Heathwick is an informal name for a proposal to create a high-speed rail link between London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, in effect to combine them into a single airport. Proponents argue this would balance their capacity and so reduce the need to add more runways to Heathrow, or more airports in the south-east of England. In 2018 the similar project HS4Air was proposed.
Map of the approximate rail route
|Type||Commuter rail Airport rail link|
|Locale||Hertfordshire, West London, West Sussex, Bedfordshire|
|Website||interlinkingtransitsolutions.co.uk at the Wayback Machine (archived 20 May 2013)|
|Character||Orbital high-speed railway|
A similar plan was first mooted in the 1990s, then by the British Chambers of Commerce in 2009. Consideration of it by the UK government began in October 2011, when it was dubbed 'Heathwick' by the UK press.
The scheme envisages a 35-mile (56 km) high-speed rail route linking the two airports in 15 minutes, with trains travelling at a top speed of 180 miles per hour (290 km/h) parallel to the M25 and passengers passing through immigration or check-in only once. It is hoped that this streamlined immigration/check-in procedure would enable passengers arriving at one airport and departing on a connecting flight from the other to complete the transfer process within 75 minutes, thereby increasing its attractiveness as a viable alternative to changing flights at an overseas hub airport.
To make a combined Heathwick hub work, Gatwick would assume the role of a short- and medium-haul feeder for Heathrow's long-haul flights. The scheme's success rests on the assumption that a high-speed Gatwick–Heathrow rail link would increase the value of the former's takeoff and landing slots to a point where it will be attractive for low/no frills airlines that presently account for more than half of its traffic to sell these to full-service rivals and move their operations to other London airports Stansted, Luton or Southend. This would ensure that Gatwick has sufficient room to accommodate the large number of short-/medium-haul flights needed to feed Heathrow's long-haul services, given that it is already running at 80% capacity. Gatwick would also be required to build a second runway to cope with the huge influx of new short and medium haul flights moving in from Heathrow and to create an effective four runway hub with Heathrow.
Proponents of Heathwick argue that at an estimated cost of £5 billion it is a viable alternative to the politically fraught provision of additional runway capacity at existing airports in the Southeast of England and much cheaper and less time-consuming than building a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary.
In 2013 a group called Interlinking Transit Solutions Ltd submitted proposals to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee which outlined a privately financed rapid transit system named London Air Rail Transit system (LARTs). This orbital light rail system would follow the M25 route on an elevated guideway from Luton Airport in the north, around to Heathrow and terminating at Gatwick. It would include connections to several radial railway lines with interchanges at Iver (Great Western Main Line), Kings Langley (West Coast Main Line), West Byfleet (South Western Main Line), Merstham (Thameslink) and Sevenoaks (South Eastern Main Line). Further extensions as far as Stansted Airport are also envisaged. Special light rail rolling stock would be designed to carry baggage, cargo and mail.
The aviation and rail industry's initial response has been overwhelmingly negative: British Airways said it would not address the South-East's looming airport capacity crunch, which it said must be alleviated to maintain the UK's global competitiveness. EasyJet vowed to fight a forcible move from Gatwick. Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary doubted the feasibility of the Heathwick high-speed rail link in the foreseeable future due to its high cost. BAA and an unnamed rail executive questioned the project's success on grounds of technical, operational, political and financial difficulties as well as long time scales.
Heathrow area rail services
To travel between London airports the following options are available:
- Heathrow Express trains go to Paddington station. From there, passengers can use bus, taxi or London Underground (District or Circle Lines) to transfer to Victoria station. Gatwick Express trains go from Victoria to Gatwick Airport. Around two hours travel times should be expected including waits.
- A bus transfer from Heathrow serves Feltham railway station; from there, passengers can take a train to Clapham Junction, where they can change onto a train to Gatwick Airport. A minimum of 80 minutes should be expected depending on waits for connection.
- A shuttle bus from Luton Airport connects with Luton Airport Parkway; from there, Thameslink trains run directly to Gatwick Airport. Total journey time is approximately 2 hours.
- Coaches go directly between the airports (all terminals) and take around 75 minutes, plus waiting time (up to 15 minutes peak hour and up to 1 hour off-peak)
- Taxis take around 45 minutes if there is little traffic, however, this journey may take more than double that in poor traffic.
All options require going through immigration and baggage delivery, and then to check-in again, which adds to the transfer time. People having only hand luggage might get their boarding pass before first flight and can therefore bypass baggage delivery and check-in, but a security check must of course be performed.
- Pickard, Jim; Parker, Andrew (7 October 2011). "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 13 September 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
- Ahmed, Kamal (8 October 2011). "Heathwick? It that some kind of bad joke?". Archived from the original on 13 September 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
- 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.
- Evening Standard (Comments – Walsh, W., 'Heathwick' rail link won't solve our airport crisis), London, 11 October 2011
- "Heathrow and Gatwick airports: Ministers mull rail link". www.bbc.co.uk. 8 October 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
- The Times (UK News – 'Heathwick' plan to create mega-airport), UK Edition, London, 8 October 2011
- Financial Times (Welcome to 'Heathwick' – ministers consider radical £5bn plan for hub), UK Edition, London, 8/9 October 2011
- Financial Times (National News – Airports rail link fails to carry industry), UK Edition, London, 8/9 October 2011