The South East’s Next Runway
I am coming more to the conclusion, that despite the report of the Airports Commission, Heathrow Airport will never have a third runway, but Gatwick may get a second one, as they can start to plan, for when the deal to not build a second runway with Sussex County Council, runs out in 2019.
- No serious candidate for London Mayor would win an election if they proposed a third runway at Heathrow.
- Heathrow is surrounded by housing, whereas Gatwick is surrounded by more much open countryside.
- The protests over another runway at Heathrow would be enormous.
- In a few years time, Gatwick will have the better rail links and fifteen million people will live within an hour’s train journey of the Airport.
But the main reason is that building a second runway at Gatwick will be a lot easier. Just look at this Google Map of Gatwick Airport.
Note the following about the map and the expansion of Gatwick Airport.
- The second runway will be built to the South of the existing runway.
- There doesn’t appear to be much housing in the area of the proposed new runway.
- The M23 Motorway and the Brighton Main Line run North-South to the East of the Airport.
- A third terminal would be built near to the existing railway line.
- Note in the map, that in addition to the single runway, the taxiway can be used as a runway, if say the runway is under repair or blocked.
The second runway would increase the capacity of the Airport to over 80 million passengers a year.
I’ve always believed that Gatwick could also build a North-South runway over the M23. This was proposed in the 1980s by pilots and with the capability of aircraft increasing all the time, I don’t rule it out at some time in the future.
The Biggest Airport Terminal In The World
- Heathrow Airport
- Gatwick Airport
- Stansted Airport
- Luton Airport
- St. Pancras International station
- Ebbsfleet International station
There will also be an easy link to HS2 for the North and Scotland.
As passengers will be increasingly savvy, in many cases they will organise their travel to what is best for them and not the travel agents, airlines and the airports.
I believe that London will sell itself, as a place to break that long journey, just as Singapore and Dubai have done for years.
As the North of England, Scotland and Wales always say, London always wins!
But then London is the capital of the world!
Rail Links To Heathrow Airport
Crossrail should give Heathrow Airport a world-class link to Central London, if they can sort out Crossrail’s access problems to the airport, that I wrote about in Heathrow Express And Crossrail.
The over-priced joke that is Heathrow Express will be on borrowed time once Crossrail opens in 2019.
But there will still be problems with rail access to Heathrow Airport.
- Terminal 5 will not be connected to Crossrail.
- Changing terminals at Heathrow is a chore.
- Heathrow Express only takes passengers to and from Paddington.
- There is no direct rail access to Reading for the West.
- For some parts of London, the Piccadilly Line will still be the best way to go to and from the Airport.
- Access to Continental rail services from Heathrow will be difficult.
You would never describe Heathrow as fully integrated into the the UK’s rail network.
Heathrow will of course argue, that links to Central London are excellent and that those continuing their journey will just change terminals and be on their way.
Obviously, improvements will come, but nothing important for passengers will happen, until Heathrow puts passengers first and drops it’s arrogant attitude, which thinks it is London’s only airport.
Rail Links To Stansted Airport
I believe in the next few years, the following will happen.
- Crossrail will arrive at Liverpool Street in 2019, giving one-change journeys to and from Heathrow.
- The West Anglia Main Line will be four-tracked, allowing faster Stansted Express services.
- An improved rail service will be provided to the increasingly important rail hub at Cambridge.
- An extra Stansted Express service will run to Stratford via the new Lea Bridge station.
- Stansted Express will probably get new air passenger-friendly trains.
But the biggest improvement of rail services to Stansted Airport will come, when and if Crossrail 2 is built, as this will make travel to the airport from all over London a lot easier, with just a single change at Tottenham Hale or Broxbourne.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see some Crossrail 2 trains extended to Stansted. After all, the tracks exist and if the airport said to Transport for London, here’s a few million from our petty cash to run Crossrail 2 to Stansted, I’m sure TfL would oblige!
This would give Stansted Airport one-change services to Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton airports, Continental Rail Services and HS2.
Rail Links To Luton Airport
But also it has plans to expand, as is reported in this article in the Daily Mail, entitled Luton Airport reveals plans for direct rail line that would cut train journey from central London to just 20 minutes.
I think that Luton Airport could use something like Class 387/2 trains, as used on Gatwick Express with an IPEMU capability, so that they could use a branch line without any electrification to underneath the airport terminal.
