BAA and the Railed Requirements of Heathrow

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Our friends at Travel Mole, specialist purveyors of information to the travel trade for a number of years, report on BAA’s next moves now that the Government has turned off the light at the end of their tunnel leading to the third runway.

Utilising a lot of existing infrastructure, including an embarrassingly mothballed Railway Terminal, BAA might have found some opportune “low hanging fruit.”

Publishing their capital expenditure programme for the period from 2013 to 2020,BAA have indicated that they will begin detailed talks with airlines to find out what they want from the airport. This could include building a new transit system at Heathrow which would link all terminals together, building a new, huge Terminal 2 and closing Terminal 1.

The Government’s veto on a third runway at Heathrow could pave the way for direct rail links between the airport and Waterloo station. The Spanish-owned airport operator had ring-fenced around £700 million, as part of its £5 billion capital investment plan, for its runway plans but could now divert these funds.This could prove to be a powerful and persuasive incentive to a cash strapped government (Scottish politicians now locked in round after round of recrimination over the SNP’s cancellation of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) might well sit up and take notice of this).

Within Heathrow Perimeter and Points North

BAA’s plans at Heathrow envisage the development of a new passenger transfer system, based on track transit or automated people mover technology that could ultimately link all terminal and satellite buildings. The transit would follow a sub-surface route across the Central Terminal Area (CTA), with possible extensions to Terminal 4, and eventually full integration of any new 6th terminal. There would also be further expansion of the new Terminal 2 beyond the first phase currently under construction. This would be built on the current footprint of Terminal 1.

The key project is construction of a new Terminal 2 and satellite buildings which to replace the old Terminal 2 which closed in late 2009. The demolition of buildings on the new Terminal 2 site will be completed in 2010 and construction of the new terminal is underway.

Other major projects in the regulatory period that ends in 2013 include completion of Terminal 5C, the second satellite to Terminal 5 that is expected to become operational in early 2011. In addition, as part of the development of an integrated baggage system across Heathrow, the baggage tunnel and associated systems between Terminals 3 and 5 are expected to become operational in 2012.

Heathrow is already an “early adopter” of Personal Rapid Transit with an automatic Ultra light transit system (using 18 cars) planned between Terminal 5 and its car park. This was expected
to enter service this month, but this has been delayed (not for the first time), and no new launch date is currently available. The system has been, perhaps harshly, described as: “A Thorpe Park ride as re-imagined by actuaries” – I suggest you judge for yourself.

With a pod design capacity of the equivalent number of people able to fit in a family car it is improbable that this type of ULT facility would offer sufficient capacity for bulk movement of transiting passengers. This makes the choice of an automated people mover (APM) system more likely. The technology behind automated people movers has developed radically since BAA’s first small 1987 installation at Gatwick that links the North and South Terminals. This is currently being rebuilt and is scheduled to open soon once it has been re-equipped with Bombardier’s CX equipment.

Over the last forty years, larger APM systems (both in terms of route mileage, system complexity and passenger capacity) have begun to spring up around the world. There now has been a merging at the top end with classic light rail and metro systems (such as TfL’s DLR or RATP’s Meteor), with a spill-over of vehicle design and operating technologies. Bombardier’s first APM installation opened at Tampa International Airport, Florida, in 1971. In 2005, Dallas Fort Worth introduced a 64-car fleet, operating on 8 kilometres (5 miles) of elevated guideway. Vancouver introduced a system running for 49 kilometres (30 miles) whilst the 2008 Olympics called for the system at Beijing Capital International Airport to be capable of moving passenger volumes in excess of one million passengers.

Source – Bombardier

At Heathrow, no details are yet available as to whether separate land-side (before check in) and air side (after check in – largely used by transit passengers not entering the United Kingdom) systems will be operated.

