The Anonymous Widower

Could Rail Access To Heathrow Be Formed Of The Best Bits Of Various Schemes?

Various schemes have been proposed to improve rail access to Heathrow.

There are also two schemes in progress, that will improve rail access to Heathrow.

  • Crossrail, which will open in 2019.
  • Piccadilly Line Upgrade, which will be complete in 2025.

I also believe that if the West London Orbital Railway is created, then this could have a positive affect on travelling to and from Heathrow.

Heathrow In The Future

Heathrow are disclosing a master plan, for rebuilding a lot of the airport to make it more efficient and up with the best.

  • There will be two main terminals; Heathrow West and Heathrow East with satellites in between handling the actual planes.
  • These two terminals and the satellites will be between the two existing runways, with a passenger and baggage transport system beneath.
  • Terminal Five will become Heathrow West.
  • An extended Terminal Two will become Heathrow East.
  • Crossrail, Heathrow Express and the Underground will serve both main terminals.

I believe that this rebuilding will happen, whether or not a third runway is built and it could start in the next few years.

Heathrow’s Pollution Footprint

Heathrow is a big polluter, but it is not so much the planes, as the diesel cars, buses and trucks serving the airport.

Uses For Improved Rail Access

There are several uses for improved rail access to Heathrow.


Many passengers feel they must drive to and from Heathrow.

Next year, Crossrail will connect Heathrow directly to the City of London, Canary Wharf, the West End and to the heart of London’s Underground, Overground and National Rail system.

An example journey will be Bond Street to Heathrow Central in twenty-six minutes.

New trains on the Piccadilly Line are planned to enter service in 2023 and will offer more capacity and more pleasant journeys.

Currently, Piccadlly Circus to Heathrow Central takes fifty-two minutes and I would hope that this time is reduced to perhaps 40-45 minutes.

I think, these two upgrades will change the way many in Central, North East, East and South East London access the airport.

  • Trains will be more comfortable.
  • Trains will be frequent.
  • Crossrail will be completely step-free.
  • The Piccadilly Line will have more step-free stations.
  • The Crossrail trains will have masses of space.
  • Trains will take passengers to all the terminals

But Crossrail and the Piccxadilly Line upgrade, will do little for those in North West and South West London and those living to the West of the airport.


Workers at Heathrow, range from highly-paid pilots down to  lowly-paid cleaners, with a full spectrum in between.

Many though have a problem, in that they need to get to and from the airport at times, that are inconvenient for public transport.

A station guy at Staines said that getting between there and Heathrow for an early start or after a late finish is difficult.

The lower-paid workers also need good links to areas of lower-cost housing.

In an ideal world, Crossrail and Piccadilly Line services, should run on a twenty-four hour basis, with appropriate frequencies.

Supplies For The Airport And The Aircraft

I wonder what percentage of the supplies for Heathrow is brought in by diesel truck.

In the Heathrow of the Future, surely many supplies could be loaded onto smart trolleys and taken on electric freight trains to delivery points under the airport.

Air Cargo

Heathrow is an important air cargo terminal, but as with supplies, surely the cargo can be collected outside of the airport and delivered by electric shuttle trains.

The Best Bits Of The Various Actual And Proposed Rail Routes Into Heathrow


  • Connectivity to large parts of London and the East.
  • Connectivity to lower-cost housing areas in East and West London.
  • High capacity.
  • Frequent trains
  • Modern trains
  • All terminals served
  • Extra trains could be added.

The capability for 24 hour operation has hopefully been built in.

Heathrow Southern Railway

  • Connectivity to Waterloo, Clapham Junction, South and South West London
  • Extends Heathrow Express to Woking and Basingstoke
  • Adds a new route for commuters into Paddington.
  • Extends Crossrail from Heathrow to Staines.
  • It will be built alongside the M25 with a tunnel to Terminal Five.
  • All terminals served
  • Provides a freight route into the airport from the South West.
  • Privately funded.


