30th June 2008
Let the train take the strain
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) is calling for major improvements in the rail service to and from Stansted Airport regardless of any plans for a second runway, to which SSE remains fiercely opposed.
SSE’s support for rail investment comes in its response to a Department for Transport consultation seeking views on how rail services to/from the airport should develop if a second runway were to be built.
In contrast, SSE’s response to a simultaneous Department for Transport consultation on how road access to and from the airport should develop expresses outright opposition to plans for a massive ‘spaghetti junction’ on the M11, immediately north of Junction 8 (Birchanger).
The proportion of airport passengers travelling to the airport by train has declined from 29 per cent in 2004 to 24% last year reflecting BAA’s reluctance to support investment in rail infrastructure over the years. BAA still maintains that a second airport rail tunnel and a fourth platform at the airport station will not be needed for another ten years and, even then, only if a second runway were to be built. SSE’s view is that these improvements, as well as major track improvements on the West Anglia Main Line between Cambridge and London are already long overdue.
SSE has strongly criticised BAA’s emphasis upon road rather than rail improvements and its boast that it has slashed its expected contribution to the cost of future road and rail improvements from £1,000m to £200m as a result of focusing on the far cheaper option of relying on the road network to get its passengers to and from the airport.
SSE believes there is a close connection between BAA’s reluctance to pay for rail improvements and the profit the company earns from passengers taking their cars to the airport. BAA earned £164m from airport car parking last year and SSE estimates that Stansted accounted for about £40m of this.
John Rhodes, SSE’s rail adviser said: “Quite clearly, BAA’s intention is to minimise its financial outlay while using up more and more of the available capacity on the West Anglia Main Line at the expense of local commuters. This ‘cuckoo in the nest’ approach is completely unacceptable.”
Mr Rhodes concluded: “The Department for Transport should insist that BAA puts its hand in its pocket to help fund urgently needed track improvements. We need rail services which can comfortably meet the needs of both airport users and local commuters. We don’t need massive new airport roads projects designed to keep car parking revenues flowing into BAA’s coffers.”