully realised for at least another 20 years.


Question 1: What are the main arguments either for or against HSR?

4.  As the operator of the UK's only hub airport, we believe there are a number of key arguments in favour of a high speed rail network that is directly connected to Heathrow:

—  An integrated transport system would offer improved international connectivity across the UK. The UK's transport system is lagging behind that of its European counterparts to the point that congestion, delay, overcrowding and costly travel are the norm on many parts of the transport network. High speed rail provides an opportunity to deliver a properly integrated transport system, with a new high speed rail network at its core, and Heathrow's global connections a key component of that system.

     European experience demonstrates what can be achieved through effective integration of high speed rail with air travel and underlines the support in the recently published EU Transport White Paper to complete a European-wide high speed rail network that is connected to all core network airports. With a direct high speed rail connection, and integration into the wider transport networks serving the airport, Heathrow's extensive international route network will be complemented with a range of domestic destinations served by rail, thereby sharing the benefits of international connectivity more widely across the UK. This improved national and international connectivity will enhance the UK's international competitiveness and Heathrow's contribution to the UK economy.

—  An integrated transport system would deliver significant economic benefits. In our second submission to the Lord Mawhinney Review,[98] we identified the likely value of the international connectivity benefits from a high speed rail link to Manchester and Leeds (ie assuming the full Y network). Expressed as in increase in Gross Value Added over 60 years, our analysis showed that a high speed network would offer benefits of approximately £9 billion in Present Value terms, where this provided for a direct connection at Heathrow. This illustrates the beneficial effect of improved connectivity on UK productivity, an effect that would only increase as the network is potentially extended further north and linked to HS1. Our analysis also identified, however, that a sub-optimal connection to Heathrow via Old Oak Common would result in a reduction of those benefits by some £2.4 billion.

—  An integrated transport system would promote air/rail substitution. From an aviation perspective, there are five critical success factors to achieving air/rail substitution:

—  the passenger experience should feel like an air-to-air interchange;

—  the frequency of rail service should align with airline schedules;

—  there should be wide transport connectivity with a good range of destinations served;

—  there should be ease of interchange and efficient movement to/from airport terminals; and

—  effective baggage management solutions.

     By combining the range of domestic destinations served by high speed rail with the range of international destinations served by Heathrow, providing the right frequency of service and making the change between the modes attractive, then it is more likely that the traveller from cities such as Manchester or Glasgow will chose to use a high speed train to reach London or connect with an international long haul flight at Heathrow, rather than a short haul flight to connect to an international long haul flight at a European airport.

—  An integrated transport system would help reduce carbon emissions. Domestic and short-haul air travel produces more carbon per passenger kilometre than long-haul and approximately five times as much as high speed rail. By offering a more sustainable alternative to domestic and short-haul air travel, high speed rail could promote modal shift from air to rail where it is linked directly and conveniently into the UK's only hub airport at Heathrow. Integrating Heathrow directly into the high speed network could therefore bring significant carbon reductions that increase as the network is expanded northwards. It follows that the sooner Heathrow is integrated into the high speed network and it expands northwards the greater the cumulative carbon reduction benefits that can be achieved. The potential level of carbon reduction is considered further under Question 6.

—  High speed rail would help restore regional links back into Heathrow. Heathrow's capacity constraints have resulted in the withdrawal of many domestic services to the airport. In the last 20 years there has been a 300% increase in journeys from UK regional airports to European hubs to connect to onward long-haul flights, coupled with a 25% decline in similar connections to Heathrow. In 1991, Heathrow served 23 UK airports. In 2011 that number had dropped to just six. In contrast, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport now serves 21 UK destinations and Paris Charles de Gaulle 14. Integrating Heathrow into the UK high speed rail network would help attract these passengers back to Heathrow, bringing both economic and environmental benefits through improved domestic connectivity and a reduction in domestic and short-haul flights.

Question 2: How does HSR fit with the Government's transport policy objectives?

(iii)  What are the implications for domestic aviation?

5.  In our second submission to the Lord Mawhinney Review (attached as an appendix), we explored in detail the addressable market share of high-speed rail if a link was built into Heathrow Airport. By connecting the proposed high speed line to Heathrow there is the potential to reduce both domestic and short-haul aviation through modal shift from air to rail. Our analysis identified three journey types that would present an opportunity for air/rail substitution:

—  flights from UK regions to Heathrow for passengers flying direct to London;

—  flights from UK regions wishing to transfer to one of Heathrow's long-haul services; and

—  flights from the UK regions to European hub airports where passengers are wishing to transfer to long-haul services that could otherwise be taken from Heathrow.

6.  For each journey type our analysis considered three scenarios:

1.  a maximum case, where all air journeys where substituted;

2.  a likely "integrated" case, where Heathrow has an "on" or "near" airport connection; and

3.  a likely "non-integrated" case, where the connection was via Old Oak Common or similar.

7.  The results are summarised below, in terms of journeys substituted in 2030 assuming the Y route to Manchester and Leeds.