In addition to tackling the inherent difficulties of getting from terminal to terminal – (a headache for travellers ever since the central terminal area filled up and new terminals were required on the perimeter) – the APM system will be integral in linking the airport terminals to the new HS2/GWML station that will probably be located somewhere between Hayes & Harlington and West Drayton. As this link will operate beyond the perimeter security fence, one would expect it will need to be a land side operation.

There is another thought that Heathrow may also want to consider. The Airport is a significant employer and a large number of the workforce are shift workers, obliged to live locally. When planning the new interchange it would make sense make passive provision to allow for an extension of the new APM north from West Drayton to Uxbridge (the Heathrow Light Railway?) as once Air Track is built, the north will be the only direction that will not have direct local rail access to Heathrow.

Until 1964, a branch ran from West Drayton to Uxbridge’s Vine Street. Unfortunately much of the alignment has been compromised by later development but building on the design principles established by the DLR (with its ability to negotiate tight curves and sharp gradient changes) together with utilisation of median strips above dual carriageways, it might be possible to find another route through some of the most air-quality challenged parts of London. The slide below, taken from the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy clearly shows Heathrow, Hounslow, Hillingdon and Uxbridge as London’s most NOXious areas and thus anything that may help change that situation could only be a positive.

As ever, those interested in finding out more about railways in this area should look to Nick Catford – particularly here and here.

The Airport’s South Side – Less the Battle, More the Siege, of Waterloo

No doubt driven by the need to make nice to a Government that might be prepared to divert a new high speed rail line near to or under their real estate, BAA has also brought back into public focus another part of the proposed Airtrack development – the reopening of Waterloo International – something that has been overshadowed by the heated debate over the impact on the residential areas to the south and west of Heathrow.

We previously reported on 24th October 2008 on the public consultation exercise that BAA undertook over its Air Track proposals. Subsequently, on the 28th July 2009, we reported on the application for a TWA.

The Mayor, representing significant city based drivers of the economy and and the British construction industry, and also facing the martial music following the Government’s campaign of shooting wounded projects and bayoneting dead budgets, will be standing on the side of economic regeneration and multiplier effects. The air transport industry will also support these calls. If there is a transition from a per passenger to a per plane based airport departure tax then the large long distance carriers will want to make sure that all seats flown carry bums, preferably on fewer but larger aircraft. To do this, however, they will first need to get more passengers in greater numbers to and from the airport in more condensed time periods.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow

For the Mayor, there is also the question of the reek of mothballs wafting around London SE1 where Waterloo International glints dustily in the sun. The first Eurostar left Waterloo on the 14th November 1994 and the last departed thirteen years later at 1812 GMT on the 13th November 2007. Waterloo’s award-winning terminal was then expected to be used to take the burden off existing services to Surrey. The £130m station, with its striking snaking glass roof, designed by Nicholas Grimshaw, was widely admired. It won the best building prize from the Royal Institute of British Architects for its “power and elegance” in 1994.

Thanks and copyright acknowledgements to Kentrail

The terminal remained in Eurostar’s hands for the first six months after closure for a little light asset stripping after closing before it was handed over to the Department for Transport (DfT) and maintenance and security atthe empty station is estimated to cost taxpayers £2 million a year.

“We are working with DfT to bring Waterloo into full domestic use,” a Network Rail spokesman told the BBC at the time. He also said there would be a phased introduction of regional services, starting from November 2008.

Speaking about using all five platforms for domestic routes, a spokesman for DfT said at the time: “We’re also looking at how Waterloo can be used to expand capacity right across the South Western franchise.”

And then we waited and waited and…

In December 2009, Transport Minister Chris Mole – in a written answer – said:

Network Rail has been instructed by the Office of Rail Regulation to undertake the works necessary for Waterloo international station to be used by domestic train services from December 2011.

When our friends at London SE1 checked with the Office of Rail Regulation, they were initially unable to find any record of such an instruction. However the Department of Transport confirmed that the ORR has told Network Rail to bring the empty platforms into use as part of its Delivery Plan for 2009 to 2014.

