Airlines are already expressing opposition to the alternative to an expansion of Heathrow Airport in London being considered by the British Government – a £5 billion high-speed rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick Airport. Dubbed ‘Heathwick’, the 180mph trains would depart every five minutes and travel underground along the M25, linking the two airports in 15 minutes. The British Chambers of Commerce suggested the project two years ago.
The coalition government has made commitments not to expand runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports, but Heathrow is effectively “full” whereas Stansted is operating at 58% capacity. The ‘Heathwick’ proposal aims to make a ‘virtual hub’ of the two airports, with the resultant increased price of landing slots at Gatwick encouraging low-cost carriers, including Ryanair and easyJet, to move from Gatwick to Stansted.
The UK Department of Transport is drafting an aviation policy to be published for consultation in spring 2012. A spokesperson said: “We are seeking views on the key issues which need to be addressed, including the importance of a UK hub airport and whether it might be possible to create a ‘virtual hub’ by improving connectivity between existing airports. This proposal will form a useful contribution to the debate.”