Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Interlinking Transit Solutions Ltd (AS 115)

About Interlinking Transport Solutions Ltd.

Interlinking Transit Solutions Ltd (ITSL) is a small group of independent engineers and other professionals dedicated to improving transport connectivity around London. Our work for the past six years has concentrated on a low environmental impact solution to London’s aviation capacity issue and railway connectivity. We have previous experience with the planning and building of elevated light rapid transit systems similar to the system we are proposing. The group also has experience of M25 construction, bridge design, building design, airport and airline operation, railways and automated control. For this project, we have received help in modelling this proposed light rapid transit system from one of the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of transportation systems, which are installed worldwide. Our evidence relates particularly to the Committee’s interest in making the best use of existing aviation capacity and increasing that capacity. It focuses mainly on surface access, resilience, and environmental impact.


The number of airline passengers transferring between London’s airports is too few to justify the cost of a rail link between the airports. However, by connecting existing railway lines crossing the M25 with a rapid transit light railway, the total number of passengers using the link would create a business case to link the airports. The special capabilities of the proposed light rail system enable it to carry baggage, cargo and mail, the extra revenue from which will justify the railway for private investment.

Given the existing airport profiles and the environmental and cost constraints, London’s aviation capacity, connectivity, convenience and efficiency can more sustainably be increased by using the facilities that London already has to maximum effectiveness by creating a multi-airport hub—for example, slots would be increased by 35% and business destinations to 212 for each airport. The best way to create an air-rail link is to use the M25, M23, and M1 motorway corridors as the route.

The most rapid, cost-effective, and practical technology that can cope with the steep gradients, tight bends and obstacles needed to negotiate the motorways and take passengers right up to check-in areas in the airport terminals, is a light rapid transit system, elevated where necessary, using technology proven in use over the past 26 years.

The rail link would encourage the shift from short haul flights, eg to Leeds or Manchester, onto the railways. It would facilitate the displacement of lower yield flights to less busy airports like Luton, Stansted and Southampton, yet enable them to be connected to Gatwick and Heathrow. It would also facilitate greater use of the existing available runway capacity at Luton and Gatwick. These will help Heathrow and Gatwick focus on larger intercontinental jets whilst creating surface access that could serve any possible changes in airport activity that might occur around London.

A mullti-airport hub is not a conventional solution for most cities but London has the constraints of planning, environment and the need for new infrastructure to pay its way. With access to +30% destinations for Heathrow, +106% for Gatwick from inking the airports by a 31–36 minute transit, the solution will suit many passengers, over 70% of whom—including business people—are travelling on a budget.

Road congestion and pollution around the M25, especially near Heathrow, can be reduced by approximately 15% if it were convenient for those who would otherwise use cars, to take trains from their local stations. For example, 71% of people from the South West drive to the airport. They could instead transfer to a light rapid transit link by taking a train to Iver, Staines or West Byfleet.

With access to all London runways, getting planes out of the holding stacks and onto the ground more quickly will reduce airline pollutants. The immediate savings in fuel and CO2, provide additional justification for a multi-airport hub.

This access to additional runways provides resilience in the event of weather or other contingency situations because passengers can easily be transferred back to their original intended airport destination whilst the plane remains where it landed.

Congestion on London transport systems will be reduced if passengers living within the M25 or beyond it, can transfer between railway lines at the M25 rather than travel on trains and underground into central London to change between termini.

We have spent six years researching the feasibility and the design for a privately financed rapid transit system that will solve London’s aviation issues and contribute to its infrastructure. The solution is the London Air Rail Transit system (LARTs), named as LARTs RapidRail

A. What the proposal is—an elevated light rapid transit along the motorways

1. Air and rail strategy for improving aviation capacity. It is generally agreed that the UK benefits from being an international aviation hub but this function is being eroded by constraints on expansion at the main hub airport, Heathrow, which include runway capacity and surface access, but not terminal capacity. Other issues are the scarcity of development land for making connections, pollution and landscape conservation. Luton and Stansted, and to a lesser extent Gatwick, have runway capacity, and all four airports have terminal capacity for over 15% more passengers. An economic and sustainable way to improve capacity would be to link these existing facilities together to create a uniquely British solution of a multi-airport hub, providing that the journey time between them is acceptable to passengers. The other main solutions—Runway 3, new Estuary Airport, Heathwick Express—will be more expensive, have more environmental impact and not contribute as much to London’s and the UK’s overall transport infrastructure than our proposal. Because there are insufficient airline passengers transferring between airports to justify a surface link (although these would increase if a link existed), a business case for a link can be made if other passengers can also use the link, eg railway travellers, airport staff and road users.