Rail Links To Gatwick Airport
I found this article in TravelWeekly, which is entitled Gatwick outlines plans for a train departure to London every three minutes.
It gives a very good summary of the train services that will run to Gatwick after Thameslink is completed.
The planned hourly timetable would see:
• Four dedicated Gatwick Express trains to Victoria
• Six trains to Victoria – originating from East and West Coastway, Horsham/Littlehampton, and Three Bridges/Haywards Heath
• Four trains to Bedford via London Bridge – originating from Gatwick and Brighton
• Two trains to Cambridge via London Bridge – originating from Brighton
• Two trains to Peterborough via London Bridge – originating from Horsham
• Two trains to London Bridge – originating from Littlehampton/West Coastway, and Haywards Heath/Three Bridges.
That is a total of twenty trains to and from London and beyond and most of the South Coast from Southampton to Hastings.
How many better rail-connected airports are there anywhere in the world?
The article also quotes Guy Stephenson, the Airport’s Chief Commercial Officer as saying.
The new high frequency service that will serve Gatwick will transform rail journeys for our passengers, with capacity doubling and a train to London every three minutes.
Crucially, the new trains will be much more reliable and will be stacked with amenities suited to the needs of air travellers. Combined with robust new track and signalling systems, Gatwick’s passengers will experience a really pleasant and dependable service.
Overall, the improvements to Gatwick’s rail service means that 15 million people will be brought within 60 minutes of Gatwick by rail – the best reach of any UK airport,
Reading the article, you might think that Thameslink should be called Gatwicklink!
I also think that Gatwick could extend their Gatwick Express services.
I think we can also see development of Airport services to and from Gatwick Airport station based on the following existing services.
- Reading via the North Downs Line.
- Tonbridge and Ashford International via the Redhill to Tonbridge Line.
Will we be seeing a second Gatwick Express route from Ashford or Ebbsfleet to Reading via Gatwick Airport?
- It would inevitably get known as the M25-on-rails.
- It gives a large number of passengers a way to get to Gatwick and Continental Rail Services without going through Central London.
- It could serve Heathrow, if they got their act together.
- Surprisingly, I think this route will be quicker to go between Reading and Gatwick, than using Crossrail and Thameslink with a change at Farringdon.
- The trains for such a service could be the same as the new Class 387/2 Gatwick Expresses, but with an IPEMU capability.
But it wouldn’t be just an Airport service, as I suspect that given adequate parking at stations, it would become a valuable cross-country route linking the rail hubs of Ebbsfleet, Gatwick and Reading. After all, North of London, the East West Rail Link is being created from Reading to Cambridge via Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford.
Southern also run a service from Milton Keynes to South Croydon via the West London Line. In the future this service will serve Old Oak Common station on Crossrail, HS2, the West Coast Main Line and the North London Line.
So will this service be extended from South Croydon to Gatwick and become a third Gatwick Express service?
These two additional Gatwick Express services would greatly increase or ease the airport’s links across the wider South East and to HS2 services out of Euston.
The only problem, is the overcrowding on the Brighton Main Line.
Gatwick will become the best rail-connected airport in the UK and will get a second runway!
The following sections sum up the rail services to the various London airports.
London City Airport
London City Airport may only be small, but some people use it a lot. I never have, but that’s not for dint of trying. It’s just that if I include all the factors, by which I choose a flight, it hasn’t come out top yet!
London City Airport is only on the Docklands Light Railway, but when Crossrail is open and Bank station has been fully upgraded in 2021, it will be a relatively easy airport through which to travel.
Crossrail passes very close to the Airport and passive provision has been made for a Silvertown station that could be connected to the Airport. At present, the Docklands Light Railway provides enough capacity.
Eurostar is the cuckoo in the nest and should be included, as it will offer rail services to a couple of European Airports.
By the early 2020s, there will be new direct or single-change services to France, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland.
I also suspect that one of the first extensions of Crossrail will serve Ebbsfleet International station, so it will give a lot more passengers easy access to European services.
This year the rail links to Gatwick Airport are getting a major upgrade.
- The current unsuitable Class 442 trains used on Gatwick Express, are being replaced with new Class 287/2 trains, designed for the route.
- The current mixture of Thameslink Class 319 and Class 387 trains are being replaced with new higher capacity walk-through Class 700 trains.
- Gatwick Airport station was redeveloped with new buildings and two extra platforms under two years ago.
- Gatwick Airport has now been brought into London’s Oyster and contactless ticketing area. This report in Rail Technology Magazine gives more details.
