23rd May 2013
Balanced approach needed on Stansted rail services
The interests of local rail commuters must not be over-ridden by the interests of Stansted Airport, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has told the Secretary of State for Transport.
The call comes following pressure from Stansted owners Manchester Airports Group (MAG) for reduced rail journey times between the airport and central London. MAG wants to see a 30 minute journey time compared to the present average of 47 minutes to/from Liverpool Street.
Writing to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “We fully agree that there is a pressing need for improved capacity and reliability on the West Anglia Main Line but to reduce the journey time from Stansted Airport to central London by 17 minutes is, in our view, asking for more than can realistically be achieved with the present service pattern. Moreover, MAG is suggesting that this can be achieved in the short to medium term. Our concern is that MAG may be seeking to resurrect an old BAA proposal for the Stansted Express to travel non-stop to and from London, cutting out all the intermediary stops.”
Stansted Express trains currently stop at either Bishop’s Stortford or Harlow Town and some also stop at either Sawbridgeworth or Stansted Mountfitchet, mainly during the morning and evening rush hours, providing a vitally important service for local commuters.
Mr Sanders concluded: “If MAG wants to invest in a dedicated rail line to serve the airport then all well and good but, if it wants to continue sharing the West Anglia Main Line with local users, there needs to be a balanced approach. The airport mustn’t be the cuckoo in the nest at the expense of other users of the rail service.”
• The number of passengers travelling by train to/from Stansted Airport has fallen by a third in recent years, from 5.5 million 2007/08 to 3.7 million in 2011/12, despite the introduction of a brand new fleet of trains in 2011.
• Stansted Airport believes that reducing the journey time to London Liverpool Street to 30 minutes could help attract an extra 1.4 million passengers a year to use the airport, i.e. an increase of 8 per cent on its present throughput of 17.5 million passengers per annum.
• A copy of SSE’s letter to the Secretary of State for Transport is available on request.