Train worker’s Union the RMT has become an unlikley champion of better air quality in West London with the publication of their report "Who Says There Is No Alternative?", which argues against a third runway.
They are championing investment in high speed rail, into which Network Rail announced a review yesterday, and say that money earmarked for a third runway would be better spent on rail improvements. Their analysis is based on there being a ‘viable’ replacement route by rail for around 20% of flights leaving Heathrow.
Destinations to which the viable link exists, say the RMT, include Paris, Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow, as you might expect, and perhaps more surprisingly Amsterdam and Rotterdam. They make further suggestions that Barcelona, Zurich and Frankfurt could be just as viable given investment in the rail network. All together the destinations they outline account for 100,000 of Heathrow’s 500,000 flights a year.
Their analysis is based on city centre to city centre travel, and sadly takes no account of passengers who use Heathrow as a gateway to UK and other short haul destinations – around a third of passengers using Heathrow are ‘transfer’ passengers switching from one flight to another without leaving the airport.
Clearly, the economic contribution these passengers make is important, without them there would be less intercontinental arrivals – which might switch to Frankfurt or Amsterdam – reducing airport landing fees, and of course the profits from selling food, drink and other goods to a captive audience waiting for their next plane.
The RMT make no suggestion in their paper for the investment most likely to help reduce short haul air travel from Heathrow – a high-speed, high-quality link to the domestic rail network. The West London Partnership has been supportive of Airtrack – a scheme to connect Heathrow to the South West Trains network, and Arup recently proposed linking Eurostar from King’s Cross/St Pancras to Heathrow and the rest of the network.
Click here for the full RMT report.