  • Connectivity to HS2, the Midlands, North and West of England and Wales
  • Possible connection to Gatwick and Ashford for the Continent.
  • North-South station in a tunnel deep under Heathrow.
  • The Heathrow station will be able to handle full-length high speed trains from Birmingham, Cardiff and Manchester.
  • Heathrow could become a High Speed Rail hub serving Greater Western London.
  • Sneaks along the M25.
  • All terminals could probably be served, by escalators and lifts from the deep station.
  • Provides a freight route into the airport from the North and West.
  • Privately funded

I’m keener on the section North of Heathrow, than that to the South.

Piccadilly Line Upgrade

  • Connectivity to West and North London
  • Connectivity to lower-cost housing areas in West London
  • Frequent trains
  • All terminals served.
  • No new infrastructure

Probably needs 24 hour operation.

Western Rail Approach To Heathrow

  • Connectivity to Slough and Reading and further West with a change.
  • All terminals served.
  • Provides a freight route into the airport from the West.
  • Network Rail’s proposed scheme.
  • Government funded (?)

West London Orbital Railway

  • Connectivity to North West London with a change at Old Oak Common.
  • Connectivity to low-cost hosting areas in West London.
  • Created as part of the Overground.
  • Eight trains per hour (tph) through Old Oak Common.
  • Connectivity for high-value passengers in affluent parts of North London.
  • Connectivity for important workers in less-affluent parts of North West London.
  • Probably, Transport for London funded.
  • No difficult construction.

The West London Orbital Railway should go ahead, because it connects so much of West London to Crossrail, Old Oak Common and High Speed Two.

Windsor Link Railway

  • Connectivity to Slough and Reading and further West with a change.
  • All terminals served.
  • Provides a freight route into the airport from the West.
  • Privately funded

This scheme also unlocks development of upmarket housing in Windsor.


I have seen railway stations and airports all over Europe.

Many airport stations are cramped, as they have been built as an afterthought.

But some like Schipol and Frankfurt have a comprehensive station, where you can get trains to a very long list of places without a change.

Heathrow Connectivity

Heathrow needs a very high level of connectivity, for passengers, workers and freight.

Two schemes provide that.

  • Heathrow Southern Railway, which extends Heathrow Express to the South West and provides links to Waterloo and Greater South London.
  • HS4Air, which has an elegant expandable station deep under the airport and connects to High Speed Two and the Great Western Railway in the North. Extending to Gatwick and Ashford for the Continent could also be possible, if required.

Western Rail Approach To Heathrow only does what it says in the name and HS4Air does that without bagging valuable platforms at Terminal Five.

What About The Workers!

Heathrow’s other big need is rail access for the increasing numbers of people, who work at the airport and live locally.

  • Heathrow Southern Railway links the airport to South West London  and also allows an extension of Crossrail to Staines.
  • Windsor Link Railway links the airport to Windsor, Slough and Reading.
  • Crossrail links the airport to Old Oak Common with its housing developments and rail connections with High Speed 2 and the London Overground.
  • West London Orbital Railway will bring more workers and passengers to Old Oak Common from all over North West and South West London.

Old Oak Common will be important for many working at the airport.

Old Oak Common station

Old Oak Common station will become an important interchange for workers and passengers travelling to and from Heathrow.

  • It must be totally step-free.
  • Some of the long interchange walks on current plans should be augmented by travelators.
  • Crossrail is planning six tph between Old Oak Common and Heathrow. Is that enough?

Get Old Oak Common right and all those needing to go to and from Heathrow will benefit.

Heathrow And Gatwick

The connection between Heathrow and Gatwick airports is tortuous at present, but will get better as the years progress, as Crossrail and Thameslink improve.

As the airports grow, with a third runway at Heathrow and a second one at Gatwick, how many people will want to travel quickly between the two airports, as increasingly, both airports will offer services to more destinations?

