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Serving Heathrow Airport by High Speed Rail - A Position Paper

8th December 2009

1 Introduction
This paper is a follow up to our 20th October 2009 report1 which set out the requirements for a high speed
rail (HSR) interchange at Heathrow Airport. The aim of the paper is to provide a high level technical
appraisal and summary of the various options that exist for HSR to serve Heathrow Airport. It also sets
out BAA’s preferred option and strategic justification for it.

Our technical work comprised:

 Commissioning the 20th October 2009 report, which has been shared with HS2 team
 Conducting an international benchmarking exercise
 Identifying, from an airport perspective, the critical success factors for HSR to Heathrow
 Identifying the key options and appraising them qualitatively against the success factors

The concepts within this paper have been discussed with BAA’s airline customers and the HS2 team.

2 Critical Success Factors


We identified six critical factors for a successful high speed service to Heathrow Airport:

1. Frequency of service: critical for rail-air substitution


2. Wider transport connectivity: national, regional and local
3. ‘At Heathrow’ passenger experience: should feel like a plane-to-plane interchange
4. Ease of interchange: time, distance, ambience
5. Baggage management: check-in points, amount of handling
6. Inter-Terminal connectivity: efficient movement to/from each of the airport terminals

3 Service Options and Appraisal


We identified five options for serving Heathrow Airport by HSR which vary by the proximity of the station
to the Airport or by the type of connection. . Each option has been appraised against the airport’s critical
success factors, which is summarised at the end of the section. The options can be broadly divided into
three groups depending on whether the solution optimises the aviation case, the rail case or a hybrid of
both.

1
Improving Rail Connectivity to Heathrow – Implications for the development of the Heathrow International
Interchange, BAA Heathrow and Arup
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Optimised Aviation Case
3.1 Option One - Station at Heathrow served by HSR through-running

West
Midlands
&
beyond

Heathrow
London

To
continent

High speed line


This option prioritises airport rail passenger needs by directly serving Heathrow with a through-running
HSR service. International examples of this can be found at Frankfurt and Amsterdam. There are many
further benefits from an airport perspective: high frequency of trains; the station is at Heathrow thus
enhancing passenger experience and increasing the likelihood of air-rail substitution. The ease of
interchanging from HSR to air and between terminals is very good and adds to the positive passenger
experience. Likewise, baggage management is simple: it allows the HSR passenger direct access from
the train to the airport and vice versa. This option provides good connectivity to HS2 (and potentially HS1
/ international destinations) but does not provide such good connections to the national rail network via
the GWML.

Optimised Rail Case


3.2 Option Two - Station at Heathrow served by HSR spur

West
Midlands &
beyond

London

To
continent
High
speed
line
Heathrow

This option optimises the rail case as fast journey times are preserved and Heathrow is served by a spur.
A similar example of this is Paris CDG. This option results in a lower frequency service than could be
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expected with a through-running option. It has the advantage of having a station actually at Heathrow
which provides the airport passenger with a quality airport experience and allows a direct feed between
terminals. The ease of interchanging from HSR to air and between terminals is very good and adds to the
positive passenger experience. Likewise, baggage management is simple: it allows the HSR passenger
direct access from the train to the airport and vice versa. This option provides good connectivity to HS2
(and potentially HS1 / international destinations) but does not provide such good connections to the
national rail network via the Great Western Mainline (GWML).

3.3 Option Three - Station near Heathrow with link to HSR and GWML (Arup Hub
concept)

West
Midlands
& beyond

Near
GWML
station
London

To
continent

High speed
line
Airport link
Heathrow

National rail

This option links the airport to HSR lines by a dedicated airport link2; a similar international example can
be found at Newark. This option allows for frequent HSR services near to the airport and provides an
onward connection to the GWML and thus wider national rail services. However, as the station is not at
the airport, passenger experience of interchange, baggage management and inter-terminal connectivity is
not as good as for options one and two.

2
The mode is unspecified as yet, but could be e.g. tracked-transit or bus. The distance is estimated to be c.5km
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3.4 Option Four - Station remote from Heathrow with existing link to HSR & GWML

West
Midlands
&
beyond

Remote
GWML station London

To
continent

High speed
line
Heathrow
National rail

This option is similar to option three except the onward link to the airport is via ‘classic’ rail i.e. the existing
spur line used by Heathrow Express today. This option scores the lowest of all options as the remoteness
of the station and the need to interchange onto classic rail represents a poor passenger experience; this
reduces the attractiveness of HSR for air passengers and thus reduces the likelihood of air-rail
substitution.

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Hybrid of Rail and Aviation Cases
3.5 Option Five - Station at Heathrow served by HSR loop

West
Midlands &
beyond

London

Heathrow To
continent

High speed
line

This option serves Heathrow directly by a through-running HSR ‘loop’ service, which means that not all
trains will have to stop at, or to slow down through, Heathrow. This, crucially, retains the fast journey time
and wider benefits for non-airport HSR passengers, upon which the rail business case is reliant.

From an airport perspective, this option offers the same benefits as option one: high frequency of trains;
the station is at Heathrow thus enhancing passenger experience and increasing the likelihood of air-rail
substitution; the ease of interchanging from HSR to air and between terminals is very good and adds to
the positive passenger experience; baggage management is simple; it allows the HSR passenger direct
access from the train to the airport and vice versa; and it provides good connectivity to HS2 (and
potentially HS1 / international destinations).

4 Conclusions and Recommendations


The strategic analysis is summarised in the table below. Putting funding issues aside, BAA Heathrow’s
preferred option is option five. This meets the greatest number of airport critical success factors whilst
protecting the rail business case of HSR, chiefly derived from journey time savings.

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5

Frequency High Okay High High High

At Airport Yes es
Yes Near No Yes
Interchange High High Okay Poor High

Baggage Good Good Okay Poor Good

Inter-Terminal Good Good Okay Okay Good


Connectivity
Wider Good national Good national Good national Good Good national
Connectivity Not good Not good Good GWML national Not good
GWML GWML Good GWML GWML

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