In addition to the road access via the M4 and M25, Heathrow Airport is currently served by the Heathrow Express to/from London Paddington, and the London Underground Piccadilly line. A host of additional surface access schemes are required to accompany the NWR scheme. The schemes proposed by the Airports Commission, and which have been retained by the DfT in their updated appraisal work are below. HAL have also put forth their initial plans for surface access as part of their January 2018 consultation.
Figure 39: Improved conventional surface access to Heathrow Airport
Heathrow will benefit from several already-committed surface transport schemes, including Crossrail and the Piccadilly line upgrades. Although Val Shawcross, Deputy Mayor of London, said that these upgrades should not be relied upon for the Heathrow scheme and were being provided because of the existing population growth and to deal with existing congestion on the network. Southern and Western Rail Access schemes have also been proposed. Western Rail access would provide a new rail link from the west, converting the existing rail spur from the Great Western Main Line into a loop and allowing for direct services to the airport from Reading. This would enable passengers from the West of England and Wales to reach the airport by rail without changing trains in Central London. Southern Access would be connected to Waterloo, as well as areas of West London which currently have poor public transport access to the airport.
Western or Southern Rail access have not been committed to formally. It is clear from the evidence that these schemes are essential even in a two-runway world. Phil Graham of the Airports Commission commented that “western rail access was never predicated on the airport expanding. Western rail access was a scheme that was planned well before the Airports Commission ever came along… it was planned and expected to be put in place whether or not the airport remained at its current size or whether it grew” Caroline Low of the DfT said “Western rail access is a scheme that the DfT has been looking at in a two-runway world. It is a scheme that we are actively taking forward, building a business case and considering it in accordance with our normal rail policy.”
Several witnesses emphasised the need for the NPS to make a firm commitment to both the Southern and Western Rail Access schemes. Both the HSPG and the Mayor consider these schemes as “essential” in the immediate term and to be operational in time to accommodate the forecast in growth by 2030. Encouraging signs were provided from the Secretary of State during oral evidence that some of the schemes would be formally taken forward. With respect to the various schemes he commented:
But in response to whether a formal commitment should be made in the NPS, the Secretary of State said that “the commitments are more likely to be in the DCO rather than the NPS.” Given the enhancements programme is being rolled back in CP6, there are concerns that there may be difficulties in getting either or both schemes developed and operational in time for the additional runway. When questioned on this, John Holland-Kaye said:
I think people will say that about any rail project for CP6. Money is tight and there is a lot to be done. I think anyone in Network Rail would say that it is unlikely that you will get to the top of the list of funding for CP6 without private investment, and that is what they are looking for.
Val Shawcross believed that experience should tell us that rail schemes were not always developed to complement growth at an expanded Heathrow:
As a small piece of history, those of you who were around during the debate on terminal 5 may know that there was a lot of encouragement for the idea of an air track proposal, which would have provided a new surface line into Waterloo. That was never required and of course it never happened. There is some bad history around all of this.
Several road schemes are also required both to accommodate the construction of the runway and to mitigate the additional traffic that will be generate by expansion which could “could lead to unacceptable levels of congestion.”
Table 12: Heathrow Northwest Runway required road enhancements
There is general agreement in the evidence that the measures outlined by the Airports Commission to support the NPS are essential. Many submissions, however, believe these proposals still will not be sufficient to cater for the step-change in passenger and freight traffic to accompany expansion. The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have pursued this point rigorously.
This argument has become even more pressing given the revised demand forecasts produced by the DfT which shows that there will be a greater increase in passenger movements with each of the expansions options than was previously forecast by the Airports Commission. This means that more people will be going to and from the airport by road than was initially forecast. In fact, using a revised set of surface access forecasts, unmitigated trip generation gives 17% more growth in total highways trips than the Airports Commission’s forecast for the Heathrow NWR Option (Table 13). This new and rapid growth assumed by the DfT would place further strain on the surface access networks supporting Heathrow, bringing forward “harmful impacts on communities and the environment, including crowding on public transport and congestion on the roads.” According to the HSPG, “this underlines the need to improve surface access sooner than first anticipated to Heathrow airport”. HAL said that its “surface access strategy will provide flexibility in its delivery such that initiatives can be brought forward if growth in passenger numbers is faster than expected.” Road user charging, emissions charging and reducing levels of parking are suggested as such initiatives.
Table 13: Airports Commission and New DfT (2017 High) forecasts of growth in total highway trip generation with option (trips/day)
A follow-up report to the NPS by TfL concluded that “the NPS fails to provide a credible plan for how the 173,000 additional daily trips by passengers and staff to an expanded Heathrow will be accommodated on the surface transport network.” TfL modelling showed that even with the committed and assumed schemes, there will be a significant increase of 72,000 passengers using the highways daily, resulting in “congestion and delays for both airport and non-airport users.” The Secretary of State and the DfT were critical of the TfL modelling and some of the assumptions that it had made, for example, saying that “TfL assumed four instead of six Crossrail trains per hour.”
