New Study: High Speed Rail — a real alternative to expansion at Heathrow

A new study, published today, has found that investment in high-speed rail could be a viable alternative to the expansion of Heathrow. The study, commission by the Rail and Maritime Union (RMT), said the controversial plans to expand Heathrow would be “unnecessary” if there was serious investment in rail.

The report, Who Says There Is No Alternative?, also found that tens of thousands of new jobs would be created if planned investment at Heathrow airport was switched to new high speed rail lines.

The study has been launched on the day that Network Rail announced that it is looking seriously at plans to build new high-speed lines across the UK.

Who says there is no alternative? points out that well over a third of flights from Heathrow are short-haul, that more than 20 per cent serve destinations already served by a viable rail alternative, and that 20 per cent more are to places where rail is the potential alternative.

It also shows that, where high-speed rail links have been opened, there has been a significant switch from air to rail, and that the UK is in danger of being left behind as countries like Spain reap the benefits of massive rail investment.

With this report the RMT has become the first union to back an environmentally acceptable alternative to Heathrow expansion.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said at his union’s annual conference in Nottingham: “This report shows that high-speed rail can provide a win-win solution for the economy and the environment. Paris remains Heathrow’s top destination and there are as many flights leaving for Edinburgh as for New York, and if we provide a viable, fast and sustainable alternative to short-haul flights the case for Heathrow expansion would evaporate.”

Labour MP John McDonnell, chairman of the union’s parliamentary group, and MP for Hayes and Harlington, which includes Heathrow, said: “This report proves conclusively that there is a rail alternative to Heathrow expansion and undermines totally the argument for a new runway and sixth terminal. It should provide the basis upon which the government thinks again.”

John Stewart, the chair of HACAN, the organisation campaigning against the expansion of Heathrow, said, “We welcome this report from the RMT. It shows there is a viable alternative to expansion at Heathrow.”