Heathrow Airport transport proposals

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Map of Heathrow Airport tube and rail lines in 2019

Over the years, a number of transport proposals have been made to improve public access to Heathrow Airport, near London in the United Kingdom.

Currently, all rail connections with Heathrow airport run along an east-west alignment to and from central London. Most rail passengers heading for Heathrow must pass through London Zone 1 stations in order to reach Heathrow.[1] The British government's Department for Transport has considered various proposed schemes for new links to improve access to the airport.


Airport rail links such as Heathrow Express provide transport into central London

Heathrow Airport is a major international airport which lies 14 miles (23 km) west of Central London. For the first 45 years of its operation, public transport links to Heathrow Airport were provided by airport buses. Rail connections to Heathrow Airport began in 1977 with the extension of the London Underground Piccadilly line to Heathrow Central tube station (now Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3). The Tube was extended to Terminal 4 in 1986 and Terminal 5 in 2008.[2] A new airport rail link opened between Heathrow and London Paddington station in 1998, when the Heathrow Express service began.[1] This mainline rail service is due to be extended to central London and Essex when the Elizabeth line, currently under construction, opens in 2019.[3]


The Heathwick proposal
One of the transport projects being considered is the Western Rail Approach to Heathrow
Heathrow Southern Railway
The high-speed rail HS4Air proposal

A number of schemes have been proposed over the years to develop new rail transport links with other parts of London and with stations outside the city. As yet, none of these proposals has been confirmed or funded.

Dudding Hill Line (1990–2008)[edit]

In the late 1990s, the Dudding Hill Line in North London — currently closed to passenger services — was considered by BAA as a potential route for the planned Heathrow Express service to run to St Pancras.[4] The line was once again featured in the High Speed North scheme put forward by transport campaigners in 2008, which envisaged creating a rail link between Heathrow and Cambridge via the Chiltern Main Line and the Dudding Hill Line to connect with the Midland Main Line at a "Cricklewood Interchange" station.[5][6]

SuperCrossrail and Superlink (2004)[edit]

Two schemes known as SuperCrossrail and Superlink were put forward in 2004 by a group of rail industry managers as alternative proposals to the Crossrail route being planned at the time. They proposed connecting a number of regional stations such as Cambridge, Ipswich, Reading and Guildford via a new underground railway through central London, with a station at Heathrow Airport. The scheme was rejected by planners in favour of the simpler Crossrail route.[7][8]

Airtrack (2009)[edit]

In 2009, Heathrow Airport Limited unveiled a proposal for a new rail link called Heathrow Airtrack which would connect Heathrow Terminal 5 along a southern alignment to the Waterloo–Reading line. [9] The scheme would have enabled direct rail services between London Waterloo, Heathrow Airport, Guildford and Reading, improving transport links with stations to the South West of the airport.[10] The project was abandoned in 2011 due to lack of funding and difficulties with a high number of level crossings on the route into London.[11][12]

HS2 Heathrow Hub (2009)[edit]

A station serving Heathrow Airport, Heathrow Hub railway station, was included in the early proposals for the planned High Speed 2 (HS2) railway line.[13][14] The spur from HS2 to Heathrow was dropped from the plans in March 2015.[15]

Heathrow–Gatwick rail link (2011–2013)[edit]

Various schemes to create a transport link between Heathrow and Gatwick Airports have been considered, collectively known as Heathwick. Gatwick lies around 25 miles (40 km) south-east of Heathrow Airport, and like Heathrow, it has rapid rail connections into central London but there are no transport connections between the two airports. A fast rail link would allow the airports to operate jointly as an airline hub. Among the schemes has been a 2011 proposal for a high-speed rail link[16]; and a 2013 proposal for a rapid transit system named London Air Rail Transit system (LARTs) running parallel to the M25 which would connect Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton Airports.[17]

Great Western main line (2012)[edit]

The Western Rail Approach to Heathrow scheme was announced by the Department of Transport in July 2012 to build a spur from Heathrow Terminal 5 along a north-western alignment, connecting the airport to the Great Western main line. This connection will enable direct trains from Reading, Slough, Twyford and Maidenhead, and improve airport connections with the South West, South Wales and the West Midlands.