Annual air traffic movements saved Annual air traffic movements saved Annual air traffic movements saved
Heathrow passengers bound directly for London 18,0006,0006,000
Passengers transferring via Heathrow11,000 3-4,0001000
Passengers transferring via a European hub (or other London hub) 62,00029-35,00013,000
Total (Y network)91,000 38-45,00020,000

8.  A direct connection at Heathrow into the high-speed rail network therefore has the potential to substitute around 38,000-45,000 flights across the UK. Significantly fewer flights are converted with an "off-airport" connection since passengers translate the additional transfer to the airport into a "penalty" that reflects their anxiety over the reliability and frequency of the transfer, lack of familiarity with the interchange, managing their luggage and the additional journey time to complete the journey. The issue of direct high speed rail services to the airport rather than a remote interchange, such as that at Old Oak Common, is therefore a significant factor in achieving air/rail substitution.

9.  Heathrow would be able to accommodate the additional passengers re-routed from the European hubs with only a minor increase in aircraft load factors. Moreover, an extension of the high speed rail network to Scotland would further increase the potential for air/rail substitution.

10.  In terms of how the impact of high speed rail on domestic aviation fits with the Government's transport policy objectives, we comment as follows:

—  The continued decline in connections between UK regional airports and Heathrow as a direct result of capacity constraints, coupled with the significant increase in flights from UK regional airports to European hubs, has had a damaging effect on Heathrow's position as an international hub and on the UK's international competitiveness. The Government recognises the value of Heathrow's hub status to the UK and is supportive of a continuation of that role. An integrated air/rail transport solution would improve connectivity to the airport and help to reverse the weakening of Heathrow's hub role. It will not however provide any substantial relief from the capacity shortfall facing Heathrow in the light of forecast demand.

—  High speed rail, if extended as far as Scotland, would help improve regional access to London and Heathrow, particularly in light of diminishing domestic air services from the northern regions and Scotland and the subsequent adverse impacts on regional economic development. The economic and connectivity benefits of domestic air services are well understood but it is generally acknowledged that improvements in rail services can reduce demand for domestic air travel.

—  In addition to improving economic competitiveness through enhanced connectivity, a high speed network could offer an attractive and more sustainable alternative to domestic air travel. With domestic air travel's inclusion within UK carbon emissions, and with those emissions set to rise over time, high speed rail could help the UK work to reverse this increase and reduce carbon emissions from domestic aviation. The Department for Transport's recently published consultation[99] on high speed rail confirms that the largest element of carbon reduction from the first phase of the high speed network could come from modal shift from aviation generated by improved journey times to the North and Scotland. We would emphasise, however, that a successful mode shift from aviation will generally require a journey time of less than 3.5 hours, as well as, among other things, an efficient and seamless connection. An interim connection at Old Oak Common during the first phase will not maximise the potential for modal shift.

—  Mode shift from both air and road to rail would contribute to increasing the proportion of passengers travelling to airports by public transport.

11.  At a broader level, implementation of high speed rail in the UK would accord with proposals in the recently published EU Transport White Paper[100] to complete a European high speed rail network by 2050, to connect all core network airports to high speed rail, and to encourage better modal choices for intermediate travel from greater integration of modal networks. The Commission's accompanying Staff Working Document[101] confirms that part of the answer to meeting the demand for air travel will be high speed rail which offers a suitable alternative to short haul and feeder flights, freeing up capacity for long haul routes, but this will require much more effective integration between the two modes to ensure the seamless transition of passengers.

Question 3: Business Case

(iv)  What lessons should the Government learn from other major transport projects to ensure that any new high speed lines are built on time and to budget?

12.  The protracted Terminal 5 planning application and demise of recent major airport projects illustrates the need for the Government to ensure that large infrastructure projects, such as high speed rail, benefit from a robust, joined-up and supportive long-term policy framework. The politicisation of high speed rail must be avoided in favour of cross-party support and robust ministerial sponsorship that can be translated into a policy framework that includes the National Infrastructure Plan. This will be necessary in getting the hybrid bill successfully through Parliament, and, equally, in securing the necessary long-term sponsorship and funding certainty for a project of this scale. The constraints on public sector funding will require the Government to consider and exploit all potential funding mechanisms to ensure high speed rail becomes a reality, including EU TEN-T funding.

13.  At a more detailed level, the Government must ensure that the case for high speed rail is supported by clear and thorough evidence of need and economic benefits in the context of social and environmental constraints.

Question 4: The Strategic Route

(ii)  Which cities should be served by an eventual high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right choice?

14.  We support high speed rail serving those cities where it is likely to achieve air/rail substitution and subsequent carbon reduction benefits, including where this provides for a fully integrated transport network. This includes those cities already identified in the proposed Y configuration as well as a potential future extension of the network to Scotland, but could also include further connections to key cities to the south and west of Heathrow and London, such as Southampton, Cardiff and Bristol. Such a configuration could provide extensive north-south and east-west connectivity and promote substantial carbon savings.