What the DfT are now saying to Network Rail remains moot.The “works necessary” will include a new deck above the sunken former Eurostar concourse, known as the ‘orchestra pit’, which will allow level access to platforms 20 to 24.The integration of the former international platforms would be a the first stage of a larger-scale redevelopment of the entire station with a new concourse at ground level, extended platforms and high-rise commercial development above.

Meanwhile Down at the Egham Wall Game

To the south of the Airport work still continues in developing solutions for problems that present genuine difficulties for both BAA and the local residents alike. Traffic delays at level crossings are already a concern at a number of locations where the barriers are currently down for a large part of the hour. Local residents remain totally opposed to the creation of a transport variant with a similar social impact to a Berlin Wall dividing their communities – the creation of a dangerous corridor for trespassers with few and limited opportunities for free passage. Will it get to the stage when, from Richmond to Runnymede, families are split, not into Ossies and Wessies but, into Nordies and Sudsies? – One hopes not.

In Feltham, local residents surrounding the depot site (on what the railways see as a former marshalling yard and the locals see as a now mature nature reserve) remain concerned about the disruption the new depot might bring, together with the impact on the nature conservation area.

The issues raised by objectors to the proposed depot at Hornsey and the existing depot at Streatham Hill have not escaped notice. It is proposed to mitigate these concerns at the design stage by specifying a depot with limited noise and light pollution. Landscape screening would be provided around the site. Although the depot would take over half of the existing site, as much as possible would be done to protect the most important areas of habitat by moving them to unaffected parts of the site. Forgive me if I am indulging in hobby-horse dressage over my distaste for big tin sheds But – is it too much to hope that somebody remembers the not plug-ugly bus depot with a green roof in West Ham, before designs are finalised.

In Staines Town Centre there are concerns about displaced car parking demand if travellers to Heathrow’s CTA chose Staines as the place to leave their cars.

Current proposals include the remodelling of Staines station forecourt to provide a transport interchange with better facilities for buses, taxis, drop-off areas, disabled access and cyclists. Whilst it is proposed to retain dedicated staff and disabled passengers parking at the station; parking for the general public would be moved to the existing Kingston Road car park a short distance away. There will be no proposals to provide additional public car parking in Staines as this might attract increased traffic into the centre of Staines. Noise mitigation measures will be put in place to reduce disturbance from trains on the line between Staines town centre and Staines Moor.

On Staines Moor a variety of concerns were raised about the impact of Heathrow Airtrack on the natural environment. The rail link has been moved closer to the M25 to avoid, as far as possible, the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and to ensure a continuous expanse of open space. Common land and open space that is taken to build the rail link would be replaced. The scheme would be on a very low viaduct across Staines Moor, rather than an embankment. This would help to limit the loss of flood storage space and mitigate the major forms of habitat loss.

Typically major infrastructure schemes decrease habitat amount and quality, by increased mortality arising from road kill; preventing access to food and other resources on the other side of the road; subdividing wildlife populations into smaller subpopulations vulnerable to extinction or extirpation as a result of ever more limited gene pools. Assurances have been given that during construction, contractors would be required to put in place protective measures to minimise impacts on habitats, including the Wraysbury River. After Airtrack has been built, an additional footpath will run along the eastern side of the new railway and on the line of the old railway embankment.

No doubt much to the relief of the RAIB, two level crossings will be removed and replaced by a new footbridge over the Windsor line, providing a safer crossing for the local community.

The next step will be a public enquiry. How this will work out in practice – given the new Government’s antipathy to the newly formed Infrastructure Planning Commission is unclear.

If the Government do intend to reform the 2008 Planning Act, it will be interesting to see how projects in the pipeline are to be handled in the interim. Secondary legislation provisions, where Parliament effectively delegates actions to the Government Ministries, are implemented on the order of the Minister. Repeal of primary legislation would, however, require parliamentary time and approval.

We await Messrs Pickles’ and Hammond’s response to BAA as the Government gingerly unpacks another ticking parcel of hot vested interests.

Written by Mwmbwls