Who Rides Airport Railways? The Case of London City Airport


Matthew Schabas

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, place - europe, planning - network design, technology - geographic information systems


London, rail, rail passenger, network design


A new methodology is proposed for postproject analysis of airport railways for guidance in planning airport ground access. The concept is to determine the type of rail passenger (air passenger or employee, business or leisure, and resident or nonresident) by comparison of hourly rail ridership, air passenger volumes, air traffic movements, and geographic location of trip ends. A test is proposed for each possible ridership group to determine who is using the railway. A case study of London City Airport is used to illustrate the value of the method with Oyster smartcard ridership data from Transport for London. Findings confirm that the impressive 51% Docklands Light Railway mode share for air passengers from small sample surveys is realistic: the railway connection is predominantly used by air passengers and not employees. The airport characteristics—predominantly business travelers, relatively central location, and local employees—simplify the analysis. Geographical information system analysis revealed one major surprise: the busiest station by trip ends is Woolwich Arsenal in southeast London. However, the general findings are as expected: trip ends concentrate in the financial and business districts. The policy recommendation for future airport railway projects is to apply this methodology to a range of comparable airports. This will aid transport planners in designing a rail service optimized for the groups most likely to use the railway.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them. Published by Transportation Research Board Washington.