As a Londoner, I also believe that we will see more split flights, where passengers stopover in London for a night or two, when they are going halfway around the world. Terminal London will be the best airport transfer terminal in the world.

Predicting the number of travellers between the two airports will be extremely difficult and only a direct measurement will be a worthwhile figure.

If a direct rail link is needed, HS4Air should be extended to Gatwick to provide a frequent fifteen minute connection.

Heathrow And High Speed One

I will be very surprised if many travellers need to go quickly between Heathrow and High Speed One.

Why would anybody between say St. louis and Paris not fly direct? Perhaps only, if you were spending time in London between the two legs of your journey.

For those that need to do it, using an extended Crossrail between Heathrow and Ebbsfleet will probably be good enough.

But when passenger numbers say it would be viable, extending HS4Air to Ashford would be a distinct possibility.

Heathrow And High Speed Two

For all sorts of reasons Heathrow needs good connectivity to High Speed Two.

If I was the CEO of Heathrow, I would want to have a station at my airport, where passengers could travel to and from the major cities of Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham in as direct a manner as possible.

Using Crossrail to Old Oak Common will give access to all High Speed Two trains, but the ability to get a train to the North within thirty minutes of clearing immigration and customs, would be a major selling point for my airport.

Suppose HS4Air was providing four tph to Birmingham of which two tph, went to each of Crewe/Manchester and Nottingham/Leeds.

Or the four tph could be double trains, with one half serving each Northern route.

This would make Heathrow a viable alternative to regional airports.

Heathrow will strongly support HS4Air, as it would be like having a whole series of regional flights, with a thirty minute transfer to and from long-haul routes.

Western Rail Approach To Heathrow

The Western Rail Approach To Heathrow is far inferior to the HS4Air proposal.


  • The Western Rail Approach To Heathrow only connects the Great Western Railway to Heathrow.
  • HS4Air connects High Speed Two as well.
  • HS4Air creates a new expandable station under the airport, which would be capable of handling the longest trains.
  • HS4Air can be expanded to Gatwick and Ashford.
  • HS4Air is privately funded.

Direct access between Slough and Heathrow can be provided by the Windsor Link Railway.

A Final Conclusion

All these schemes have their good points and I think that the best way to get the rail access that Heathrow and Gatwick need, is to let the private sector build what the airports need, subject to the correct planning permissions.

August 13, 2018 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , ,


  1. HS4Air is a much larger scheme than any of the others, and so is much longer-term. To my mind, its main advantage is encouraging people to look at the bigger picture and think more strategically. Taking its northern connection to HS2 in isolation makes little sense to me, as it’s much the same as the original HS2 Heathrow spur, planning for which was discontinued after the Airports Commission decided it was “highly unlikely to be necessary to support any expansion of Heathrow airport”. Has anything changed since then? The connection with the Great Western line is going to be much the same as the Western Rail Link, so that can be built now and HS4Air can later use it as needed – ‘high speed’ is hardly relevant over such short distances.

    Windsor Link phase 1 is independent of Heathrow, and should be judged on its own merits. If it were my decision, I would approve that, along with WRL and HSR. I would want to see far more details on HS4Air and who exactly would benefit how before any decision on that.

    Comment by Peter Robins | August 13, 2018 | Reply

  2. Bringing forward the extension of Crossrail could bring forward some of the benefits of Crossrail 2 by many years and if like at Abbey Wood Station the existing railway were upgraded possibly using 4 track construction then some of the level crossings which cause major problems in this part of London could be removed.

    Comment by Melvyn | August 13, 2018 | Reply

  3. Have you read this?

    I believe that if we upgrade everything and make them Crossrail 2-ready, that Crossrail 2 can be delayed by a number of years and the capacity will be the same.