And increasingly, as the next few years roll on, various developments will or could happen.
- Thameslink and particularly London Bridge station will have greater capacity.
- Thameslink will add many direct trains to new destinations like Cambridge, Stevenage and Peterborough.
- Thameslink and other developments, will mean that nearly all stations East of the Midland Main Line, will have access to Gatwick Airport through with only a single change at a convenient interchange like Bedford, Cambridge, Farringdon, Finsbury Park, Luton, Peterborough or Stevenage.
- The dreadful links to the Thameslink platforms at St. Pancras, from some other lines at Kings Cross and St. Pancras will be improved.
- An IPEMU variant of the Class 387 Gatwick Express could easily reach Reading on an hourly-basis, to give single-change access between Gatwick Airport and Wales and the West.
- The East Coastway and West Coastway routes could be extended to Ashford and Bournemouth respectively, improved with more and faster trains and a better interchange to Gatwick services at Brighton.
But I believe that what would transform train services to Gatwick, is when the whole of the area from Weymouth and Reading in the west to Ramsgate in the East becomes part of London’s Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing area.
Until then, it will have to make do with the current services.
- The very crowded and slow Piccadilly Line.
- The infrequent Heathrow Connect.
- The overpriced and much unloved Heathrow Express.
But there are serious problems.
- The rail lines into the airport are designed to maximise revenue for Heathrow, rather than the convenience of passengers.
- Crossrail hasn’t been designed to serve Terminal 5 directly. How daft is that?
- Links to the West are atrocious and rely on going into London and out again. Gatwick has better links to Reading!
- As I wrote in Heathrow Express And Crossrail, Heathrow and TfL are still arguing about access for Crossrail into Heathrow.
- Boris has indicated that Freedom Passes will be allowed on Crossrail to Heathrow.
- Heathrow Express will be killed by Crossrail, if Heathrow allows it to serve the airport.
- Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports will become part of London’s Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing area. Will Heathrow?
- Improved rail links and services at Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports will make these airports more attractive for a lot of passengers than Heathrow.
On top of all this, Heathrow needs Crossrail to give the Airport connectivity to large parts of the South East, the West Coast Main Line and HS2.
I think all candidates for the next London Mayor, will be playing the anti-Heathrow card frequently and with immense relish.
In the end Heathrow will have to accept the following.
- The closure of Heathrow Express.
- Full access of Crossrail directly to all terminals, at an agreed price with TfL.
- Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing.
- A rail link from the West, under probably Network Rail, Great Western and TfL control.
If they don’t like it, then I’m sure Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports will take up the slack.
Luton Airport is in some ways the joker in the pack, but also it has plans to expand, as is reported in this article in the Daily Mail, entitled Luton Airport reveals plans for direct rail line that would cut train journey from central London to just 20 minutes.
In Will Bombardier Develop The Ultimate Airport Train, I discussed Luton Airport in detail and came to the conclusion that if Bombardier Class 387/2 trains as used on the Gatwick Express were fitted with an IPEMU capability, they could easily use terminal platforms without electrification in a tunnel under the Airport.
Whether they will or not, I don’t know, but there is scope for very affordable solutions to providing a fast rail link into Central London.
Luton Airport is closer than Gatwick is to Central London, so I would expect that Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing, would not be a problem.
Southend Airport is the newest of London’s airports. I know it well from my days as a pilot and occasionally use it on trips to the Netherlands on easyJet.
Operationally for airlines, Southend Airport’s location, close to the Essex Coast is ideal, as it is away from other airports and pilots can get planes in to and out of the airport without too much delay. Also, flights coming in from the East have an uncluttered approach, over the sea and marshland. I once came in to the airport on a flight from Schipol and was on the train from Southend Airport station to Central London, within an hour of boarding the flight in The Netherlands.
This airline-friendly location could drive growth at the airport, especially if the airport keeps its reputation for fast passenger handling.
The Airport talks about handling two million passengers by 2020 and I can’t feel that this is unreasonable.
What could help passenger growth is that there is plenty of scope for making rail trips to Southend Airport easier, especially for Southend’s typical traveller with just hand-baggage and perhaps a wheeled case.
At present Southend Airport and Southend Victoria have three services to and from Liverpool Street per hour, which stop at all stations between Shenfield and Southend Victoria and then just Stratford and Liverpool Street. This is a recent upgrade, as Wikipedia says one train stops at all stations.
