Heathrow Terminal 5

To build (rebuild) a railway line from Heathrow Terminal 5 across Staines Moor to Staines. Staines is on the Waterloo – Reading and Waterloo – Guildford lines. Airtrack would therefore make possible fast direct trains from Heathrow to Waterloo, (via Clapham Junction), Reading and Guildford.

Airtrack anticipates 2 services per hour on each route. These would be fast services stopping only at a few stations, It is anticipated that Chertsey and Staines will have direct services to Heathrow, but Egham won’t. Since the platforms at Chertsey are not long enough, Chertsey station will probably need to be rebuilt, but Airtrack are not planning to do that.

The Chord:
The new line will naturally curve into Staines heading London-bound. Just before meeting the existing line it will bifurcate, with one branch heading into Staines Station, and the other joining the westbound line. The Chord is the bit that will allow direct services to the west, as without it passengers from Reading and Guildford would have to change at Staines.

The Route:
The westbound line will then cross the Thames, through Thorpe Road Level Crossing, through Pooley Green Crossing, through Egham Station Crossing, through Prune Hill Crossing at the western end of Egham, before reaching Virginia Water, where there is a road bridge. It then splits, one line heading to Reading and one to Guildford.
This means that two thirds of all the Airtrack trains, (all the Reading ones, and all the Guildford ones), will go through Egham, which has no tunnels or bridges across the railway line. We will get 8 additional trains per hour on top of the 8 or 9 we have at present.

Network Rail:
Network Rail own the railway line, including the level crossings. Victorian laws mean that road users are permitted by the grace and kindness of Network Rail to cross their property, at designated level crossings, not as a right-of-way, but as a favour and subject to Network Rail’s rules, at times and on occasions as Network Rail should choose to permit. As our MP and councillors have discovered, if NR don’t want to cooperate there is not a tiny little thing we can do to force them, unless we can persuade 330 MPs to write a new law (link to the legal explanations). (Or, post-election update, persuade our MP to propose a new law). As of now, Network Rail is neither a private company nor a government agency.

Level Crossings:
These are not Rights Of Way, they belong to Network Rail and we taxpayers can only use them if Network Rail lets us (link to the legal explanation).
There are about 1500 public highway level crossings. That’s about 1 for every 13 miles of railway. Egham has 4 in 2 miles. That’s a quarter of 1% of all Britain’s highway level crossings.

BAA own Heathrow Airport, (under Heathrow Airports Limited, or HAL for short). They are are in turn owned by a Spanish company who took out huge loans to buy BAA, thinking they would made enough money to pay off the loans and make a profit. BAA made losses in 2008 and 2009 but thinks (or says) that it should have a positive operating cashflow in 2010. (no update: I haven’t checked yet) However, it looks unlikely right now that it will end up being owned by its creditor banks.
Heathrow Expansion:
BAA wanted to build a new runway north of the M4. The last Government approved but promised the people who don’t approve that there would be compensating environmental improvements, including improved public transport to the airport. The Coalition Goverment has said that the Third Runway will not be built. So BAA have some spare dosh. But but not enough to build Airtrack and they probably don’t want to spend it on improving surface transport to the airport unless pressure is put to bear.

The Banks (or someone else):
The banks will have to find the money to build Airtrack, because BAA don’t have the money. BAA are only paying for the preliminary work to get the project to the stage where people can decide whether it is worth investing in. That means the initial consultation exercise, the feasibility studies, the environmental assessment and the TWA Application process.
Who will own the track once it is built and who will run the trains – we don’t know yet (and possibly no one knows).

The Money:
BAA estimated the project cost at £ 673 million (summer 2009). They have not said how much they can contribute towards this. But they have budgeted £ 351 million for all strategic rail access improvements up to 2015, and £ 230 million is already promised to Crossrail. They seem to have got this far without the faintest idea where the money for Airtrack is going to come from.
The tunnel at Pooley Green will probably cost over £ 20 million. It is not clear where this money may come from either, but the difference between £ 673 million and £ 693 milliion is less than 3%
The Minister has been unequivocal. At the moment the government has no money for Airtrack.

The Minister:
The Secretary of State is however not allowed to take decisions which affect his own constituency. Any decisions on Airtrack will be taken by a Junior Minister, unless Mr Philip Hammond, MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, ceases for any reason to be Secretary of State for Transport.

The Public Inquiry:
Has been delayed for the time being, since no one has any money.

Magna Carta:
Magna Carta was sealed by King John at Runnymede in 1215. Clause 33 (Fish-weirs shall be removed from all rivers in England) prohibited the obstruction of major public transport routes for private profit.