A new tunnel would connect Heathrow to the railway between Staines & Wraysbury, enabling local services to south west London, Surrey and Waterloo, and longer-distance services to Hampshire.
Airtrack would run to/from the new station at Terminal 5, currently under construction for the Heathrow Express.
A recent study for Surrey County Council showed that 15m passengers would use Airtrack per annum, with one-third using services into Heathrow and two-thirds using the new services for other journeys. They also forecast a modal shift of 5000 peak car journeys onto rail. The scheme as a cost:benefit ratio of 2.7, where above 1.5 is considered very good for a rail scheme.
Applicants for the new South West Trains franchise have been asked to consider Airtrack in their submissions.
Infrastructure work required involves a new chord at Staines to connect the Virginia Water line to the Windsor branch; a possible new station on the north side of the bridge over Staines High St; a new line across Staines Moor and Stanwell Moor, using a former railway alignment, followed by a short tunnel into a new interchange station at Terminal 5.
Services operate between 0500 and midnight every day of the week, and would run:
A premium of £2 would be added to all tickets to or from T5 (customers would be able to use the services between any other stations using an existing ticket).
Airtrack would use two out of four National Rail platforms at Terminal 5 station (Heathrow Express would use the other two). These platforms are long enough to take 10-car trains, but TfL have said that they would eventually like to see 12-car trains operating on all Windsor Line services to Waterloo (which would include Airtrack).
However, the scheme faces opposition from Staines residents and Spelthorne Council due to environmental and traffic issues - notably damage to the moors, the new chord in Staines town centre, and the possibility of airport users leaving their cars in Staines to avoid Heathrow parking charges.
It should also be noted that the Central Railway freight line scheme also uses the alignment on Staines Moor next to the M25. Since Central Railway would be unable to share tracks with Airtrack because of capacity constraints, if Central Railway is built here then there would need to be a 4-track railway here for Airtrack.
Central Railway have stated that they would construct the required infrastructure elements for Airtrack as part of their scheme.
TfL would like Airtrack "to be developed in a way that is consistent with the possible extension of some Crossrail trains to Staines via Heathrow." [TfL response to South Western franchise specification]
Crossrail 2 could use Airtrack as one of its routes into Clapham Junction and Victoria.
A network of through services could run via Heathrow, from points such as Birmingham, Manchester, St Albans, Watford, Bedford, St Pancras or even the CTRL, via Heathrow T123 and T5 to Reading, Farnham, Southampton and Portsmouth.
A report on the possible Airtrack scheme linking Staines to Heathrow Airport, produced by consultants for Surrey County Council, has praised the link, estimating annual usage by 15m passengers. However local groups are angry about the new construction in Staines town centre and on two moors.
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