    Comment by AnonW | August 13, 2018 | Reply

  4. The western link is the only one that provides a good service to Reading. Given the passenger volumes and established demand of the bus link, I think this would be a highly popular service at 4tph. As companies opt increasingly for city centre locations over business park, the rail link to Reading becomes ever more critical.
    The Windsor link is less likely to happen and even if it does, probably wouldn’t progress past its initial phase of joining the slough and Waterloo lines together.

    Comment by Reading-On-Thames | August 14, 2018 | Reply

    • NR also highlights the benefits to the airport workforce. Whatever the proportion who live in the Slough area is, I can imagine they would welcome the western link. NR should be publishing the results of their latest consultation before too long.

      Comment by Peter Robins | August 17, 2018 | Reply

      • I also believe Heathrow will increasingly become a 365/24/7 airport for everything except flights in and out of the airport.

        So you’ll get more cleaners, maintenance personnel and office staff wanting to come and go at all times of the night. What time do flight crew have to arrive for say a 0600 take-off?

        All of these and other reasons mean that all destinations from Heathrow must be served on a 365/24/7 basis.

        Comment by AnonW | August 17, 2018

  5. I don’t like the Western Rail Approach to Heathrow, as for many, it will mean a change of train at Reading.

    HS4Air’s approach of a direct link from Reading and the Great Western Main Line to an underground station at Heathrow could be so much better.

    1. The junction with the GWML would be mainly in the area of the M4/M25 motorway junction and over the water treatment plant.

    2. The route would sneak in to Heathrow from the North and wouldn’t interfere with a third runway, as it would be deep down.

    3. A station underneath Heathrow could have several terminal platforms to serve Reading, Bristol and Cardiff in addition to stations in the North of England.

    4. The route could also be used by air cargo and supplies for the airport and aircraft.

    5. HS4Air would have a much higher capacity than WRATH.

    6. Trains terminating at Heathrow would take the release platforms at Paddington.

    7. Building HS4Air would not involve any local disruption to both residents and train services on Crossrail and the GWML.

    8. It should be noted that the GWML when it is completed with modern signalling and electrification will be able to handle upwards of twelve trains per hour in both directions. But there is a shortage of spare capacity between Reading and Paddington. Diverting trains to Heathrow would allow more services between Reading and the West.

    9. As an example, I would terminate all East-West Rail Link services at Heathrow, if HS4Air is built.

    But above all HS4Air would be privately funded.

    Comment by AnonW | August 15, 2018 | Reply

    • > HS4Air would be privately funded

      that’s surely far from clear atm. The interview in Global Railway Review says merely that “In terms of funding, it is still very early days for HS4Air. A number of funding models might be appropriate, including private funding.” Also, the last I heard, DfT is looking for private capital contributions to WRL/WRAtH.

      Comment by Peter Robins | August 16, 2018 | Reply

      • If you were someone like L & G, I think you would prefer to finance a bigger scheme than WRATH! They have masses of pension dunds, that need secure investments and managing big schemes is probably cheaper than manahing lots of small ones.

        Comment by AnonW | August 16, 2018

  6. […] In Could Rail Access To Heathrow Be Formed Of The Best Bits Of Various Schemes?, I noted four main uses for transport to Heathrow Airport. […]

    Pingback by Council Pitches £375m Light Rail Scheme Linking South To Heathrow Airport « The Anonymous Widower | August 20, 2018 | Reply

  7. […] In Could Rail Access To Heathrow Be Formed Of The Best Bits Of Various Schemes?, I summed them all up. […]

    Pingback by Ambitious £10bn Plans For Gatwick Heathrow HS4Air Rail Service Rejected « The Anonymous Widower | January 6, 2019 | Reply

  8. MANY airports nowadays have railroad access fr seamless containerized freight transfer and distribution. the fuel savings over solely truck / lorrie transport can be substantial!

    Comment by Jonathan Caswell | January 21, 2019 | Reply

    • It’s a no-brainer! And if you’re building a new runway at a congested airport with a land shortage like Heathrow, the trains can go underneath.

      Comment by AnonW | January 21, 2019 | Reply

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