The request for a Transport and General Works Order relating to the Heathrow Airtrack Scheme has been withdrawn. BAA have indicated that the inability to solve the problem of increased delays at Level Crossings along the route is the major reason for its withdrawal.
Pedantic recently looked at the issue of Level Crossings and traffic levels, and this has been a major barrier for BAA to overcome in their plans for some time. To a certain extent, increased Level Crossing closure times has always been an unsolvable problem along the proposed route – something BAA were fully aware of. This was the major reason for a number of local councils (including Richmond) objecting to the scheme and BAA had, until now at least, appeared to be focusing on offering those objecting Councils packages of other works aimed at compensating for the inevitable increase in delays. This had met with some success – BAA reached a negotiated settlement in October last year with Surrey, for example, that would have seen BAA fund £11m of compensatory transport works in return for Surrey dropping their opposition to Airtrack.
This announcement, however, seems to suggest that BAA had taken this approach as far as it could go without ultimate success. It also seems to suggest that they were not confident that the public enquiry into the scheme due to commence shortly would come down more heavily on their side than that of the remaining objectors.
It will be interesting to see what the consequences of this announcement ultimately are. Dropping Airtrack does not mean that BAA are no longer determined to see rail access to the airport improved, simply that they likely sense a better opportunity for success in this objective currently lies elsewhere.
As a result, it seems safe to bet that we can expect a sudden flurry of press and political statements featuring the words “Crossrail”, “HS2”, “Heathrow” and “Benefits” in the coming months.
Thanks to PM and GT for the spots