Heathrow Airtrack (proposed)
The current T5 station which may form part of Airtrack
|Type||Urban rail / Airport rail link proposal|
|Locale||West London, England, UK|
|Termini||Heathrow Terminal 5
Heathrow Airtrack is a rail link proposed by BAA to run from Terminal 5 (T5) of Heathrow Airport and then roughly follow the southern route of the former West Drayton to Staines railway line to a junction with the Staines to Windsor Line with reinstatement of the Staines West chord. The line would provide direct rail services across south-west London from the airport to Reading, Guildford, and London Waterloo, and be an alternative route to the existing rail routes to Heathrow, namely (Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect and the Piccadilly line). 
The T5 railway station has two safeguarded heavy rail platforms for use by a west-facing connection to the National Rail network, which would be utilised by Airtrack. The original proposal for the AirTrack link included a new station, called Staines High Street railway station, built near the site of the former station of the same name, but that plan was omitted from the revised proposals in the second public consultation, published on 20 October 2008.
A new rolling stock depot on the site of the former marshalling yards at Feltham has been included in the proposal.
Following a period of public consultation, BAA submitted plans on the 24 July 2009 to the Secretary of State for Transport seeking authorisation under the Transport and Works Act to acquire the necessary land and begin constructing the rail link. If permission is granted, work is forecast to begin in 2011, with rail services operating by 2015. The AirTrack Forum, a group of local authorities and businesses which includes BAA, are also undertaking work to support the opening of the rail link. This has included commissioning consultants to study the economic benefits of the scheme.
Support for the scheme has been given by Transport for London, the Mayor of London, nine London Boroughs and the borough councils of Runnymede, Reading, Woking, Guildford, Bracknell Forest and Wokingham, as well as by Surrey and Hampshire County Councils. Opposition to the project has been voiced by a number of local pressure groups (see Impact, below) and Wokingham Borough Council have concerns about the impact on road traffic brought about by additional closures of level crossings and raised a formal objection. 
The economic case was heavily dependent of the fact that Airtrack should be a low-cost option as only four kilometres of new line would be required, mostly within Spelthorne. The remaining new infrastructure would consist of station improvements and associated facilities.
The key elements of construction work would involve:
The scheme was estimated to cost about £673 million, of which about £150 million is expected to come from an operating surplus.
In the Airtrack project some stations used by its trains would be upgraded. It is intended that from Staines the trains would use existing Network Rail tracks
The passenger services proposed for the Airtrack service generally offer a half-hourly service to each destination are:
London Waterloo - Heathrow: two trains per hour stopping at:
If the existing Heathrow Express service is extended to Staines, there will be an additional 2tph between the airport and Staines.
Reading - Heathrow (via Egham and Virginia Water) two trains per hour stopping at:
Concerns about the impact of Airtrack construction work and operation have been raised by local residents, campaigners and politicians.
Most of the construction work will affect Staines Moor and Stanwell Moor, which include a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and extensive consultations have taken place in Spelthorne, with major modifications of the scheme resulting.
Building a train depot in Feltham is part of the scheme.Residents of Feltham have expressed opposition to this mainly as the depot may encroach on a natural conservation area and that the depot may give rise to noise pollution. 
In response to these concerns, BAA have published assurances in their consulation literature that the Feltham depot will be designed to limit noise and light pollution and with landscape screening.
A number of major problems concerns level crossings. The proposed Airtrack route would run on lines which have fifteen level crossings, and local campaigners along those routes have pointed out that more frequent trains would increase waiting times at closed barriers and exacerbate traffic congestion problems. For example, between Richmond and Barnes as many as five trains may pass before the road barriers are lifted. BAA investigated the possibility of constructing road bridges or tunnels at these locations but concluded that such contruction was "not feasible or justifiable".
BAA have acknowledged these problems and note that eight crossing will be slightly impacted, with barrier closure times increasing by up to 13%. Three level crossing more would be moderately affected, with increases of between 13% and 25% to the amount of time that the barriers are closed to road traffic. Four crossings will be "severely" affected, with barrier downtimes increasing by between 25% and 36%. As yet no independent time and motion study has been conducted so the closure times of level crossings and impact to the surrounding area has still yet to be assessed.
Three of the four severely affected crossing are located in Egham, which lies between Staines, where the Airtrack spur will meet the main line, and Virginia Water, where the Reading and Guildford lines diverge.
Airtrack originally envisaged that by investing in new signalling technology, they could keep level crossings down-times to a manageable level. This was accepted as a reasonable proposition by the local authority, Runnymede Borough Council, and by the Highways Authority for the area, Surrey County Council, both of which actively supported the Airtrack scheme. However in September 2009 Runnymede Borough Council responded to the TWA Application with an Objection.
Immediately after Staines the westward line goes through the town of Egham. Local campaigners in Egham have voiced their opposition to Airtrack mainly due to the foreseen traffic congestion problems caused by level crossing closures.[12 ] Opponents note that the railway bisects the town, and it can only be crossed via four level crossings (Thorpe Road, Egham Hythe; Vicarage Road; Station Road; and Prune Hill) as there are no alternative bridges or tunnels in the locality.
Concerns have also been raised about the scheme's effect on the town by Egham Chamber of Commerce, Runnymede Council, Richmond Council, and bus operators. Local MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, Philip Hammond, raised his concerns about Egham in the House of Commons. In a consultation between Surrey County Council and the emergency services, the Fire and Ambulance services have expressed concerns about increased level crossing down-times.
Airtrack has estimated that if the project proceeds as planned the three significantly affected level crossings in Egham will be closed an average of 34 minutes per hour between 7 am and 7 pm. These figures are based on the assumptions that only timetabled trains will operate, that they will operate without delays and that the signalling regime can be reorganised to allow barriers to be raised if there is a 30 second gap between trains.
The Airtrack route is also planned to pass through the town of Wokingham. As with Egham, an opposition campaign has been organised to voice local concerns about the foreseen traffic congestion caused by increased rail traffic on level crossings. Wokingham has five affected crossings (Easthampstead Road, Waterloo Road, Barkham Road, Station Road and Wellington Road) which will be affected by the project, and campaigers have submitted a petition to the Government.
BAA have said that Wokingham Borough Council is considering the issue as part of its transport strategy. The council discussed the possibility of building a bridge over the Barkham Road crossing but such a solution was unlikely due to the excessive construction cost. The council also proposed that Wokingham Station would need to be moved closer to Reading in order to accommodate the Airtrack proposal.
|Heathrow area rail services|