Bristol Airport’s fears over £500 million rail link to Heathrow

Profile image for The PostBy The Post

BRISTOL Airport bosses are “concerned” after the government pledged up to £500 million to link the city with Heathrow by rail.

Ministers yesterday announced plans for a new link between the South West and the world’s busiest international airport, which would mean train passengers no longer needed to travel in to the centre of London and back out again.

Bristol Airport

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the new line, which could be up and running in nine years, could cut journey times by 30 minutes, bringing “significant benefits” for Bristol.

But in a statement to the Post, Bristol Airport said that while it welcomed better access to air travel, it was “concerned that the proposed Heathrow link could exacerbate existing capacity issues in the South East”.

The statement added: “Over six million passengers from the South West and Wales already travel to London airports every year in order to fly. By enhancing our route network, facilities and surface access, Bristol Airport can better serve this market, reducing unnecessary road and rail journeys, and freeing up capacity in the South East in the process.”

Bendy bus links with Bristol Airport are key to the city’s new rapid transport system, which was recently given the go-ahead by the government.

The new line is likely to operate as a spur off the main Great Western route, which is set to be electrified by the time this project is completed.

The proposals, announced yesterday as the government unveiled its new aviation framework, are separate to a spur to Heathrow from the South West that was mooted as part of the £32 billion High Speed Rail links between London and the North.

It is likely to be a direct service, although officials said passengers might have to change at some point along the line.

Ms Greening told MPs: “I can announce the commitment of up to £500m towards a western rail link to Heathrow, subject to a business case and conclusion of agreements with the aviation industry.”

She added: “It will cut typically 30 minutes off the journey to Heathrow from the west of England and south Wales, with significant benefits for growing cities like Swindon, Bristol and Cardiff.”

The rail industry has now been asked to come up with potential ways to make the rail link a reality.

Meanwhile, the government confirmed it had postponed an eagerly- awaited consultation on future UK airport capacity needs.

Ms Greening, pictured, said the consultation would be put back to “later this year”, amid reports the government is divided on how to solve the capacity problem in the South East, including the possibility of building a third runway at Heathrow.

Bristol Airport will submit a formal response to the draft framework in due course, it said.

Phil Smith, managing director of Business West said: “Business welcomes the Government’s announcement to invest in the Heathrow spur link, as a crucial investment which will help give the region’s economy a global boost.

“Provision of this easier, faster route is essential for existing businesses and also for inward investment. As the Transport Minister said in her own words, businesses west of Heathrow have been calling for this vital investment for many years.

“The provision of quality infrastructure provides the bedrock for business growth and is vital to ensure continued competitiveness and productivity. We are hopeful that this investment marks a significant change in the delivery of quality transport infrastructure to the region which is long overdue.

“For too long large towns and cities West of London have suffered from a lack of investment in key pieces of infrastructure. However, together with the electrification programme of the Great Western Mainline, businesses across the West can look forward to the roll out of a rail network fit for the 21st century.

“This said, it is important that continued growth and expansion of hub airports like Heathrow does not compromise the important role played by crucial regional airports like Bristol Airport.”

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