Even before the demand forecasts were updated, the Airports Commission had found that some segments of the surface access network would struggle to cope with peak demand. The Southern Rail Access link and the central sections of Crossrail were forecast to be highly congested during the morning peak, while the Piccadilly Line will also be highly congested and reaching the limits of its capacity as it approaches central London. Crossrail is also expected to be essentially operating at or beyond full capacity by 2030; though HAL are proposing to add an additional two Elizabeth line (Crossrail) services per hour to Heathrow than is currently assumed. With the exception of some sections of Crossrail, the strategic rail links serving the airport will not be as congested outside peak hours. While Heathrow’s contribution to crowding on the rail lines serving the airport is marginal, “the scale of the growth in background demand means that these impacts cannot be discounted.”
Several links on the roads network near to the airport, particularly those sections of the M4 in the closest proximity, are expected to require widening to cope with increased demand resulting from expansion. The resulting congestion on the roads network may need demand management measures, such as congestion charging, to be used. The Airports Commission acknowledged that a road user access charge may be required to mitigate road congestion in and around the airport. Modelling by TfL has come to a similar conclusion and Alex Williams in oral evidence said that, “Some form of demand management is absolutely essential to get anywhere near the aspiration of HAL of no increase in vehicular traffic.”The revised NPS notes that some form of congestion charge might be appropriate,but according to the Mayor of London “it fails to recognise that this is a necessity for an expanded Heathrow if it is to achieve a more sustainable mode share.” The Secretary of State was also supportive of such a measure.
Despite these findings, John Holland-Kaye believed that the NWR scheme “does not rely on new infrastructure that is not yet committed” and added that “just to be clear, we do not need western rail or southern rail in order to meet our mode share targets in a three-runway world.” Caroline Low of the Department also believed that “those rail schemes, while very important for access to the airport, are not necessarily essential to deliver the mode share targets.”
The DfT concedes that “surface access cost estimates remain uncertain given schemes different stages of development,” though it is estimated that £5 billion in capital costs would be required (table below). Caroline Low said the DfT were “confident that the £5 billion captures everything that we think will be needed.”
Table 14: Surface access costs for various expansion options, £m (2014 prices)
Transport for London said it would cost between £10 and £15 billion to build the required surface access to support a NWR; although the DfT does not accept that figure and their understanding is that the TfL figure “includes a lot of schemes that will potentially be necessary to deal with background growth in London.” The Secretary of State also firmly believed that “there is no reason for what I have described to cost anything like £15 billion.” Emma Gilthorpe also commented that:
I think the £10 billion to £15 billion was a number that came from TfL. It related to all of west London’s transport needs. I think we can all agree that that is not Heathrow’s responsibility.
Emma Gilthorpe said that HAL have committed “about £2 billion in our costings for various aspects of surface access, which includes roads as well as an estimate for rail.” John Holland-Kaye said this “includes re-providing existing roads and the additional allowance for the M25, which I think was included in the £5 billion that the Airports Commission identified, so we have absorbed part of that, and the contribution towards rail.”
There are several outstanding issues that bring into question the accuracy of £5 billion costings and there is a real likelihood that the costings will rise above what is currently estimated as part of the NWR appraisal:
In addition to the ambiguities around the total costs, there are uncertainties as to who is going to pay for these. The draft NPS is clear that Heathrow will pay for the full cost of M25, A4 and A3044 diversions and roadworks. However, it is vague about the contribution it expects from HAL towards the costs of Western Rail Access and Southern Rail Access, stating only that it would be “expected to make a contribution towards the cost.”
These outstanding issues around surface access costs and their attribution between the public and private sectors are vitally important both from a business case and scheme financeability point of view:
HAL, as part of its formal planning application, will have to prepare an airport surface access strategy to outline how it will “maximise the proportion of journeys made to the airport by public transport, cycling and walking to achieve a public transport mode share of at least 50% by 2030 and 55% by 2040.” HAL has pledged that its landside airport-related traffic will be no greater than today. John Holland-Kaye believes that target “is very achievable with what is currently in place.” He pointed to HAL’s track record as evidence of its ability to meet surface access targets:
In the last 25 years, Heathrow has pretty much doubled in the number of passengers that we have. We have increased the amount of employment we have, and yet we have had almost no more cars on the road and we have seen a 20% reduction in emissions. We have a good track record of doing this. We have done it before and we will do it again. We know exactly what interventions we need to make and we have a robust plan.
Recent data shows that most passengers travel to the airport by taxi or hire and has only come down slightly in the last decade, so HAL would have to make considerable inroads to what has done in recent history (figure below).
Figure 40: Proportion of passengers travelling to Heathrow by car
HAL said it was “making continuous incremental improvements in order to reduce car use and maintain this level whilst passenger numbers continue to grow,” but they believed achieving a step-change in mode share is likely to come with more significant transport infrastructure investments coming forward, including the Elizabeth Line and HS2.