Windsor Link (2013)[edit]

In 2013, a proposal was announced for the Windsor Link Railway, a privately financed project to link the Slough–Windsor & Eton and the Staines–Windsor railway lines. The scheme also includes a branch to Heathrow Terminal 5, with a potential connection to Crossrail.[18][19]

In 2018, the Department for Transport began to invite proposals for privately funded rail links to Heathrow Airport. As well as the Western Rail Approach, other projects being considered for public–private partnership have included:[20][21]

Heathrow Southern Railway (2018)[edit]

The Heathrow Southern Railway scheme, similar to the abandoned Airtrack proposal, envisages the construction of a south-aligned rail link to connect Terminal 5 station with Chertsey or Virginia Water and Staines, and would enable direct trains to run from Basingstoke, Woking , Guildford to the airport stations. It would also create a new link to the airport from London Waterloo via Clapham Junction, Twickenham, Hounslow and Staines.[22][23]

HS4Air (2018)[edit]

HS4Air was a proposal for a new high-speed railway line which would link HS2 to the High Speed 1 line and the Channel Tunnel. The proposed route would run south of London, with stations at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports.[24] The HS4Air scheme was rejected by Government in December 2018 and will not go ahead.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Coogan, Matthew A. (2000). Improving Public Transportation Access to Large Airports. Leigh Fisher Associates, Transportation Research Board, Transit Cooperative Research Program. p. 66. ISBN 9780309066594. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  2. ^ Blow, Christopher J. (2013). "15. Public transport interchanges". Airport Terminals: Butterworth Architecture Library of Planning and Design. Butterworth-Heinemann. pp. 90–92. ISBN 9781483145051. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Elizabeth line services through central London to start in 2019". Crossrail. Archived from the original on 12 September 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  4. ^ Transport Plans for London Various plans for Heathrow services into central London
  5. ^ "High Speed North – Joining up Britain" (PDF). 1 July 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 May 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2008.
  6. ^ "Councils opposed to airport expansion unveil plans for £30 billion high speed rail link". 22 July 2008. Retrieved 1 August 2008.
  7. ^ "Rival cross-city rail plan aired". BBC News. 15 December 2004. Archived from the original on 29 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  8. ^ Landels, John (24 May 2005). "SuperCrossrail and Superlink Update Report" (PDF). Cross London Rail Links Limited. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 October 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  9. ^ "Airlink application lodged by BAA". BBC News. 24 July 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  10. ^ "The Need For Heathrow Airtrack" (PDF). BAA. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Heathrow Airtrack Waterloo rail link shelved by BAA". BBC News London. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  12. ^ Samuel, A. (11 April 2011). "Heathrow: 'No option but to withdraw proposed Airtrack link to Staines'". Rail News from Rail.co. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  13. ^ Oakeshott, Isabel; Gourlay, Chris (4 January 2009). "Heathrow train plan to allay environmental fears". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 March 2018. (subscription required)
  14. ^ "High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain's Future". Department for Transport. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  15. ^ "HS2: Heathrow spur plans dropped by transport minister".
  16. ^ "Heathrow and Gatwick airports: Ministers mull rail link". BBC News. 8 October 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  17. ^ Commons, The Committee Office, House of. "House of Commons – Transport Committee: Written evidence from Interlinking Transit Solutions Ltd (AS 115)". www.publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Consortium submits proposal for Windsor Link Railway in the UK | Global Rail News". Global Rail News. 1 August 2018. Archived from the original on 13 September 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  19. ^ Morby, Aaron (8 May 2018). "DfT tests appetite for £2.3bn Heathrow rail links | Construction Enquirer". www.constructionenquirer.com. Construction Enquirer. Archived from the original on 12 September 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  20. ^ MCINTYRE, FIONA. "Private partner wanted for £900M Heathrow rail link". New Civil Engineer. Archived from the original on 12 September 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  21. ^ "Proposed Route – Heathrow Southern Railway". Heathrow Southern Railway. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  22. ^ Topham, Gwyn (15 June 2019). "Left in a siding: the rail link that could make Heathrow greener". The Observer. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  23. ^ Nolan, Tara. "HS4Air: The UK needs a strategic plan for its transport infrastructure". Global Railway Review.
  24. ^ Smale, Katherine. "HS4Air plan to link Heathrow and Gatwick rejected". New Civil Engineer. Archived from the original on 11 December 2018. Retrieved 11 December 2018.

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