Journey times are as follows.
- Liverpool Street – 64 minutes – Just four minutes longer than Stansted.
- Stratford – 57 minutes
- Shenfield – 27 minutes
Capacity isn’t a problem as all stations can take eight-car trains.
The airport station is very close to the terminal and is fully step-free. Incoming passengers from the London direction, don’t even have to cross the railway to get to the terminal.
Crossrail and the new East Anglia franchise will certainly have effects, some of which have already happened.
- Between Shenfield and London there will be at least eight high-capacity Crossrail trains per hour.
- Will Crossrail run on a twenty-four hour basis?
- Shenfield will have Oyster and contactless card ticketing. Will this go all the way to Southend Victoria?
- Shenfield will be Freedom Pass territory.
- Will Norwich-in-Ninety improvements mean that times between Shenfield and London are reduced?
- Will more of the longer distance services to East Anglia, stop at Shenfield for interchange with Crossrail?
I suspect that the answer to the two last questions, will be yes. This improved connectivity and reduced journey time, would mean that a lot of places in East London, Essex and East Suffolk, would be just one change at Shenfield away from Southend Airport.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see some upmarket trains between Southend Victoria and Liverpool Street, with a four trains per hour frequency. Partly, this will be driven by the airport, but also by the competition for passengers between the two companies running services to Southend.
Stansted Airport is owned and operated by the ambitious Manchester Airports Group and I can’t see them sitting idly by, whilst Gatwick and Luton expand into their market. After all, they have resources that other airports in the South East lack; space and spare capacity on the current runway.
The rail links need improvement and these will or could happen in the next few years.
- The West Anglia Main Line will be developed and given four tracks between at least Broxbourne and Lea Bridge stations, with higher speed limits.
- There will be a higher frequency for Stansted Express trains into Liverpool Street.
- Stansted Express will serve Stratford several times an hour.
- Stansted Airport station will gain a second tunnel and platform.
- There will be an improved service between Stansted and Cambridge.
- Stansted Airport will become part of London’s Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing area.
The service between Cambridge and Stansted is a truly inadequate, single train per hour to and from Birmingham via Peterborough and Leicester.
I believe that when the new East Anglian franchise is awarded, the route north from Stansted will see the greatest improvement. Note that Thameslink will have four trains per hour to Cambridge going through London of which two will go all the way to Gatwick Airport and Brighton.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see two half-hourly services added to the airport.
- Stansted Airport to Peterborough via Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely.
- Stansted Airport to Norwich via Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely.
Even if the current Birmingham service was cut back, this would still give four trains per hour between Stansted Airport and one of its most important catchment areas.
In Better East-West Train Services Across Suffolk, I wrote about a radical idea of Network Rail to create a much improved service between Peterborough and Ipswich, based on a rebuilt Newmarket station.
But who knows, what will actually happen? I don’t!
But whatever happens to the North of Stansted Airport, the rail links to the airport will be much improved by 2020 or so.
Road improvements will not be numerous, but one new road will effect the use of airports.
If a new Lower Thames Crossing is built, it could make driving to Gatwick, Stansted and Southend Airports easier and some travellers will shun Heathrow.
On the other hand, if it wasn’t built, it might favour other airports.
All of London’s six airports, except probably London City will be seeing large investments in rail infrastructure, stations and trains in the near future.
Heathrow won’t like it, but I think the political consequences for the major parties of a new runway at Heathrow will make it unlikely that Heathrow gets another runway.
But given the rail infrastructure, I suspect that the other airports will take up the increased traffic for several years.
Gatwick, Luton and Stanstead will get very much improved services and I think Southend could become a Luton in the East.
As passengers will get increasingly savvy as to the routes they use, it will be very difficult to predict how the transport pattern to London’s Airports, will look say in 2025.
I’ll finish by listing some ideas I’ve read over the years.
- The Windsor Link Railway to connect Heathrow to the Great Western Main Line via Windsor.
- A Heathrow Hub station at Iver linked to Heathrow.
- Reopening the line from Bishops Stortford to Braintree via Stansted Airport and Dunmow.
- Extending the Chingford Branch past Chingford to Stansted Airport.
- Creating a Southend Metro to connect the two main Southend stations to Southend Airport.
- Extending some Crossrail trains to Southend Victoria.
There’ll be others and some might even be built.
The stories illustrate the difference in philosophy between Manchester and London.