The draft NPS does not have any formal conditions of approval in the NPS with respect to the mode-share targets and landside airport-related traffic. It simply states that “Heathrow Airport should continue to strive to meet its public pledge.” In response to whether surface access commitments should be a condition in the NPS, the Secretary of State commented that:
What we are going to look at is how we put into the various development consents requirements on surface access. I do not want to be specific today about exactly what form they will take, but we will want some conditionality in there that requires the progress on surface access. It would not be appropriate to do otherwise.
When pressed on whether their commitments should be a binding condition in the NPS, Emma Gilthorpe commented:
I think I would want to see what the planning regime was and precisely what the infrastructure was. The commitments we have made are based on our plan. The plan can change between now and then. It is absolutely appropriate to have commitments, but they would come at the stage of the DCO rather than in the planning policy, which is the NPS that we are talking about today.
The Mayor of London described these targets as “woefully unambitious” and will “result in a substantial increase in vehicle trips on the already congested networks that serve the airport.” Alex Williams elaborated in oral evidence saying that “If you just stick with the 50% NPS target, you are accepting substantial growth in vehicular traffic on the road network—between 40,000 and 60,000 vehicles a day on already congested road networks.” TfL analysis shows that for HAL’s pledges to be realised, at least 61% of passengers and staff, and as many as 69%, need to access the airport by public transport and other sustainable modes. HAL disputed these figures and believes that a scenario with 133 million passengers, which is closer to the expected capacity of Heathrow with a third runway would, based on TfL modelling, require a mode-share of 61% to achieve no additional airport traffic.
The draft NPS does not set out any detail on how the public transport target will be measured, the baseline against which it will be measured, or what sanctions will be imposed if it is not met. The Mayor of London asserts that “the NPS lacks the robust conditions to hold the airport to account, without strict enough targets or monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.” The HSPG also commented that, “there appears to be little reference on how the airport will be obligated to achieve these targets proposed in the NPS and how this may work in practice other than they ‘should be held to account’.” They subsequently recommended that “[surface access] targets be binding and failure to achieve them must result in some form of sanctions that will reduce the intensity of activity at the airport.” The London Borough of Hounslow also recommended that “targets be binding and failure to achieve them must result in some financial penalties and/or obligation to reduce intensity of activity at the airport.”
626 Department for Transport, , October 2017, p 32
627 Heathrow Airport Ltd, , January 2018
628 Airports Commission, , July 2015, p 155
629 Q237; Q238
632 Heathrow Strategic Planning Group (); Mayor of London ()
635 “”, RAIL, 13 February 2018
638 Airports Commission, , July 2015, p 157; For full discussion of the road network enhancements see: Highways England,
639 Airports Commission, , July 2015, p 158
640 Q235; Q238
641 While it is universally accepted by witnesses that this is an implausible eventuality, that is the planning assumption being used by the DfT and for consistency the rest of the NPS should be judged against that benchmark.
642 A comprehensive analysis was not published to accompany the NPS and the Department did not materially reconsider the surface access requirements to support the NWR, instead deferring to the schemes and costings proposed by the Airports Commission.
643 WSP, , Report No 62103867–041-03, October 2017, p 19
645 Mayor of London ()
646 Heathrow Strategic Planning Group ()
647 Heathrow Airport Ltd ()
648 Growth in Trip Generation with Option = Trip Generation with Option – Trip Generation Without Option (DM)
649 WSP, , Report No 62103867–041-03, October 2017, Appendix B
650 Transport for London, , May 2017
651 Transport for London, , May 2017
653 Airports Commission, , July 2015, p 160
654 Heathrow Airport Ltd ()
655 Heathrow Airport Ltd ()
656 Heathrow Airport Ltd ()
658 Department for Transport , October 2017, p 49
659 Mayor of London ()
664 Department for Transport, , October 2017, p 31-32
666 Airports Commission, , July 2015
667 Transport for London, , May 2017
675 Department for Transport, , February 2017, p 25
681 Airports Commission, , July 2015, p 127–8
683 See Annex D for full discussion.
684 Department for Transport, , October 2017, p 25
685 That is, the proportion of the passengers accessing the airport by different modes of public and private transport
686 Department for Transport , October 2017, p 47
687 ‘Heathrow related traffic’ is defined as motorised vehicle movements into and out of the airport and using the public highway, whether carrying air passengers or colleagues or for the purposes of airport related freight and servicing. This includes all cars, taxis, vans, goods vehicles, buses and coaches. Airport related freight and servicing traffic relates to those trips whose origin or destination is within the Heathrow campus or a related warehouse supporting Heathrow airport.
688 Heathrow Airport Ltd and Department for Transport , p 38
691 Department for Transport, , 23 November 2017
692 Heathrow Airport Ltd ()
693 Department for Transport, , October 2017, p 50
697 Mayor of London ()
698 Heathrow Airport Ltd ()
699 Gatwick Airport, March 2017 (); Mrs Sarah Clayton, March 2017 (); and London Borough of Hounslow, March 2017 ()
700 Mayor of London ()
701 London Borough of Hounslow, March 2017 ()
Published: 23 March 2018