2. A new M25 light rapid transit system would be the best solution. The LARTs RapidRail system is a low environmental impact plan that can be combined with other strategic aviation measures to increase capacity and maintain London’s hub status. The plan is to construct a light rapid transit, elevated where necessary, alongside the M25, M23 and M1 (and eventually the M11 if Stansted is included). It will not only link the airport terminals to each other, but also link them to the railways where these cross the M25. Only this light transit solution, has the capability to reach into existing airport terminals and railway stations to achieve this and be cost effective enough to be privately financed, as well more acceptable in planning terms. (Appendix 1)

3. Creating capacity and convenience from linking railways to airports. The system would not only improve the capacity, connectivity, and efficiency for aviation but also for rail and road travel around London and further afield. The automated system can combine both an express service between airports and a stopping service at railway stations along the route. The capability and flexibility of the technology will also enable it to make connections with Crossrail and HS2. By interlinking the railways radiating out from the centre of London with each other and with the airports, LARTs RapidRail makes London more attractive to use as a hub for those transferring between airports and those travelling into and out of, and around London. It also reduces congestion on trains and the Underground within central London.

4. Connecting airports with reliability, frequency and short journey times. The link has to be reliable and have acceptable connection times for airline passengers and employees at airports. The same technology we propose has been used in six other major cities around the world to link their populations directly to their airports. The first system was opened in Vancouver in 1985, where it has operated with 98% reliability. Other systems are in NewYork, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Seoul and Dubai. The system has the capability of running a train every minute in each direction for 24 hours/day along the dual track guideway, mixing express and stopping services using a precision automated control system and stations that will to allow express through trains. Trains would depart every four or five minute from the airport terminals, which is ample time needed to load and unload 100–150 passengers. Journey times would be 31 minutes between Heathrow Terminal 5 and Gatwick South, and 38 minutes between Terminal 5 and Luton airport. With the system extended throughout Heathrow and Gatwick, the journey time from Terminals 1,2 and 3 or Terminal 4 to Gatwick would be 36 minutes. Within Heathrow, the journey time between Terminals would be 4–10 minutes at a frequency of about every 12 minutes. For over 70% of airline passengers who are travelling on a ‘budget’, these transfer times improve on existing journey times between or within the airports and create options and choices that are made more attractive by the frequency, predictability, and 98% reliability of the automated light rapid transit technology. No airport bound passengers will be delayed from traffic congestion or road works on the M25. (Appendix 2)

5. Capacity of the system. With 48 passenger trains and 12 baggage trains an hour, the system will have more than enough capacity to carry the predicted 23 million passengers/year as well as baggage, cargo and mail. The relative mix of passenger and baggage trains can be varied according to demand throughout the day and the total capacity of system can be increased to carry by 60 million passengers/year. The system can include airside-to-airside connections for baggage, cargo and freight, and for airline passengers if the demand exists.

6. Staged implementation for the orbital plan. The whole plan is a very large London wide infrastructure project that would be made manageable by implementing it in affordable stages and phases of construction and operation. The first proposed stage, taking four years to construct, would connect Staines and Heathrow as a replacement for the cancelled Airtrack scheme. The next proposed construction stages taking 10 years would extend the system along the M25, M23 and M1 to connect Gatwick and Luton and 11 stations on railway lines intersecting the M25. The connections would include Great Western trains to Bristol and Cardiff at Iver; West Coast trains to Birmingham at Kings Langley; South West trains to Southampton and the south west at West Byfleet; Southern trains to the south coast at Merstham; and South Eastern trains to Kent at Sevenoaks. Further extensions northeastwards round the M25 would connect the East Coast mainline at Potters Bar, and Greater Anglia at Waltham Cross for a Stansted connection or extend up the M11 to Stansted itself. (Appendix 3)

7. Stage One—Staines to Heathrow. The first proposed stage taking four years and costing £850m would connect Staines with Heathrow Terminal 5. This would fulfil all the obligations of the cancelled Airtrack scheme, with more benefits and fewer liabilities. Revenue from this first stage makes the stage financially self-supporting, so that this short section of the project becomes a model for the wider system. Our proposal is for a six minute journey time shuttle from Terminal 5 (and between Terminals 1–2-3 and 4 at a later stage), with a peak frequency of eight per hour, which matches the number of the South West trains to Waterloo. The journey between Terminal 5 and Waterloo Station on an existing SWTrains service would take 48 mins, including a four min transfer. The LARTs RapidRail shuttle would generally follow the Airtrack route but would have a platform alongside the Staines down platform. Passengers with their luggage would have an easy transfer between the two because the train technology and construction of LARTs RapidRail enables its platforms to be above existing station platforms and connected to them by a bridge so there is just one vertical manoeuvre using a lift or escalator. There is also no step into the rapid transit trains because the train floor and platforms will be at the same level.

