Public transport links to Heathrow


J Kirkup
M Gannon

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe


Heathrow Airport has grown rapidly since it opened in 1946 and now handles 55m air passengers per annum through it's 4 air terminals making it the world's leading international airport. The airport has an important role in maintaining London as a world city providing worldwide connections. Air passenger traffic at Heathrow is forecast to continue to grow, due to the ever increasing demand for air travel, but the airport is operating close to maximum throughput in terms of it's air terminal capacity. To maintain its world status as a leading international airport and continue it's role in maintaining London as a world city means Heathrow must be able to expand to meet future demand for air travel. In response to further growth in air passenger demand at Heathrow BAA plc, the airport's operator, proposes a fifth air terminal which will increase the capacity of Heathrow by more than 60% to 80m air passengers per annum by 2016. The new terminal will be located on the airport's western perimeter, largely on the site of the Perry Oaks Sludge works, and a Planning Application was submitted in February 1993] The Public Inquiry for Terminal 5 commenced on the 16th May 1995 and is anticipated to run for broadly two years. The anticipated opening date of the terminal is 2003. A key issue to be addressed during the Inquiry is the capacity of the transport network to handle the additional air passengers and others travelling to the airport. Currently, there are 36 million terminating air passengers who travel to and from the airport every year. With Terminal 5 this is forecast to increase to 64 million terminating air passengers in 2016, when the new air terminal is expected to be operating at full capacity. The remaining air passengers transfer between flights within the airport. 34% of air passengers use public transport to access the airport, of which the majority use the Underground. This places Heathrow among the top airports for public transport usage in the world. BAA propose to do even better and have set themselves an ambitious long term target of 50% public transport mode share for terminating air passengers. In addition to air passengers a further 53,000 staff travel to and from the airport to work. Here Heathrow, common with other employers in the area, does less well with only 12% travelling by public transport, of which approximately halfuse the Underground. There is heavy pressure from transport groups and local authorities to increase public transport usage further to mitigate the environmental impacts on the local community of additional road traffic from the new terminal. The highway network around the airport and major trunk routes leading to the airport are already heavily used and many believe that further increases in airport capacity will add to the problems unless major public transport measures are implemented. Also, if Heathrow is to maintain and develop it's business BAA must ensure that their customers have a choice of high quality public transport services to access the airport. In response to the need to improve public transport services to Heathrow BAA, on the 26th September 1995, launched its contribution to the National Transport Debate with four radical rail proposals which could put Heathrow at the heart of the national rail network. These were the preliminary results of BAA's £500,000 feasibility study to review public rail connections to and from Heathrow. Michael Maine, BAA Group Technical Director, said at the briefing "More passengers already use public transport for journeys to and from Heathrow than any other airport in the world and the £300m Heathrow Express - due to open in 1998 - will help to extend the share of public transport even further. We are working hard to build on this excellent record and meet the challenge of our ambitious target of 50% of air passengers travelling to and from the airport on public transport". This paper goes on to consider the role of current and proposed rail links to Heathrow.


Permission to publish abstract given by AET.