Will Crossrail improve travel times to Heathrow and Gatwick airports?
Heathrow and Gatwick airports are hot on the agenda, given that both airports are on the Airports Commission’s shortlist as possible sites for new runway capacity in the South East, with a decision due after the election.
With this potential increase in capacity, it is therefore of the upmost importance to improve accessibility to both airports, particularly by public transport to reduce car emissions and improve sustainability.
Crossrail, which will extend across London, has the potential to do this. From 2019 its western section will run to Heathrow and Reading, providing four trains hourly to the airport in addition to the current Heathrow Express service. Though Crossrail will not directly serve Gatwick, it was worth assessing to see whether it improves accessibility at all, particularly for those travelling across London to get to Gatwick.
We undertook a study using our multi-modal accessibility planning tool, Visography TRACC, to analyse how Crossrail, once fully operational, will affect travel times and accessibility to both Heathrow and Gatwick.
For this study public transport data for bus, coach, National Rail, light rail, tube and tram was sourced from the latest NPTDR dataset. TRACC was used to model the Crossrail route and its services (assumed to be four trains an hour during the peak times and two an hour during the off-peak). Road network data was sourced from the Ordnance Survey’s vector map dataset, Meridian2, and a 350m origin grid was used. The destinations were plotted using TRACC’s draw tool at the approximate terminal entrance points.
TRACC calculated travel time from each origin point to all destinations on a Tuesday between 10am and 2pm, showing accessibility to both airports, before and after Crossrail.
THE RESULTS: Heathrow Vs Gatwick
The latest Census data from 2011 was imported into TRACC to produce demographic data reports, assessing the total population affected by Crossrail:-
|Terminal||Total Journey Time||Total Population Before||Total Population After||Additional Population||% Change in Population||___________||Terminal||Total Journey Time||Total Population Before||Total Population After||Additional Population||% Change in Population|
|Heathrow T1, T2, T3||30 minutes||240261||263776||23515||9.8||Gatwick North||30 minutes||28472||28472||0||0|
|60 minutes||3527834||3624989||97155||2.8||60 minutes||725208||725208||0||0|
|90 minutes||9036534||9164589||128055||1.4||90 minutes||5848755||5854989||6235||0.1|
|120 minutes||13740065||13751735||11670||0.1||120 minutes||11305847||11315852||10005||0.1|
|Heathrow T4||30 minutes||229911||265906||35995||15.7||Gatwick South||30 minutes||81819||81819||0||0|
|60 minutes||2788401||2933550||145149||5.2||60 minutes||1471406||1471406||0||0|
|90 minutes||8143252||8273792||130540||1.6||90 minutes||7312703||7323591||10888||0.1|
|120 minutes||12658716||12694379||35663||0.3||120 minutes||12311728||12338419||26691||0.2|
|Heathrow T5||30 minutes||207388||208954||1566||0.8|
Heathrow Terminals 1-3 and 4, which will both have Crossrail stations, will experience the greatest improvements in accessibility, particularly within a 30 minute period. Terminal 5 will not have a Crossrail station, and the increase will be much smaller. Nevertheless, the overall improvements in travel times are particularly relevant given the proposals for additional runway capacity at Heathrow.
TRACC shows that Gatwick is unlikely to experience any improvement in accessibility within the 30 and 60 minute time band. However, accessibility to Gatwick does improve when looking at travels times of up to 90 and 120 minutes, particularly for the South terminal, which is closer to Gatwick Airport railway station than the North terminal.
HS2 plans also show a spur into Heathrow, with the potential to further improve accessibility, and plans are also under consideration for Crossrail2 which will improve accessibility into Surrey. However, neither of these plans focus specifically on accessibility to Gatwick, highlighting that the airport should be considered in future transport infrastructure plans, particularly if it is chosen as the site of an additional runway.