8. Enabling all mainland UK to travel by rail to London’s airports. To complete the concept of an orbital transit system, further stages would extend the rapid transit system to the north bank of the Thames estuary at Tilbury, and to the south bank of the Thames at Ebbsfleet International. With all stages of the plan completed, passengers from all parts of the country will be able to transfer to LARTs RapidRail to get to London’s main airport terminals from their local railway stations. Similarly passengers inside the M25 and travelling outwards will also be able to make convenient transfers from railway or London Underground stations onto LARTs RapidRail direct into airport terminals. These create a huge potential ridership for the system, whether using it to go to airports or to other rail destinations. (Appendix 4)

B. How the plan would improve London’s aviation capacity

9. Encouraging shift from plane to train. LARTs RapidRail’s ability to provide a quick direct connection between the railways and the airport terminals, means that airline passengers will find it convenient to transfer between them using LARTs RapidRail. The technology of LARTs RapidRail allows it to get close to the check-in areas at the airport terminals and to the railway platforms so making short walking distances and large time savings. Passengers between Manchester and Heathrow would have a 2hrs 30min journey by transfer to the West Coast mainline at Kings Langley. Leeds to Heathrow via the East Coast Mainline at Potters Bar would take 2hrs and Newcastle 3hrs 30 minutes. These rail connections would reduce domestic short-haul flights and they are more convenient for passengers with luggage because currently most journeys involve travelling into central London and having to cope with flights of steps etc when changing between terminii. The same LARTs RapidRail connectivity and convenience can also deliver passengers to Crossrail and HS2 to help reduce demand for domestic short-haul flights.

10. Utilising spare runway capacity to add more slots. At times when Heathrow’s holding stacks are full, Gatwick and Luton have runway capacity available that could be used for additional planned flights or for contingencies. Gatwick’s spare runway capacity is only 5%, but Luton’s is 44%. (Stansted’s is about 50%). By linking the airports, LARTs RapidRail will facilitate greater use of available spare runway capacity at busy times. If airlines know that their passengers have a quick and reliable way of transferring between airports, they should be more willing to use spare the capacity. We estimate that connecting the existing airports adds 35% more runway slots for London as a multi-airport hub.

11. Enabling rationalisation of flights. A suggested way of improving capacity for additional emerging market destinations is to move lower yield to some regional airports. LARTs RapidRail will help this by creating better links to London’s airports using the existing railways and reducing the travel time between them by removing the need to travel into central London to make the transfer. A journey from Heathrow to Birmingham International would be 90 mins instead of 140 mins now; to Southampton would be 80 mins instead of 105 mins now; and to East Midlands Parkway 120 mins instead of 163 mins now. (Appendix 4)

12. Adding more destinations to each airport. Capacity in terms of destinations can be added by linking the existing London runways. Excluding London City airport, Heathrow is the premier business destination airport with some 163 business destinations. Gatwick has 103 and Luton 49 business destinations. Linking these three airports by a light rapid transit so that they become one virtual hub enables each airport to offer 212 business destinations (227 if Stansted is included). The journey times for this “virtual hub” of 31–36 minute between Heathrow and Gatwick and 38–43 minutes between Heathrow and Luton are not dissimilar to some existing transfer times between Heathrow’s terminals. (Appendix 5)

13. Improving the passenger experience with better surface access. Improving the ‘passenger experience’ is an aviation policy aimed to encourage passengers to use London as a hub. LARTs RapidRail will help by using its unique capabilities to provide connections to each terminal within 100–150m of check-in areas so reducing current walking distances. These convenient connections will be also between the terminals within each airport. Similar close connections to railway stations can be made, which is important for passengers encumbered with baggage. Combined with frequent express services between the airports and the main railway lines (eg Great Western, West Coast, and East Coast) and the stopping service for stations in between, the light rapid transit system (elevated where necessary) will provide a convenient and unique service for air and rail passengers that will be a match for or surpass any rival hub airport. We estimate that just by linking the airports, airline passenger numbers should increase by about 15% and airline yields by about 10%.

