Greg Lindsay's Blog

January 22, 2010  |  permalink

More Trains = More Planes

The battle over Heathrow’s third runway has taken another twist with the imminent publication of a report sponsored by the Tories (which have vowed to kill the expansion if they are swept into power this fall, as expected) demonstrating that adding a high-speed rail link to the airport will only cause the number of passengers to increase, instead of decrease, thus requiring the third runway.

However, the report from the Bow Group also concludes that a Heathrow hub on a high-speed rail network would bring in tens of thousands of new passengers a day, thus emphasising the need for a new runway at the airport.

The report, to be unveiled by Lord Heseltine, the Tory grandee, is likely to embarrass David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, who has pledged to block the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. He and Theresa Villiers, the Shadow Transport Secretary, have championed a North-South high-speed rail link as an alternative to Heathrow expansion.

Both the Labour and Conservative parties are backing plans for 250mph trains running on a new track dubbed HS2 — Britain’s second high-speed rail link, after the London-Channel Tunnel route — to connect the capital with Birmingham, Manchester and the North.

The Bow Group report criticises Labour’s plans to build a London hub for the new railway in the centre of the capital or within the existing train network. It argues that the building of HS2 would be an extraordinary opportunity to link Heathrow properly into the national rail network.

“Heathrow would greatly benefit from a direct high-speed rail connection,” the report, which has been written by Tony Lodge, chairman of the Bow Group transport committee, says, “but Bow Group research shows that the issue of extra airport capacity will remain and will be exacerbated by the High Speed Rail link.”

Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, is set to publish his plans for the high-speed link in the spring. It is understood that BAA’s Labour-backed initiative to start making plans for a controversial third runway at Heathrow have been shelved until after the general election is held, most likely in May.

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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