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Sat, 15 August 2020

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Scandalous that south London is not connected to Heathrow

Scandalous that south London is not connected to Heathrow
3 min read

Ahead of her debate, Labour MP Seema Malhotra calls for a direct rail link between Feltham and Heathrow Airport with a new station en route at Bedfont.

With the airport expansion decision looming, all eyes are on Heathrow. But for my constituents, a far simpler measure could benefit our area, irrespective of the runway decision.

My constituents live right next door to the airport and many work there.  The airport supports, directly or indirectly, over a third of the jobs in the Feltham and Heston constituency. This is nonetheless one of the most deprived areas of London. In some nearby wards over 30% of children live in poverty.

In my adjournment debate this week, I am calling for a direct rail link between Feltham and Heathrow Airport with a new station en route at Bedfont. This would mean a significantly enhanced public transport service for those that currently live or work in the area. It would deliver passengers to Heathrow by a direct service from Waterloo and unlock thousands of sustainable new jobs and homes within London’s borders.

In 2011, Network Rail recognised that connections to the west and south of Heathrow were a strategic gap in the rail network. The Airports Commission recommended that Network Rail conduct a feasibility study into the matter. Completed in 2015, the report showed that there are indeed feasible options to deliver the needed infrastructure.

However, an option linking Waterloo to Heathrow via my constituency, was regrettably not considered. Hounslow Council commissioned a review of this option, which found that our proposed station at Bedfont, estimated to cost around £1.5m, would enhance the Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL) of the site from 1 (very poor) to around 4 (good).

It is scandalous that the world’s busiest airport is not connected to south London and the whole of the south west it serves for want of a few kilometres of track. The cost of this is equivalent to, or less than, adding two stops to the Northern line.

There would be environmental benefits also; Heathrow’s submission to the Airports Commission argued this would reduce road journeys to the airport by 3%, improving air quality and reducing congestion.

The merits of the proposal are clear and manifold, and so I calling for the DfT and Network Rail to support the southern rail access proposal put forward by Hounslow Council and get it onto the same footing as the other options under consideration.

Moving forward with this project would be a win-win. For a relatively low level of investment we can transform the regional and sub regional economy. The government therefore has a golden opportunity to deliver a step change to Heathrow’s accessibility from the south and radically improve public transport accessibility for the community.

It is worth noting that there have been some changes recently in the way that the DfT is looking to appraise such projects.  These changes will place greater importance on wider economic benefits of schemes, in particular their role in unlocking new jobs and homes. Early strategic thinking about how to integrate transport plans with opportunities for growth is precisely how we will grow and share prosperity. I hope the Minister will give this proposal the consideration it deserves.

Seema Malhotra is the Labour MP for Feltham and Heston.