(iii)  Is the Government correct to build the network in stages, moving from London northwards?

15.  The potential carbon and connectivity benefits from air/rail substitution and a wider integrated transport system will not be fully realised until Heathrow is properly connected into a high speed network that links directly to those key cities where there is potential for high speed rail to substitute for domestic and short-haul aviation. Our response to question iv below considers this further.

(iv)  The Government proposes a link to HS1 as part of Phase 1 but a direct link to Heathrow only as part of Phase 2. Are those the right decisions?

16.  The Government has made it clear that one of its main objectives in building HS2 is to reduce domestic flights in the UK. It has also been acknowledged that the development of a high speed rail network has been a key factor in its proposed policy not to support additional runways at London's airports and that this sets a clear justification for any network to be linked to Heathrow and integrated with the European high speed network via HS1.

17.  The Department for Transport's recently published consultation on high speed rail notes, in particular, that:

—  The strategic case for linking a UK high speed rail network to Heathrow is compelling.

—  Future patterns of economic activity are likely to depend increasingly on international connectivity.

—  High speed rail is well-suited to delivering an alternative mode of travel to domestic and short-haul flying.

—  A direct link to Heathrow would transform the accessibility of the airport from the Midlands and the North and would generate valuable economic opportunities for these regions making them more attractive locations for investment.

—  A direct link would also contribute to Heathrow's future development as a multi-modal transport hub, further boosting demand for high speed rail access to and from the airport. This position would be enhanced with wider integration into the existing transport network.

—  The largest proportion of carbon reductions associated with the London to West Midlands high speed line (Phase 1) would come from a modal shift from aviation as a result of improved journey times to the north and Scotland.

18.  The Secretary of State has also commented[102] that switching domestic and short-haul European traffic from air to rail over the medium term will be an important part of the solution to delivering a sustainable Heathrow, ensuring that it can remain an important, national hub.

19.  A spur to Heathrow, however, is currently proposed during the second phase of the network, and unlikely to be operational until 2032 at the very earliest. The Government has to accept that on these timings, its objectives for encouraging mode shift and reducing domestic flights will not be fully achieved for at least another 20 years.

Question 5: Economic Rebalancing & Equity

(iv)  Should the Government seek support from the EU's TEN-T programme?

20.  Yes. The Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) are a planned set of interconnected road, rail, air and water transport networks designed to serve the entire continent of Europe. The aim of TEN-T is to benefit all European citizens by creating more efficient and environmentally friendly transport, while reinforcing economic and social cohesion across the continent at the same time.

21.  The European Commission's TEN-T programme oversees the networks and allocates financial support towards the development of important transport infrastructure projects across Europe. The UK successfully applied for TEN-T funding as part of the HS1 project. We believe high speed rail fulfils TEN-T objectives and it would make sense for the UK to take advantage of any additional funds that may be available through the European Commission.

Question 6: Impact

(i)  What will be the overall impact of HSR on UK carbon emissions? How much modal shift from aviation and roads would be needed for HSR to reduce carbon?

22.  As set out above, our second submission to the Mawhinney Review considered the addressable market share of high speed rail in the event that it is connected to Heathrow. In the same way that analysis considered the impact of various airport connections on domestic and short-haul aviation, it also considered the consequential impact on global carbon emissions. The results of that analysis are set out in the table below.

CO2 saved per annum (Ktonnes) CO2 saved per annum (Ktonnes) CO2 saved per annum (Ktonnes)
Heathrow passengers bound directly for London 9028-3031
Passengers transferring via Heathrow54 13-183
Passengers transferring via a European hub (or other London hub) 378185-21684
Total (Y network)522 226-262118

23.  Taking into account the factors that affect modal choice, and assuming an integrated "on" or "near" airport connection, the analysis indicates that the most likely carbon saving in this scenario will be around 226-262kt per annum. This is around double the carbon savings that would be achieved from an "off" airport connection, such as that at Old Oak Common.

24.  The results demonstrate that fully integrating Heathrow into the high speed network brings significant carbon reductions and is critically dependent on a seamless and direct airport connection. Carbon reductions will increase as the network is expanded northwards and the UK grid decarbonizes. It follows that the sooner Heathrow is directly linked to the network and it expands northwards, the greater the cumulative carbon reduction benefits that can be achieved.

25.  We hope this evidence has been helpful in setting out our overall support for high speed rail, as well as the importance of ensuring that Heathrow Airport is properly integrated into the high speed rail network to ensure that the Government's sustainability and transport objectives can be achieved at the earliest opportunity. Should you require any clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me.

May 2011

98   High Speed Rail Access to Heathrow: BAA 2nd Submission to Lord Mawhinney's Review (see Appendix 2). Back

99   High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain's Future, Consultation February 2011, DfT. Back

100   White Paper - Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area-Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system, EC, 2011. Back

101   Commission Staff Working Document-Accompanying the White Paper, EC, 2011. Back

102   HC 359 Transcript, Question 34, 26 July 2010. Back

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Prepared 8 November 2011