14. Baggage and airside-to-airside transfers add extra facility. The attractions of London as a hub can be further increased for users because the automated train technology of LARTs RapidRail makes possible an airside-to-airside system for carrying luggage, cargo and freight between depots. Combining baggage and passengers on the system is similar to combining stopping and express services on the main guideway. The system can also be used to carry airside-to-airside passengers if the demand exists—the financial viability for an airside system being created by the value and urgency of air cargo.

C. Why the plan is a low environmental impact one

15. CO2 emissions. By encouraging passengers, airport staff and meeters and greeters to leave their cars at home and take a train to the airports or to other rail lines on LARTs RapidRail, or for those will drive, to use a few strategically sited park & ride facilities on the motorways, we estimate that LARTs RapidRail will reduce vehicle journeys by over 10,000/day around the busy western section of the M25 and especially on roads leading into Heathrow. This will reduce pressure for widening the M25 further—we estimate the system capacity will be equivalent to more than one lane of motorway- and help reduce CO2 emissions. Combined with the aviation fuel savings from reduced stacking in the sky and waiting on the taxiways because of the availability of extra runways, we estimate CO2 savings of 5m tonnes/yr. This also has health benefits for local communities.

16. Planning acceptability. The use of an already noisy and polluted motorway corridor, which is generally distant from housing development and involves no demolition, will be more acceptable than other routes for a new rail link. The noise level of our trains is quieter than motorway traffic: linear induction motors used for propulsion produce less wheel noise and steerable wheels, as well as helping negotiate bends smoothly and quietly, eliminate high pitched squeal noise. Visual impact will be minimised by keeping the elevated guide-way just off the ground for much of its route. This means that the trains can go under most motorway bridges. Only at stations and airports, and at some motorway junctions will the guideway need to be raised over obstructions. In sensitive locations, such the Surrey countryside near Reigate and at Wisley, short tunnels are included in the construction costs. Since the plan will benefit local communities by providing connections at local stations and by removing cars from local roads close to the motorway, there are incentives for stakeholders to support the plan.

D. How does it work as a link—technology and transfer times

17. Appropriate, reliable and proven technology. The light railway technology proposed has been selected because of its suitability for the London situation. This system provides more flexibility and effectiveness than a monorail, heavy rail, maglev or buses for an application which has to surmount numerous challenges to connect existing facilities—for example to negotiate tight curves and steep gradients to get around or over existing motorway obstacles, and into railway stations, the baggage terminals, the upper floors of the airport terminals etc. The propulsion method used enables the trains to do this with an advantage over monorail because the trains can easily change tracks at the end of spur lines and at through stations, for the necessary flexibility. Headways between trains are uniquely short: the system has the capability of running a train a minute day and night in each direction along the guideway for 24 hours a day, thus adding viability for airport shift workers and freight during the night.

18. Proven construction technology. Construction methods designed to minimise disruption have been used successfully in other cities. Prefabricated pillars would be installed along the margin of the motorway upon which will sit prefabricated beams carrying the 7m wide twin track elevated guideway. The prefabricated components minimise disruption to the motorways because they can be installed from overhead using the advancing guideway. The most disruptive work, chiefly the foundations for the pillars, can be undertaken at night.

19. Proposed LARTs RapidRail stations. LARTs RapidRail capabilities include the ability to mix express trains with slower services stopping at railway stations along the same guideway. Passing is done either at the ends of spurs into existing railway stations or, at in-line stations alongside the M25 where sidings can be incorporated into the guide-way for platforms. LARTs RapidRail platforms will generally be above or close to the existing railway platforms and accessed by a short walk, and one vertical movement, by lift or escalator.

20. Safety. The system has very good reliability and safety record—in 27 years of operating the first such system, reliability has been 98% and there have been no fatalities due to operation and LARTs will use Passenger Edge Doors to enhance this record. In the event of an emergency on the guideway, passengers can be evacuated safely because the carriages have a low profile and the level difference small. The magnetic propulsion system is extremely reliable and presents no danger from electric shock if stepped on.