I don’t use financial apps, as they are a security risk to my bank and credit card details, so in Manchester I’ll still have to buy a ticket, as they haven’t embraced the modern technology of contactless cards.
Also why can’t I buy a Plus Tram ticket when I book a Virgin for Manchester?
For Gatwick now, I won’t have to buy a ticket, as I’ll use a contactless card between East Croydon and Gatwick.
I couldn’t resist looking at the Google Earth images of the two sites.
This is Wytch Farm
The processing plant for the field is the two squares in the bottom-left or south-west corner of the map and the wells fan out for upwards of 10 km. The field even goes under the upmarket area of Sandbanks, so if anybody would complain, the residents from there would.
And this is the area of Horse Hill
It is marked by the yellow circle. Note the sprawl of Gatwick at the bottom.
Both sites are surrounded by a lot of green field and woods, so I feel that a similar camouflage job could be done in Surrey to that done in Dorset.
Although as Wytch Farm is now forty years old, I suspect we’ll do a better job today of hiding it. It might be that directional drilling is used from a site near the railway through Gatwick, so that the processing plant could be well hidden and oil could be removed by train.
Canary Wharf tube station is all decked out in adverts for expanding Gatwick.
It’s certainly a tough fight between the two airports about which one gets developed.
On the ninth of October, I had a letter published in The Times, under the title, Plane or Train?
Sir, The closure of Richard Branson’s Little Red airline (News, Oct 7) comes at a time when people in their millions are rediscovering trains, raising a question over the attraction and viability of short-haul air services. Together with the introduction of aircraft that can carry up to a third more passengers, this leads me to wonder whether we need new runway capacity.
Effectively, it is a shorter reworking of some of the arguments in Hot Air Over London’s Airports.
To also stoke up the fire, Heathrow Hub were also advertising heavily in the papers at the weekend.
As I said in Hot Air Over London’s Airports, I quite like this proposal. This liking gets bigger every time I read about it.
One thing their reports and all the other proposals don’t talk about for obvious reasons, is the unpredictability of some of the world’s worst air accidents. Just read up on the circumstances that led to the Tenerife Airport Disaster.
For this and other reasons, I would leave the decisions to the professionals. And they will probably say that some proposals have a bigger safety margin than others!
But I still feel my last statement in the Hot Air post might be correct.
But I have this sneaking suspicion that no new runways will be built or extended and in twenty years time or so, we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.
Passengers will just choose their airports with more care and airports will be competing with us with better and better facilities and more point-to-point flights.
But then some politician might want to add his name to a new London airport.
Surprise! Surprise! The BBC is reporting that the proposals for a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick will cost more!
The Airports Commission says a second runway at Gatwick would cost £2bn more than the bid suggests.
Two separate plans to expand Heathrow are predicted to cost £3-4bn more.
T’was, ever thus! The first real estimate of the cost of a large project is inevitably more than the back-of-a-fag-packet estimate.
Only when the designers and project engineers work out how the project is to be realised do we get a figure for the actual cost. Usually, in construction projects, this figure can generally be relied upon.
But as I’ve believed for some time, I don’t think we’ll ever build a new runway in the South East.
I might go to look at Stockley Junction today and the best way would be to get Heathrow Connect to the airport and back.
Yes, you can use a number of railcards on Heathrow Express to obtain discounted travel. To qualify you must purchase at the ticket office, not online or on board.
Obviously, they don’t agree with TfL’s policy of closing ticket offices.
Gatwick Express now accepts railcards online allowing you to make great savings on the already discounted online price if you have one of the following cards:
So Heathrow and Gatwick are out of step. Or you can always use the Piccadilly line, where the main problem is overcrowding.
It does appear though that according to Boris, as reported here, Crossrail will have a similar ticketing regime to the Underground.
So perhaps time will be up for the rip-off Heathrow rail services?
There used to be adverts that talked of Gatquick, but on my flight out, it was one of the slowest experiences I’d had in any of London’s airports.
As I was travelling economy and the airport was extremely busy, I found it very difficult to find anywhere to sit.
One mistake I did make was to eat at Carluccio’s in Islington before I left for the airport, as I thought this would be easier, than queuing up at Jamie Oliver’s in the airport. It was easy and I had a good lunch, but if I’d gone to Jamie’s I’d have had somewhere pleasant to sit.
I thought Gatwick was getting better since it was sold, but it still isn’t fit for purpose!