Improving rail links
Improved rail links are critical to the successful future of Gatwick Airport.
We have commissioned leading industry experts, Arup, to outline how rail links from Gatwick could be improved, while supporting the needs of commuters and other users for more space on trains. In brief, their key findings are:
- The Department for Transport is to tender for a new operator for all the rail services in the South East of England. Any new proposed franchise should seek to cater for the needs of air passengers and commuters in the South East.
- The terms of the new Southern/Thameslink franchise should require rail links to and from Gatwick to be improved. We are currently working closely with potential bidders to outline a vision for how the quality of journey, and the range of direct routes to and from Gatwick, can be improved. In particular, any new operator must provide a direct, express rail link to London with new carriages and re-introduce an onboard ticketing service.
- More than 10 million people travel to and from Gatwick by rail each year
- It's quicker to get to the City of London from Gatwick than Heathrow or Stansted
- From 2018 the frequency of direct trains to the City of London will double
- Gatwick has lost direct rail links to large parts of the UK in recent years
- We need to improve the Gatwick Express if we are to bring in more high-value routes to key trading partners
- We are working with the Government and rail operators to improve rail services and connections from Gatwick.
More than 10 million people travel to and from Gatwick by rail every year. This is highest proportion of any major UK airport, and demand is growing. It actually takes less time to get to the City of London from Gatwick than Heathrow and Stansted. However, we believe that investment in our rail services has lagged behind that of other London and some international airports.
If Gatwick is to attract the new routes the economy needs, we must have better quality rail links and offer more direct routes. In recent years, Gatwick has lost direct rail links to Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, Watford and Kent. Most importantly, the Gatwick Express needs to be improved; airlines rely on its service for good access to London for their passengers.
Looking to the future, Thameslink rail services will improve services further to the City of London. The frequency of direct trains will be doubled from 2018. But at the same time, an improved high quality, dedicated express rail link into London is essential if Gatwick is to grow.
Balancing the needs of air passengers and rail commuters is also key. The number of people travelling between Gatwick and London by rail could increase by 30% in eight years. In addition, the number of non-air passengers travelling on the same services could grow by 29%. With limited capacity on rail networks in the South East, no clear balance has been struck between Government, the train operators and Network Rail around catering for the needs of airport passengers and commuters. Without this, Gatwick cannot grow to support the UK economy’s demand for international connectivity.
You can read Arup's full report: Supporting UK growth and global market access: the case for high quality rail services to Gatwick Airport in which they outline a number of steps that operators and Network Rail should take. If you are interested in the broader evidence base that supports our views, you can also read Arup's supporting report, in which they outline the specific timetabling and infrastructure improvements we believe are needed. This work also looks at the potential for improving Gatwick's links into Kent and the Thames Valley.
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