21. Comparison with heavy rail for speed, cost, and total journey time. The light rapid transit trains will be able to attain speed of 125 kph around the motorway following its curves and gradients. Heavy rail high speed trains would be faster but the wider turning radii need require land take well outside of the motorway corridor plus extensive tunnelling with the associated additional expense and planning concerns. Moreover, the time advantage of high speed heavy rail would be lost because its stations further from the terminals’ check-in areas than LARTs RapidRail stations. The short walks from LARTs RapidRail stations to check-in will be appreciated by airline passengers especially those with luggage. Therefore a 31– 36 minute predictable journey time on LARTs RapidRail between Gatwick and Heathrow compares very favourably with the aspirations of a high speed rail link of 15 minute journey time, with its added walking time. Additionally, by having a stopping service at railway stations combined with an airports express service, LARTs RapidRail will make a greater contribution to London’s transport infrastructure in order to pay for itself.

E. How the plan would be financed

22. Creating financial viability. Because the number of airline transfer passengers are too small to financially justify an airport-to-airport rail link, the LARTs airport-to-airport link is simply part of the larger scheme interlink railways, airports and motorways, so serving passengers travelling by road, rail and air. Significant revenue is gained from services provided to some of the 100,000 employees at the airports, from meeters and greeters, from three park & rides (strategically placed to curtail many car journeys that would otherwise use the M25) and from carrying air freight as well as baggage. Contributions from local stakeholders in recognition of the economic and environmental benefits, plus carbon credits and other small revenues sources, such as advertising, all contribute towards financial viability of LARTs. (Appendix 6)

23. Cost and revenue. Under the proposed plan, the proposed first stage of would take 4 years and cost £850 million. The phased nature of the project means that revenue will commence after completion of the first phase, and thereafter increasing as stations are opened as the system is built out. The capital cost of the next stages completing an elevated light rapid transit from Heathrow to Gatwick and Heathrow to Luton, including the new stations at airport terminals and at railway stations, would be £7.2 billion over 12 years with a rate of return of 8%, assuming increasing ridership of +3%/yr over 40 years. An operating profit is projected after 18 years and dividends after 10 years. Calculations have been based on a fare structure that would result in a single fare of £12 between the airports. The segregated nature of the system makes it possible to operate LARTs independently even though it integrates with existing rail and airport infrastructure. Providing there is central and local Government support for the project, the segregated operation makes it possible to attract private finance for the project so that it will not need to make a claim on the public finances.

24. Support and co-operation needed from government, airports, railways and others. The proposal needs central and local government support for planning and in negotiations with the railways, highways and airports. It would also need the active consent and co-operation of these sectors and of the airports, all of which will benefit considerably. LARTS benefit London as a whole by reducing car journeys across and round London and reducing public transport congestion whilst helping maintain London as a travel hub. The economic benefits are also for the whole UK and for the environment. This should help to gain support for the proposal. On the face of it, a multi-airport hub would be a unique compromise as far as aviation goes, yet also a brave investment in the integration of existing modes of transport, the sum of whose parts will deliver far, far more than each could do on their own.

G. Recommendations to Government for action

25a. We recommend that Government policy seek to achieve the maximum use of all of London’s existing airport facilities as a means of increasing aviation capacity on the grounds of sustainability, cost effectiveness and make comparison with the Heathwick Express proposal.

25b. We recommend that Government study the London Air Rail Transit system (LARTs) proposal as a surface access means for improving connections between airport terminals and railway stations so creating a cost effective and sustainable multi-airport hub, whilst also reducing road congestion and emissions.

25c. We recommend that Government study the wider economic benefits of the London Air Rail Transit system (LARTs) proposal as an orbital transit system connecting airports and railways with the legacy contributions it makes to London’s transport infrastructure and the national railway network. 

25d. We recommend that Government consider how the London Air Rail Transit system (LARTs) proposal can add to the benefits of Crossrail and High Speed Rail.

25e. We recommend that if Government supports the strategy of a privately financed London Air Rail Transit system (LARTs), it provide assistance to the proposal by way of co-ordinating highway, rail and aviation authorities and of assisting with the legislative procedures necessary for the plan to be implemented.

8 November 2012




LARTs RapidRail first stages would connect railways along the motorways with the three airports



LARTs RapidRail convenient and rapid connections improve journey total times between destinations



First phases of LARTs RapidRail plan to connect Gatwick-Heathrow-Luton and railway lines between



The Buckley plan is for an orbital LARTs RapidRail elevated light rapid transit system around the M25





LARTs RapidRail is financially justified by revenue from a variety of sources to add to airport transfers.


Prepared 24th May 2013