A Greater London Assembly (GLA) report has urged the UK Government to make sure Heathrow is well connected to the planned High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link to deal with rising passenger numbers.
Plane Speaking, a study by the GLA's environment committee, looks at ways of reducing air and noise pollution around Britain's biggest airport.
According to the GLA, annual passenger numbers at Heathrow could potentially grow by more than a third to 95 million once the current redevelopment is completed in 2014. It says that almost two-thirds of the 69 million passengers who currently use it travel by car. The GLA calls for improved public transport links to cope with increasing road traffic to Heathrow, and particularly for good integration between the airport and the planned Crossrail and HS2 rail projects.
The report adds that emissions from road traffic have contributed to Heathrow becoming the second-worst area in London for poor air quality.
Among the report's recommendations for improving air quality are:
- making sure Heathrow is linked to HS2 to minimize long car journeys to the airport
- increasing Crossrail's peak-time service to Heathrow, from four trains per hour to 10
- accelerating the upgrade of the Piccadilly line and extending the operating hours by one hour at either end of the day
- encouraging airline operators to replace the most polluting aircraft in their fleets with eco-friendly models more quickly.
The report states: "Fundamentally we must begin to accept that Heathrow is a major transport hub for modes other than air transport alone, attracting as much traffic from the Thames Valley as it does from central London. This clearly has knock-on effects for transport provision, planning and infrastructure in London as well as consequences for the environment including air quality and road noise."
The government plans to connect HS2 directly with Heathrow in the second phase of the project, which is planned to be built by 2033. It also plans to build a new station at Old Oak Common, linking Crossrail with HS2.
Jonathan Riley, Planning Partner and airports expert at international law firm Pinsent Masons said: "Improving rail access to our airports is key to their competitiveness and their contribution to the economy. Getting air travelers out of their cars reduces congestion, reduces emissions, and improves passenger experience.
"Quality rail access makes airports more attractive to passengers and the more of them that can reach airports by rail rather than car, the better it is for the environment and for host communities. The principle of the GLA's stance is therefore to be applauded."
The government is due to publish a draft national aviation policy framework for public consultation later this month.
Source: MJ2 Limited